Pacific island countries have reaped the benefits of using enhanced science-based climate data and information to inform decision making across various key sectors, through the Next Generation Climate Projections for the Western Tropical Pacific project, which concluded in March 2022.
The final project workshop is currently being held over the course of two days, and during the first day of discussions, the project team presented its key activities and deliverables to representatives from National Meteorological and Hydrological Services, government officials, NGO’s across the Pacific, as well as members of CROP organisation, donors and development partners.
Some of these key activities and deliverables include the development of updated NextGen climate projections for all fourteen Pacific Island partner countries, which covered temperature, rainfall, tropical cyclones and other extreme events, and sea level rise. These projections were tailored to include more salient framing, improved accessibility, as well as guidance for applications within different sectors.
Case studies were also developed by the project to further demonstrate the application of science to support sectoral applications. The practical application of these projections to inform assessments in different sectors at a national and sub-national level, as well as to inform the development of new scientific knowledge of the physical impacts of climate change in Pacific island countries.
A range of communications and knowledge products were also developed as a way to ensure the facilitation of path-to-impact for the project over the long term.
The project also revealed that climate change will have a significant macro economic impact on the Pacific countries gross domestic product (GDP) even in the lower emissions scenarios.
The NextGen project was funded by the Government of Australia, through the Australia-Pacific Climate Partnership. Its implementation was led by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation’s (CSIRO) Climate Science Centre, in collaboration with the Climate Change Resilience programme of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).
It was implemented in the 14 Pacific island partner countries of Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
Originally planned to be implemented over the course of 18 months from July 2019 to December 2020, it was extended for a further 15 months from January 2021 to March 2022 due to COVID-19, which disrupted the rolling out of project activities to Pacific island countries.
Speaking on behalf of the Government of Australia, Ms Kirsty McNichol, Director of the Pacific Climate Change Section of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade stated that Australia remains a committed partner to ensuring that the Pacific has access to the best climate science to better inform decision making.
She added that through climate data provided by the NextGen project, they have been able to help root crop farmers in Fiji, cocoa farmers in Papua New Guinea and pearl farmers in Cook Islands make better decisions on how climate change impacts them in their respective sectors. She has also received reports that this data and information have contributed to greater leadership and demonstrated changed behaviours and willingness to include climate science in decision making.
The Chair of the Pacific Meteorological Council and Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment of Samoa, Lealaisalanoa Frances Reupena, acknowledged the consistent support of the Australian Government to climate change science over the years, an area which she says is not always attractive for funding.
“In science-based projects, it used to be said that we lacked capacity to participate in development and implementation of the science, however, after years of partnership we need to change the way we see this. The capacity is there, but we lack resources and exposure,” Lealaisalanoa said.
She drew on the example of regional NMHSs staff pursuing PhD studies, and pointed out that the current Director of the Samoa Meteorological Services, Dr Luteru Tauvale, also graduated from Japan with a PhD in Meteorology.
“I would like to encourage future projects on climate change science to invest in the capacity of our Pacific peoples. Allow our staff to not only provide information to be used for studies, but be part of research contributing to project outcomes,” she challenged.
The new Director General of SPREP, Mr Sefanaia Nawadra, personally thanked the Government of Australia for their continued support for climate change in the region, and stated the importance of having science-based data to not only inform decision making at a national and regional level, but to support negotiations at the international level.
“The only way we can effectively advocate for our region at international Conferences of the Parties, workshops and other global meetings is if we have science and data behind us to make our case. This is why projects like NextGen are so important,” Mr Nawadra said.
He also added that he hopes the discussions not only reflect back on what’s been achieved, but looks forward and starts the conversation on where to go from here and what else needs to be done to better serve the needs of Pacific island countries.
This conversation is already in the pipeline, and will be had on the second day of the workshop when discussions on the NextGen 2.0 concept paper, which will facilitate discussion and planning, takes place.