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Australia’s commitment to strengthening climate and disaster resilience in the Pacific - Tonga

Australia is supporting Pacific governments, businesses and communities to strengthen climate change and disaster resilience. At the 2019 Pacific Islands Forum, Australia pledged to spend $500 million over five years to strengthen resilience in the Pacific from 2020. This builds on the commitment to spend $300 million over four years from 2016.

Australia is committed to working in partnership with the people of Tonga to increase climate change action and disaster resilience across the country. We are integrating climate change and disaster resilience across the aid program in Tonga, including in our social and economic infrastructure and economic reform programs.

  • Due to climate change, Tonga and the region will experience more strong storms like 2018's Tropical Cyclone Gita, which caused damages approaching 40 percent of Tonga's GDP. Australia's support to transition communities to solar power is to helping increase the resilience of Tonga's energy system so communities can recover more quickly after disasters.
  • The majority of Tonga's population relies on fresh water lenses under the Tongatapu atoll. Extreme rainfall, stronger storm surges and sea level rise all increase the likelihood of the lenses becoming polluted. Australia is helping to ensure residents of Nuku'alofa have secure access to freshwater, even in the aftermath of a disaster.
  • Tonga is highly disaster-prone and annual disaster losses average over 4 percent of GDP. Losses are likely to escalate as climate change impacts increase. Australia's support for disaster risk reduction and preparedness is helping communities build resilience in the face of increasing extreme weather events.
  • The majority of Tongan communities and the country's critical infrastructure is located on the coast, and is at risk of flooding from storm surges and king tides, as well as sea level rise. Australia is helping Tongan builders attain the skills they need to construct climate- and disaster-resilient housing.

Tonga is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, as most of the population and critical infrastructure is located on atoll islands - including the very low-lying Tongatapu atoll. The country is susceptible to a range of climate change challenges, such as stronger tropical cyclones, flooding, drought and heat waves, coastal erosion, increased acidity of ocean waters and sea level rise.

Australia's programs

Australia has provided approximately $8.5 million in bilateral climate change and disaster resilience support to Tonga since 2016. This support is built into many programs, including the ones below.

  • Through support to the Nuku'alofa Urban Development Sector Project ($9 million, 2011-2019), Australia is helping to ensure people have access to fresh water even in times of disaster, and that Tongans are less likely to get sick due to inadequate sewerage systems.
  • Australia is co-funding the Tonga Renewable Energy Program ($3.5 million, 2019-2022), which is helping the country meet its 50 percent renewable energy target by 2020. Using renewable energy, such as solar, helps communities recover faster from disasters, and provides more affordable sources of power.
  • Through the Tonga Economic and Public Sector Reform Program ($24 million, 2016-2024), Australia is helping the Government of Tonga undertake policy reforms, including in the energy sector where renewable energy is a priority.
  • Under the Disaster Preparedness and Response Program Australia supports Tonga's National Emergency Management Office and civil society organisations to undertake disaster risk reduction and preparedness activities to help build community resilience.

Regional and global programs

Australia's regional programs are changing the way people manage the impacts of climate change and disasters. Under the Australia Pacific Climate Partnership, Australia's aid program is supporting Pacific island governments to build resilience and shift to low-carbon development by investing in climate-and-disaster-informed education, health, infrastructure, energy, and food and water security.

The Climate and Oceans Support Program in the Pacific Phase 2 ($23.3 million, 2018-2022) works in Tonga with the National Meteorological Service to provide seasonal forecasts that help farmers plan for harvesting, and weather warnings to alert people about disasters.

The Pacific Resilience and Governance Program ($10 million, 2019-2022) supports governments across the region to include climate change and disaster risk factors in their planning, budgeting and implementation to ensure they are building resilience into government initiatives across a range of sectors.

Last Updated: 14 October 2019
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