Australia is committed to helping the people of the North Pacific meet the challenge of climate change.
At the 2016 Pacific Islands Forum, Prime Minister Turnbull announced a climate change and disaster resilience support package to the Pacific of $300 million over four years.This is part of the $1 billion climate finance Australia pledged at the 2015 Paris climate change meeting to reduce emissions and build resilience in developing countries over five years.
To take action on climate change, Australia's focus is on climate research and information, building resilience to climate change and disasters, and increasing country capacity to respond to disasters.
This support aligns with the Framework for Regional Development in the Pacific, endorsed by Pacific Island Forum leaders, which outlines an integrated approach to addressing climate change and disaster resilience. Australia also supports the three countries' climate change policies.
Key risks and challenges
The Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of the Marshall Islands and Republic of Palau are all highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. The countries are susceptible to nearly all direct and indirect impacts, including tropical cyclones, extreme rainfall, coastal erosion, drought, food and water insecurity, heat waves, ocean acidification and sea level rise.
Much of the region's critical infrastructure and population base is situated in low-lying coastal zones, where storm surge, wind-driven waves, sea level rise and coastal erosion pose serious threats to sustainable development as the climate continues to change.
The people of the North Pacific have a high degree of resilience. They have built coping mechanisms and are accessing sources of climate finance to support adaptation. However, climate change is projected to erode community coping capacity, threaten growth and critical infrastructure, and undermine development gains as impacts escalate over time.
Building climate resilience in FSM and RMI
From 2012-2016 Australia worked with the International Organization for Migration to build local resilience to climate and disaster hazards across 50 communities in Micronesia and the Marshall Islands through the Climate Adaptation, Disaster Reduction and Education Program (CADRE). The $3.6 million Program supported:
- climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction education programs for 10,000 children in 50 schools;
- school-level climate change and disaster technical assessments, and climate and disaster risk management plans; and
- climate and disaster public information campaigns in 50 communities, with specific urgent adaptation actions.
Despite the risks and vulnerabilities, there are opportunities to increase resilience to climate change impacts in the North Pacific. National climate change policies and strategies across the region provide a solid basis for enhanced action and integrating climate change risks and resilience into core sectors.
Australia will continue to support the governments and people of the region to build climate resilience within the framework of joint aid and development priorities.
Key sectors for climate change investment include water and sanitation and community development. For example, Australia is partnering with the Marshall Islands and the Asian Development Bank to improve water and sanitation systems on Ebeye Island. The project, which runs until 2022, will help build resilience to climate change by increasing fresh water production and introducing more energy-efficient water supply and sewerage systems.
Australia's Aid Investment Plans in the region (2016-17 to 2018-19) include climate change and disaster risk reduction as cross-cutting issues. Australia is committed to integrating climate resilience into all development projects in the region. The Direct Aid Program in each country will prioritise community grants that focus on climate change adaptation, resilience and disaster preparedness.
Work is ongoing to address the risks of climate change and to integrate resilience building activities across all sectors.
The North Pacific benefits from Australia's regional climate change programs, which total over $50 million for the period 2015-16 to 2017-18. Our programs work to:
- Build capacity of national meteorology services and measure sea level rise through the Climate and Oceans Support Program in the Pacific;
- Improve access to and use of climate information for decision making and knowledge management through the iCLIM program; and
- Provide technical support to integrate climate change across our bilateral programs.
Australia also provides support to the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) whose mandate includes addressing priority climate change issues.
These programs build on our long-term support for climate science in the Pacific.
Australia also contributes to global climate finance mechanisms, including the Green Climate Fund ($200 million committed over four years, from 2015) and the Global Environment Facility ($93 million committed from 2014-15 to 2017-18). These funds support a wide range of resilience building and emissions reduction projects activities in the Pacific.
Australia uses its seat on the Green Climate Fund Board and the Global Environment Facility Council to streamline processes, highlight the climate change challenges and vulnerability of Pacific island countries and advocate for Pacific focused funding proposals.
Estimated sectoral split of bilateral climate change investments in the North Pacific ($ millions)