Mr. Jeem Lippwe,
Charge d'Affaires, a.i.
Federated States of Micronesia
on behalf of the
Pacific Small Island Developing States (PSIDS)
at a breakfast event on
Impacts of Weather and Climate Change:
How to prepare and adapt?
New York, 27 October 2009
Check Against Delivery
I have the honour to speak on behalf of the Pacific Small Island Developing States (PSIDS) represented at the United Nations, namely Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Tonga, Vanuatu, and my own country, the Federated States of Micronesia.
At the outset, I would like to thank the Government of Finland for organizing this event and their continued support for capacity building in countries affected by the impacts of climate change, particularly in relation to their meteorological expertise. I would also like to thank Professor Petteri Taalas for his extremely informative and practical presentation.
I wish to begin by outlining some of the specific impacts of climate change on the PSIDS. The PSIDS are amongst the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change. Significant, and sometimes severe impacts, are already affecting the lives of people in the Pacific.
First, climate change is undermining our water security. Countries in the Pacific rely almost entirely on rain for their water supply as few islands have mountain glaciers or substantial reservoirs of groundwater. Small changes in precipitation can have enormous impacts on the amount of water available for drinking, cleaning, and food production. The Pacific region is already experiencing reduced precipitation levels and droughts are expected to become a more frequent occurrence in the future. The Pacific is also heavily influenced by the El Niņo-Southern Oscillation, or ENSO. Many of our islands experienced severe water shortages during the La Niņa period in 1997 and 1998. These ENSO fluctuations are expected to grow more severe with a warmer planet.
Secondly, climate change is undermining food security in the Pacific. Most Pacific Islands are heavily dependent on locally grown and subsistence agriculture. Increased water scarcity is just one way by which climate change is undermining our food security. Flooding and inundation leaves salt deposits in our fields and thereby reducing land available for food production. Additionally, coral bleaching and ocean acidification is destroying the marine ecosystems on which many Pacific Islands depend on for the vast majority of our protein intake.
Thirdly, sea level rise is of course a major threat to islands in the Pacific. The IPCC Fourth Assessment Report predicted sea levels to rise by about half a meter by the end of the century under a business as usual scenario. However, this forecast did not take into account the melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. Experts now consider that a rise of one meter by 2100 is likely, with a multi-meter rise not out of the question. Such a result would be devastating for all Pacific islands and many, especially low-lying atoll islands, would cease to exist.
Finally, IPCC predicts more frequent and stronger tropical storms in the Pacific. Between 1975 and 2004 the number of severe tropical storms doubled. The effects of tropical storm on small islands can be catastrophic. Unusually intense rain in the Philippines in the last two month has now taken the lives of over 500 people.
In light of the severity of the impacts I have outlined, adaptation is a critical challenge for the PSIDS. Pacific Island countries are actively engaging in adaptation projects to build resilience to the impacts of climate change. I wish to highlight three examples.
The first example is Samoa's participation in the United Nations Development Programme's Community Based Adaptation Scheme. Samoa is one of ten countries involved in this recent initiative of the United Nations Development Programme to support communities at the local level meet the challenges of adapting to climate change. There are seven projects in Samoa that will incorporate the voices of more community members in determining how to protect the nation against encroaching climate change - including coastal flooding and prolonged droughts.
The second project I wish to mention is the Pacific Islands Global Climate Observing System (PI-GCOS). We have had a PI-GCOS programme since 2000 aimed specifically at meeting the long term climate observation needs of Pacific Islands. Part of the work of the PI-GCOS includes capacity building of individual Pacific Islands National Meteorological and Hydrological Services.
Finally, the third Pacific initiative I wish to highlight is the Pacific Adaptation to Climate Change Project (PACC), funded by UNDP and implemented by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme. The PACC is aimed at building resilience to impacts of climate change in Pacific Island countries in the key vulnerable socio-economic sectors including the coastal zone and associated infrastructure, water resources, food production and food security. Additionally, PACC assesses the range of financial instruments and investments needed at the national and regional level so that adaptation financing is sustainable.
One of the key issues for PSIDS is of course that our capacity to respond to climate change is far outweighed by the scale of the impacts on our islands. PSIDS are expected to bear especially high adaptation costs as our islands are amongst the most exposed and we have limited capacity to respond. It is now understood that adaptation and protection costs for small islands have been systematically underestimated in the past - particularly in relation to the cost of coastal and infrastructure protection.
Financing for adaptation is one of the key items on the agenda for the climate negotiations in Copenhagen. As a member of the Alliance of Small Island States, the PSIDS are calling for enhanced action on the provision of finance to support both mitigation and adaptation.
Financing must be new and additional; and it must be predictable; grant-based; transparent and give priority and simplified access for the most vulnerable developing countries, especially the PSIDS. In addition to financing, access to low carbon technology is necessary to assist in adaptation. Financing and technological transfer are critical issues in the response to climate change.
Thank you for inviting me to speak at this event.