North Pacific - Australia’s commitment to strengthening climate and disaster resilience in the Pacific
At the 2019 Pacific Islands Forum, Australia pledged to spend $500 million over five years (2020-2025) to strengthen climate change and disaster resilience in the Pacific. This builds on Australia’s strong support for Pacific climate change and disaster resilience, and success in exceeding a 2016 commitment to spend $300 million over four years (2016-2020). Australia is committed to working in partnership with governments in the North Pacific to meet the needs and aspirations of its people to build resilience to climate change and disaster events.
Climate change and disaster impacts in the North Pacific
The Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) and Republic of Palau are all highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. The countries are susceptible to tropical cyclones, extreme rainfall, coastal erosion, drought, food and water insecurity, heat, storm surge, increased acidity of ocean waters and sea level rise.
- Accessing clean drinking water in the North Pacific is already challenging, and as sea levels rise and storm surges increase, fresh water is more likely to be polluted. Australia is supporting the Government of the RMI to ensure the security of freshwater supplies and adequate sanitation.
- Climate change is making tropical storms stronger. FSM is experiencing more extreme tropical storm events such as 2019’s Typhoon Wutip, which caused damage to the infrastructure and agricultural production of 30 islands, leaving 11,575 people food insecure. Strengthening the capacity of national meteorological services to provide early warnings for extreme weather events will protect the lives and livelihoods of North Pacific peoples.
- As climate change impacts intensify, the North Pacific nations will require significant external support to implement priority adaptation actions, like protecting coastal zones and safeguarding water supplies. Through education programs focusing on increasing children’s understanding of climate change and disaster, Australia is helping build the skills people need to adapt to a changing climate.
Australia has provided approximately $0.9 million in bilateral climate change and disaster resilience support to the North Pacific since 2016. This support is built into many programs, including in the infrastructure and education sectors:
- The Ebeye Water and Sanitation Project ($0.7 million 2016-2020 in climate change and disaster finance of $5.3 million 2015-2022 project total), implemented by the Government of the RMI with support from Australia, helps ensure people have access to fresh water even in times of disaster and has contributed to a reduction in the number of people falling ill from inadequate sewerage systems.
- The Strengthening of Dispensaries and Health Centres in FSM Project ($0.13 million 2016-2020 in climate change and disaster finance of $0.4 million 2020-2021 project total) is a partnership between Australia and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to improve community health dispensaries’ and health centres’ water capture and supply systems, and sanitation facilities. This is being undertaken in areas that are susceptible to drought and typically reliant on freshwater lenses or rainwater capture. It assists with building the resilience of communities against changing weather patterns and saltwater intrusion into freshwater wells due to rising sea levels.
- The Australian Government prioritises support to community grants that focus on climate change adaptation, resilience and disaster preparedness through the Direct Aid Program in each country. These include:
- the repair of roofing for remote households on Fedraei Island in Yap (FSM) to improve clean water capture and storage.
- In line with FSM’s ban on single-use Styrofoam and plastics for food, Australia supported the organisation Yap Eco Leaf Plates with a grant in 2018. This organisation produces biodegradable and affordable plates and utensils from betel nut sheaths.
- development of sustainable farming systems to increase the production of locally grown food in Palau and reduce dependence on imported foodstuffs.
- provision of a reverse osmosis desalination unit for training purposes at the College of Marshall Islands (2019), in preparation for the deployment of mobile reverse osmosis units to outer islands during times of drought.
Regional and global programs
A range of regional and global climate change investments are working directly to build climate and disaster resilience in the North Pacific, including:
- The Climate and Oceans Support Program in the Pacific Phase 2 (COSPPac) ($23.3 million, 2018-2022) supports Meteorological Services in the North Pacific to provide climate and ocean monitoring and prediction services. Climate predictions help farmers plan for planting and harvesting, and Pacific island countries to prepare for disasters like droughts and tropical cyclones. Ocean predictions (tide, currents, wind and waves) support fishing, tourism and shipping.