Your location: Home

In Focus, Article 2, March 2007

UNFCCC expert meeting on adaptation for small island developing States ends with calls for increased support for adaptation planning and implementation

Experts gathering at a UN-sponsored meeting on adaptation for small island developing States (SIDS) in the Cook Islands have called for establishing a special work programme for SIDS to ensure comprehensive support for adaptation.

The expert meeting, which took place in Rarotonga from February 26 to 28, was organized by the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and was hosted by the Environment Service of the Cook Islands. Its focus was on the Pacific and Indian Ocean SIDS.

Participants included experts from SIDS, developed countries, international organizations and non-governmental organizations.

At the opening of the meeting the Minister for Environment of the Cook Islands, Kete Ioane, pointed out that past and recent evidence indicated that SIDS were particularly vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change.

“The people in the Cook Islands, like elsewhere in the South Pacific, have witnessed changes such as the increasing salinization of ground water and more frequent flooding.  These observations are in line with the latest report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,” he said.

The first installment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fourth Assessment concludes that sea levels are expected to rise between 28 to 43 cm and that cyclones will become more intense.

“Planning for climate change and adapting now is vital for SIDS to save human lives and livelihoods,” he said.

Hazards such as tropical cyclones and sea level rise cause more damage to already fragile economies, thereby reversing  years of development efforts.  In the Pacific islands region, cyclones accounted for 76 per cent of  reported disasters from 1950 to 2004, with the average costs relating to damage caused per cyclone standing at USD 75.7 million.  For example, the 2004 cyclone Heta resulted in damages estimated at eight times Niue’s GDP.

Niue is an island nation in the South Pacific Ocean located 2,400 Kilometers northeast of New Zealand.

The meeting offered participating experts the opportunity to exchange information on assessing the impacts of climate change and on their countries’ vulnerability to this change.

The experts also identified areas where further action could be taken to address the adverse effects of climate change, including through planning and implementing concrete adaptation measures in the areas of water resources, health, coastal zones and natural ecosystems.

In the small island state of Kiribati, adaptation measures for water resources such as water conservation trough better pipes, water catchment and storage in tanks as well as the protection of ground water are currently implemented under the Kiribati Adaptation Program.  Other SIDS in the region have been identifying adaptation measures through their National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs).  Samoa, for example, seeks to promote the cultivation and consumption of those crops that would be less affected by and more immune to extreme events.

In addition, participants discussed opportunities for disaster risk management and reduction, including through establishing risk transfer schemes, including insurance.

Vanuatu, for example, is currently mainstreaming disaster risk management in its national development planning through developing a national action plan to ensure that its communities are well prepared to all hazards, minimizing their vulnerability and increasing resilience.

Furthermore, available opportunities for collaboration within and outside SIDS were discussed and participants elaborated on how adaptation measures can be supported in the SIDS’ overall efforts to achieve sustainable development.

In conclusion, experts recommended to increase financial and institutional support for adaptation through establishing a process to help SIDS develop prioritized adaptation plans through stakeholder-driven assessment, akin to the “National Adaptation Programme of Action” (NAPA) initiative for the least developed countries.  They also recommended granting prioritized funding for SIDS under the GEF and its funds. Experts also agreed to enhance their regional cooperation using relevant technical agencies in the Caribbean and the Pacific, as well as forthcoming agencies in the Indian Ocean.

This expert meeting on adaptation follows the first part of the expert meeting on adaptation for SIDS in the Caribbean and Atlantic Ocean region, which took place in Kingston, Jamaica, from February 5 to 7, 2007.

The SIDS meetings form part of a series of regional adaptation events mandated by the annual Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC.

The first workshop was held in Peru in April 2006 for the Latin American region.  The second workshop was held in Ghana in September 2006 for the African region.  In April, a workshop for the Asian region will be organized in China.

The results of all these events will feed into the UN-sponsored negotiations on what future action is necessary to advance adaptation in developing countries.

On the occasion of the release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fourth Assessment on Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability in Brussels (6 April 2007), UNFCCC will present more findings of its four regional workshops on adaptation.