A tour d’horizon of Pacific efforts to adapt to changes in the global climate:
After 2013's Typhoon Haiyan (Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines), Philippine Council for Sustainability Chairperson Arsenio M. Balisacan says the country is “espousing the build-back better principle to make affected communities more resilient and sustainable.”
In December 2013, Balisacan announced a 30-year sustainable action plan beginning in 2016.
Aotearoa / New Zealand
In the early 2000s, the Royal Society of New Zealand formed Sustainable Aotearoa New Zealand, Inc. (SANZ), later known as Phase2. The group defines sustainability as a new way of dealing with the changes of “societal ethics, values, population growth and world views.” Phase2’s director Wendy Reid said: “There’s a small proportion of people in the world using an exorbitant amount of resources and living as if there’s no tomorrow ... But tomorrow is coming our way [...] It’s not just an environment issue. It’s about the exhaustion and depletion of the Earth’s resources and how we use them.”
The chances of flooding during rainy seasons and drought during dry seasons is on the rise in the 17,000 islands of Indonesia. Jakarta is tackling climate change through a “micro-level multi-sectoral” approach by focusing on water, agriculture, health and coastal and marine life.
The government of Samoa hosted the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2014. Samoa’s economy is heavily weighed on its imports and exports. With its focus on agriculture, the government of Samoa recognizes the concerns related to environmental conservation and sustainable development and is doing its best to address these concerns. The Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs hopes that the world summit will pave the way towards a more sustainable future.
The United Nations Population Fund has named Vanuatu as one of the most vulnerable nations to natural hazards. Climate change impacts land-based resources such as forestry, agriculture, water, livestock and biodiversity. Vanuatu has implemented a National Climate Change Adaptation strategy involving the government churches and youth organizations.
Federated States of Micronesia
It has been argued that because of its “sink” capacity of extensive forest and coral reef systems, the Federated States of Micronesia may produce an “uptake” of greenhouse gases. Short term priorities include preparing for El Niño and La Niña events, while long term priorities include solutions to accelerated sea-level rise and greenhouse gas emissions. FSM also pays close attention to its unique ecosystems through local communities in order to conserve and sustain them.
Papua New Guinea
Agriculture in Papua New Guinea has changed due to the changing crop calendar and problems related to water availability. In addition there has been more coastal and inland flooding in the last 15 years than ever before, and a rising sea temperature is causing the destruction of PNG’s coral reefs. The government in Port Moresby is dealing with climate change through a five step process, identifying key factors to prevent and mitigate damage.
By 2050, Fiji predicts a 14 percent loss of coastal lands as a result of sea-level rise and an estimated $23–52 million USD in damages. Fiji is focused on reducing impacts of climactic and non-climactic factors on coastal areas and water resources by scrutinizing development plans in local communities, while paying attention to cultural acceptability. Fiji faces the dangers of climate change in key areas of coastal shorelines, agriculture and water resources.
Singapore is a densely populated island nation, putting it at high risk for climate change-related damage. Reducing its emissions and reliance on other non-sustainable resources is part of its response to climate change along with improving the conditions of Singapore’s long term growth and development plans.
Guam is preparing itself for climate change through natural disaster emergency response drills. Officials are also paying particular attention to shoreline erosion caused by higher waves—another effect of climate change. By integrating climate change and adaptive management concepts, new land use policy decisions were put in place to help prevent erosion and other potentially hazardous effects of climate change. Guam is also working to incorporate climate change in to existing policies and developmental regulations.
The geographically flat islands of the Kingdom of Tonga are especially susceptible to the effects of climate change. Tonga's coastal areas, fisheries, agriculture, forestry, human health and water resources are the most vulnerable sectors. Because of this, Tonga has developed a plan to focus its climate change preparedness efforts towards these areas.
According to The Guardian, the Marshall Islands are at risk of becoming the first country to be “obliterated by climate change,” but the government is actively trying to thwart that prediction. Vice President, and Minister of Climate Change Adaptation, Tony de Brum, says that the Marshall Islands have taken serious steps toward fighting climate change, including becoming a completely solar nation. They are also focused on ocean thermal energy conversion technologies.
The Solomon Islands’ National Climate Change Policy addresses the major concerns over climate change effects. In 2008, the government in Honiara developed the National Adaptation Program of Action (NAPA), which focuses on the nine most vulnerable areas to climate change: agriculture and food security; water supply and water sanitation; human health; human settlements; fisheries and marine resources; coastal protection; infrastructure; waste management; and tourism. Currently, the Climate Change Policy hopes to enhance adaptation, disaster risk reduction and mitigation capacity that contributes to an increase in sustainable development.
Once-rare tropical cyclones have become a normality in Tokelau’s three low-lying atolls. The cyclones cause a depletion of food and water resources, especially in low lying areas, and lead to poor soil quality and rapid drainage, making it difficult to grow food resources. Tokelau is working on enacting new laws to protect at-risk areas, to increase resilience in economies and ecosystems, to improve public awareness and to create a plan for decreasing the amount of imported packaged goods on which the country relies.
Rarotonga / Cook Islands
The Cook Islands’ national vision, enshrined in the Te Kaveinga Nui National Sustainable Development Plan, is to “enjoy the highest quality of life consistent with the aspiration of our people in harmony with the culture and environment.” The plan is in its second phase, which includes initiatives such as energy security, creating sustainable communities and creating an “environment for living.”
Rising sea temperatures caused widespread coral bleaching in the 1990s, leading to the death of one-third of the country's coral reefs. Rising sea levels have potentially devastating effects on Palau’s agriculture sector and water supply. Palau has implemented permit fees for its residents, visitor limits for frequented areas, has placed a moratorium on mangrove clearing in order to protect Palau’s coastal habitat and has developed marine protected areas to preserve fisheries.
Hawai‘i is famous for its clear skies and sandy beaches, but those “sandy beaches” are taking a huge hit from climate change. Beach erosion has become a massive problem. The state’s Department of Land and Natural Resources has taken up a number of projects to fight climate change such as filling eroding beaches, and many are doing their own part to save Hawai‘i’s shores. Hawai‘i also hopes to achieve its statewide sustainability goal by the year 2050, which officials hope will help reduce Hawai‘i’s dependence on fossil fuels, and encourage recycling and waste-reduction.