Owning adaptation in the Pacific

Pacific Island peoples are already feeling the disrupting effects of climate change but despite financing pledges from developed nations to help communities adapt, accessing that funding poses major challenges, according to a new research report from Oxfam.

The report urges funding donors and Pacific governments to work together with civil society organisations to ensure the funding reaches those most vulnerable.

The research was supported by the British High Commission, and the resulting report, Owning Adaptation in the Pacific: Strengthening governance of climate adaptation finance, was launched today at the Pacific Islands Forum by Richard Benyon, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Natural Environment and Fisheries in the United Kingdom’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) along with Oxfam New Zealand’s Executive Director Barry Coates, and Pacific government representatives.

“Pacific peoples live in one of the world’s most vulnerable regions to climate impacts, and communities face no option but to adapt if they are to build a resilient future,” said report co-author and Oxfam New Zealand Executive Director, Barry Coates. “The findings of this report highlight encouraging innovations and examples of good practice, but formidable challenges remain.”

Climate adaptation financing is essential for developing nations, like those in the Pacific, which are among the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change but least responsible for creating it. Such financing is necessary to address and adapt to threats posed by long-term changes to land and ocean environments. Developed nations have pledged up to US$100 billion a year by 2020.

The report acknowledges good work being undertaken by some Pacific governments, the effective support provided by some donors and the work of civil society.

However, all too often these initiatives are not connected up. The report calls on donors, governments, civil society and others to build a more inclusive partnership to address the multiple threats from climate change. This must include a broad process of building capacity, working across different parts of government, strengthening learning and accountability processes, building joint responses with civil society, traditional leaders, women’s groups, youth, private sector and others, and including those who are most vulnerable.

"Pacific peoples live in one of the world’s most vulnerable regions to climate impacts, and communities face no option but to adapt if they are to build a resilient future."
– Barry Coates, Executive Director, Oxfam New Zealand

The report presents five strategies it recommends as crucial in strengthening national-level governance of climate adaptation finance:

  • Adopt good donor practice: Donors need to be aware that until systems of direct budgetary support are better entrenched, project based climate action will cause increasing obstacles and management burdens for Pacific governments, and these will continue unless donors coordinate effectively and simplify their systems.
  • Deepen approach to mainstreaming: Consider climate change in all strategic national development planning and mainstreaming in the responsibilities of all government departments.
  • Build inclusive, meaningful partnerships: Governments should work more extensively with non-state actors. Outreach, education and partnerships with civil society, the private sector and traditional leaders is needed to ensure that resilience is built in the economy and across society, including in outer islands and remote areas.
  • Strengthen learning and accountability: Effective action needs to be built on sound information, evidence, feedback and learning. This requires a greater degree of transparency and accessibility of information; sound baselines, monitoring and evaluation across society and effective learning cycles to improve performance.
  • Include those most vulnerable: Integrate the contributions of women, children and disadvantaged groups in climate change strategies.

The report also lists over 70 specific actions and strategies identified by participants in the research, drawing on examples of good practice and opportunities at the local, national and regional levels.

The ultimate goal of these collective actions is to empower the citizens most vulnerable to climate change, together with their governments, to drive the way adaptation finance is used to meet their needs – setting a process in motion to shift vulnerable Pacific countries towards adaptive resilience.

Coates said, “The report comes at a time when countries meeting at the United Nations climate negotiations have failed to agree a framework to urgently reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Developed countries, including New Zealand, need to move the furthest and first to prevent extreme climate impacts that would overwhelm any protection of adaptive action. Mitigation of carbon emissions and a rapid move towards a low carbon economy must remain at the top of the agenda - requiring strong political leadership from governments. But for those vulnerable countries already experiencing the impacts of climate change, adaptation is also a high priority, and so is the climate finance that is urgently needed to support effective action.”

Article type: 
Press release