Thursday 11 July 2013

Climate change on the SIDS meeting agenda

By Halitesh Datt, Fiji TV

11 July 2013, Nadi, Fiji - Climate Change will be high on the agenda during the 3rd Conference of Small Islands Developing States in Samoa next year.

The Secretary General of the Conference, Wu Hongbo says the region should have a strong voice on climate change.

Wu Hongbo, Secretary General for 3rd SIDS Conference

 Hongbo says climate change has been hindering the sustainable development of many countries in the region.

Wu Hongbo, Secretary General for 3rd SIDS Conference

The United Nations has also praised the region for taking a bold step in turning to clean energy.

He said clean energy targets by regional countries could provide valuable lesson for many in the developed world.
 Wu Hongbo, Secretary General for 3rd SIDS Conference 


25 minutes with Margareta Wahlstrom

 By Bill Jaynes, The Kaselehlie Press:

11 July 2013, Nadi, Fiji - On July 9, 2015, two journalists from Fiji TV and Kaselehlie Press who are members of the SPREP media team sat down to talk to Margareta Wahlstrom, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary for Disaster Risk Reduction during the Joint Meeting of the Pacific Platform for Disaster Risk Management and Pacific Climate Change Roundtable.

Wahlstrom explained the role of the United Nations in the Pacific region, talked about the integrated strategy that has been uniquely developed in the region, analysis of legislation and many other topics that are important as the Pacific develops its strategy to cope with Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management.

Fiji One: What is UNISDR’s role and how is it assisting in the Pacific?

Wahlstrom: We are not a big operation or an agency, it’s an office for advocacy, creating evidence for why Disaster Risk Reduction pays and how it can effectively assist countries in suffering less losses. We do have regional offices. We have an office here in the Pacific and we particularly work these countries on getting it into their mechanisms for planning, for awareness, to look at disasters as not an event that you just pay and then move on but you can actually plan for with financial mechanisms. You can get it into your sectoral planning, and we work for the same reason with donors, the UN agencies to create a practical agenda for how countries can focus on prevention and mitigation as much as a cure, or maybe more prevention and mitigation as a cure.

Fiji One: What can the Pacific expect from the UN when it comes to climate change and disaster risk management?

Wahlstrom: We will continue to persist in this agenda of integration to put it very simply. This region, this work that’s going on now is very critical. It’s led by the regional organizations at the instruction of countries and there’s a lot of resources in this region. There is a lot of financial resources. There’s a clear shortage of capacities, not just because the countries are small but because there is such a competition on many issues that are important for their development.

So I think it’s engaging them on how to use these resources in the crosscutting issue that ensures that the country gradually builds through the financial and planning mechanism; through the sectoral health, education, higher education, land use planning, infrastructure, become resilient to today’s and tomorrow’s disaster and climate stresses.

Fiji One: How are the Pacific Islands doing about climate change and disaster risk management?

Wahlstrom: Well, we can probably never do enough because the change continues in the environment. If the countries now press ahead with this integration they will achieve a much higher degree of efficiency in how they tackle the issues of climate change and disaster risk reduction and that will put them on the path and more quickly looking at the environmental impact, the resilience of the infrastructure. But most important—this is fundamentally—why are we doing all this? Because these countries are seeking to ensure sustained development for their people for education, health benefits, and to ensure the population that their incomes are stable.

So I can say that all this work on mitigation and prevention is to ensure that they can they can reap the full benefits of their development investment. They’re doing a lot. I must say that the region should get a lot more credit for its innovation and its effort. There’s a tendency to see the problems, a lot more than maybe seeing in fact how much practical effort is being put into finding solutions—small countries, few people, small economic bases, a lot of investment by the development partners but, a lot of the countries themselves are absolutely determined that they will succeed.

Kaselehlie Press: Is it possible to generalize whether or not the Pacific has the expertise to access what has been characterized as some billions of dollars of funding that’s “out there”? In general, do we have the expertise to actually access that funding in the Pacific region?

Wahlstrom: I think some countries do. I mean, if you listen to the presentations or have conversation with the Minister of Finance of Cook Islands you can hear that that’s a very strong wish and very practical thing. He is now the chair of a working group of finance ministers where they are all working in the same direction to use the budget to ensure that the resources come to the countries.

Now the regional institutions in many cases, as you know, are the first recipient of funding that then goes to the countries. And for now that is a complement and an effective instrument to be sure that money is there. I’m sure that the countries envisage that gradually for the future they would like to see the money coming to them so that they can directly benefit from it. What they do clearly need from the UN and other partners is technical expertise just because of the limited human resource base. What I have been told is that in some countries there is basically a drain on resources sometimes because the internationals recruit people and they disappear.

I think that’s the main challenge is to accelerate the development of competencies and skills that will stay with the countries and not disappear into international. This is a challenge in many countries but particularly it’s huge here because you’re dealing with such small populations to start with in many cases.

So I think these two elements are the critical ones saying “can they access the resources”. They do access the resources, a lot of the resources.

Fiji One: You mentioned about technical experts and how experts from the region are leaving for greener pastures. Are there any plans from United Nations to help the region regarding that, to maintain experts here or to provide with experts?

Wahlstrom: I believe there could be a lot of incentive for the UN but the Pacific as a region is very different from other regions in a sense that the big actors here are the CROPs (Council of Regional Organisations in the Pacific) like SPC. They have lots of staff. They have lots of expertise. They were set up particularly so that these countries were taken care of particularly. Now that doesn’t mean its enough. I know the UN is represented here UNDP, UNICEF, FAO and there are others. They all have experts here. They’re not very large but the UN is for sure motivated to add as required. But I think that we are all very careful not overload countries because there’s a lot of engagement here and we hear about many, many missions to countries—international institutions, multilaterals, donors, partners—so sometimes I think that we need to let countries work, let the ministers do their job, let the technical expert actually get on with the job, and try to be a bit more economical in how we coordinate ourselves in our support to them.

So I think that what the UN would like to see is a very strong cooperation between the UN, SPC, SPREP, the big technical organizations that support countries so that we are very well organized among us to know how we can complement each other’s capacities.

Kaselehlie Press: I would just ask you if you have any specific message that you would like to get out through our media resources.

Wahlstrom: Yes, I think that what we want for you particularly that covers the political issues, try to expand the understanding of the economics of disaster. It’s when governments, ministers of finance, and leaders begin to understand not only the direct losses from the damage but also what happens afterwards, how costly reconstruction is; how costly poor quality reconstruction is. It’s also a question of who actually pays. Government pays a lot. Business pays but most of the losses normally accrues to the individual citizen as it goes down, you know personal losses are very rarely fully compensated. So gradually increasing this perspective since there are things to a high degree you can mitigate or prevent, do it in order to use those resources for a more positive purpose. So I think that gradually uncovering and unlocking that understand would be a great task.

The other one is continuous, ongoing public awareness campaigns. Constantly talk, not to scare people but tell them what to do to protect yourself, your family, you community. “Don’t forget where the evacuation routes are.” “When you get an early warning signal follow the advice”. “Know where to go”. “Move away your property that might be damaged by a flood.” So that’s my second message.

Cook Islands reaps benefits of CC and DRM integration

By Evan Wasuka, Editor of Pacific Media Team, 2013

Cook Islanders at the Joint Meeting of the 2013 Pacific Platform for Disaster Risk Management and Pacific Climate Change Roundtable with Finance Minister Hon. Mark Brown.

11 July 2013, Nadi, Fiji - While the integration of disaster risk management (DRM) and climate change (CC) has been the key topic on agenda at the Joint talks in Nadi this week, one country that is already putting this into practice is the Cook Islands.

Both its Emergency Management service and its Climate Change Office are under the Office of the Prime Minister.

The Director of Cook Islands Emergency Management, Charles Carlson says the main benefit has been the maximising of limited resources to get maximum outcome.

“By having both under one division we work regularly together, we meet every couple of week so we know what is going on in climate change and they know what is happening in disaster.

“There is no duplication of services. We complement what they are doing.”

Carlson says he hopes that the Joint Meeting this week has removed any doubts about integrating CC and DRM.

“After hearing the presentations hopefully that message will get down to all DRM and CC practitioners about the importance of working together.”

As for the Cook Islands, Carlson says the way forward is to integrate climate change and disaster into other sectors.

“For example with infrastructure, we have to make sure that climate proofing is part of the building code and ensure when buildings are built it is climate proofed for the future. So we address resilience in the longterm.

“Or in the area of health, climate change has to be taken into account.

Carlson says the main issue in the Cook Islands is to get key stakeholders aware about CC and DRM, and to take this into account in their planning.

“Climate change is not just an environmental issue, it’s a development issue.”

Carlson says the Joint Meeting has been helpful in bringing together a wide range of sector to discuss integration.

“Ideally what each country should do is have their own national platform, to look at how climate change and disaster can be addressed in core sectors. CC and DRM then becomes everybody’s responsibility.”

Way forward for Samoa

By Asenati Taugasolo Semu, Press Secretariat of the Government of Samoa:

11 July 2013, Nadi, Fiji - Addressing the real needs of the countries and their people is the way forward for Samoa to deal with climate and disaster related issues.

This was according to the Acting Chief Executive Officer of the Samoa Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Filomena Nelson during her presentation at the Joint Meeting of the 2013 Pacific Climate Change for Disaster Risk Management & Pacific Climate Change Roundtable this week.

Nelson highlighted her country’s perspective for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and Linkages to the Roadmap.

One of the suggestions raised by Nelson is to maintain status quo - separate regulatory and institutional or governance frameworks but recognise synergies through implementation.

She also pointed out the engagement of more private sector and non governmental organisations.

“We should address real issues, resettlement and relocation of extremely vulnerable communities,” said Filomena.

“We should address synergies and commonalities and to focus on the risks when addressing these synergies.

“There should be clear roles and responsibilities of regional organisations and donors,” she said.

“Although disaster risk management and climate change have synergies, but there are also major differences in response arrangements and the fact that not all disasters are caused by climate related hazards.”

Nelson said some challenges that should be implemented in the roadmap are coordination by respective sectors, communication among agencies, sharing resources and knowledge and most importantly assessing funds.

She suggested that the implementation of climate change and risk reduction adaptation and mitigation strategies should be prioritised.

“This includes climate early warning products, promoting agro forestry, first aid and search and rescue response capability.”

“She said response capability should be provided to villages within forest fire prone area and also early warning capability through fire sirens, first aid and search and rescue response capability.”

Tonga’s Deputy Prime Minister wants to merge climate and disaster functions

By Sini Latu, Tonga Broadcasting Commission:

11 July 2013, Nadi, Fiji - One of the ways forward in dealing with climate and disaster related issues in Tonga is bringing the related divisions together under one ministry, says Tonga’s Deputy Prime Minister Samiu Vaipulu.
Vaipulu says after three days of dialogue at the Joint Meeting of the 2013 Pacific Platform for Disaster Risk Management and Pacific Climate Change Roundtable in Fiji, he is contemplating the merger of the Environment, Climate Change, Tonga National Meteorological and National Emergency Management Office into one ministry.

Vaipulu says he will raise this proposal with the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

“My reason to merge these divisions – is to be able to gain more funding, aid and help. If these divisions are merged – they could be able to work more closely together for the benefit of the country and its people”, says Vaipulu.

These divisions are under different ministries at the moment – which makes it hard sometimes to direct certain task, as one may say, that particular task is under their division, says Vaipulu.

The idea was from the joint meeting of the Pacific Platform for Disaster Risk Management and the Climate Change Roundtable – which he says has shown the way forward in addressing Climate Change and Disaster issues.

According to the deputy prime minister - the Special Representative of the United Nation Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction – Margareta Wahlstrom had promised that if Tonga approves this – she will return to the Kingdom to see what they can do to help.

Bringing these divisions together will make work easier says Vaipulu and “funds and help from donor partner will be used wisely”.

He called on donor partners to work closely with the government.

“Donor partners should not come and tell us what they want to be done, but instead we will work together to lay out the best plan, taking into consideration the future.”

Is the Pacific doing enough in its disaster early warning systems?

By Daniel Namosuaia, Solomon Star:

11 July, 2013, Nadi, Fiji - A lot of progress has been made in the Pacific in the area of early warning systems (EWS), however more needs to be done, says Rajendra Prasad, the UNESCO/IOC Programme Officer for DRR and Tsunami Warning.

Prasad says countries in the Pacific do vary on their level of EWS, but says the progress and developments done within the region has been going reasonably well.

“there are several natural hazards such as tropical cyclones, flash floods, droughts and tsunami which each country’s state of EWS differs. But for us in Fiji, we have reasonably good early warning systems for tropical cyclones,” Prasad said.

Although there were some weaknesses such as incidences of over warnings, under warnings, late warnings or too early warnings, Prasad said it has been a real challenge for the Pacific with hazards like tsunami where information could reach the public through the media without proper assessment and causes panic and anxiety amongst people.

He stressed that for different hazards, different countries have their own EWS situation, some are well prepared more than others.

He highlighted that Solomon Islands is one of the countries that has one of the best EWS practices in place where the integration of the Meteorological services and National Disaster Management Office could respond in the earliest time to its EWS.

Prasad further highlighted that the Pacific has a long way to go in addressing certain hazards like that of tsunami, while with others like tropical cyclones, they are well equipped and have in place proper EWS.

However he said there is certainly a need for improvement to ensure EWS are in place to counter any type of hazards.

“We have a lot of way to go in terms of improvements on EWS but the good part is the Pacific Early Warning Centre will in the near future cease to issue warnings and people can get that quickly from their national met services and integrate that information with the national disaster divisions to organise the respond to EWS.”

He stressed that despite the challenges Pacific island countries face with the resources they have available, they have done a lot and this should be maintained and improved.

When asked on how prepared the Pacific is in terms of its EWS for natural hazards, Prasad said it depends entirely on the type of hazards.

He said if he is going to rank the pacific on scale of one to ten with ten being the highest, the Pacific would sit between 6 and 7.

However he said for tropical cyclones he would rank the pacific between 8 and 9. For flash floods he ranked it between 5-6 depending on the locality of the area and for tsunami, he ranked it below 5.

“This integration process (between climate change and disaster management) is like we are planting a seed and surely it will germinate and mature and bear fruit. Once it starts to grow, we will just have to look after it and by the end of the day it will enable us to tackle multi-hazards when it comes.”

Climate change to worsen risk on commercial agriculture

 By Ben Kedoga, NBC PNG
11 July 2013 Nadi, Fiji - A commercial agriculture project manager in Fiji says climate change will exacerbate risks to the industry.
Australian Center for International Agriculture Research, ACIAR, Fiji Papaya Project Manager, Kyle Stice said because of these challenges they are now trying to carry out research into natural disasters, so that a new strategy is developed to address the challenges created by the natural disasters.

Stice spoke on the issue of integrating climate change and disaster risk management in the agriculture sector. His presentation was based on a case study on the Fiji Papaya Project.

He said over the last four years natural disasters in Fiji have had a drastic impact, not only on the papaya farmers, but exporters as well.

Stice says it takes about 9 months for a papaya tree to bear fruit and within these four years the money made after the natural disasters, were used to offset the cost of damages and they have been left with a very unhealthy net income.

However, he said most of the Papaya farmers are also doing multi-cropping, in their farm, so they were able to generate some form of income, while waiting for the rehabilitation of their papaya farms.

Stice said their exporters were hardest hit by the recent natural disasters in 2012, especially those that are exclusively papaya exporters. He said their exclusive exporters lost business completely, including assets which they've acquired over time.

He said the current system put in place for disaster rehabilitation does not take into consideration such situations.

Stice said this illustrates that the commercial agriculture as an industry can be affected negatively by natural disasters.

He says the only way to minimise the negative effects of climate change is to plan for it.

"It is important that as businesses, whether you are a farmer or exporter that we start including the likelihood of a natural disaster into our planning, as farmers the way we manage our money, as exporters and the way we use our money so that we are not in a position that we are only relying on the government or an aid agency to come in and rehabilitate, so hopefully the industry is taking some of these messages on"

Stice added that the negative impact on the industry has also impacted on the confidence of farmers and exporters, and he predicted the numbers to drop.

"Unfortunately there's been a level of discouragement; we will see the number of farmers and exporters decrease because of these series of natural disasters at least for a few years, so confidence in papaya farming and exporting has dropped"