The people of the Pacific islands may be among the smallest contributors to climate change, but they are on the frontline of its impacts.
With rising sea levels and increasing extreme weather events, daily reality in the Pacific leaves little room for climate scepticism. Already, environmental impacts are irrevocably changing life in these island states – with rising migration just one testament to the region’s very real fears for its future. Tuvalu alone has seen some 15 per cent of its population flee the tiny island state in the last decade, while Nauru has lost one tenth of its population.
But while the threat may be serious, so is the will to combat it. The world’s first and second nations to ratify the Paris Climate Agreement to limit global temperature rise to “well below” 2°C were Fiji and Palau, and other Pacific nations have been amongst the world’s most tireless advocates for urgently needed action on the environment.
Now, with backing from the Global Environment Facility, a new project led by UN Environment is uniting 14 Pacific Island Nations to better track and counter environmental challenges, enabling a truly regional approach to action on issues from climate change to pollution, air and water quality, land degradation and biodiversity.
Launched in December in Samoa, the Building National and Regional Capacity to Implement MEAs by Strengthening Planning, and State of Environment Assessment and Reporting in the Pacific Islands project – or ‘Inform’ – is bringing together the governments of the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu to build capacity in environmental data gathering and sharing around the region.
"Inform will enable 14 Pacific Island countries to base their planning and decision-making on credible environmental information,” Chief Scientist and Acting Director of UN Environment’s Science Division, Dr. Jian Liu says.
“This will go a long way in addressing the critical issues contributing to human health and well-being in the region flagged in the sixth Global Environment Outlook Regional Assessment for Asia and the Pacific, such as the increasing vulnerability to the impacts of natural hazards and extreme events.”
Executed by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), the $10.7-million project also aims to boost progress on Multilateral Environmental Agreements and the Sustainable Development Goals in the Pacific.
“Ultimately, this will contribute to more sustainable management of the region’s natural capital for our future.”
“The focus of the project is very much on environmental information management and its use for informing planning and decision-making, for reporting at the national and regional levels, and also for reporting to the global environmental conventions and environment-related indicators of the Sustainable Development Goals,” says UN Environment portfolio manager Jochem Zoetelief.
The project will be the first regional effort in the Pacific to collect and share environmental information through both national databases and a regional database, enabling shared understanding and action on the region’s unique challenges.
“Achieving national, regional and international environmental commitments, goals and targets requires good data to accurately document the environmental status and stories of the communities we work in and support planning and decision-making processes at all levels,” SPREP Deputy Director General Roger Cornforth says. "However, compiling high-quality, and timely data in Pacific island countries, including a place to store the data, is an ongoing challenge."
Along with reliable national datasets and indicators for environmental information, the four-year project will result in 14 State of Environment Reports for the participating countries, enabling global promotion of the real impacts of a changing climate as being experienced by those who feel them first.
For further information on the Inform project, please contact Jochem Zoetelief - firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story was originally published by UN Environment.