Land: 240 sq km
EEZ: 1.8 million sq km
Population: 19,569 (2006)
Language: Cook Islands Maori, English
Currency: New Zealand Dollar, Cook Islands coins
Economy: Agriculture, black pearl industry, offshore banking and tourism
Cook Islands are made up of 15 islands, with the high volcanic island of Rarotonga the centre of government and commerce. Geographically and, to a certain extent culturally, the nation is divided into two groups: the southern group, comprising the islands of Aitutaki, Atiu, Mangaia, Mauke, Mitiaro, Rarotonga, Manuae (an uninhabited atoll) and Takutea (an uninhabited sand cay); and the northern group, comprising the islands of Manihiki, Palmerston, Penrhyn, Pukapuka, Suwarrow (atolls) and Nassau, which are relatively isolated and less developed.
Cook Islands is a self-governing, parliamentary, representative democracy within a constitutional monarchy in free association with New Zealand. Under the terms of the free association, Cook Islanders hold New Zealand citizenship (there is no Cook Islands citizenship) and enjoy the right of free access to New Zealand. New Zealand retains some responsibility for external affairs in consultation with Cook Islands, although in recent times Cook Islands has adopted an increasingly independent foreign policy and has diplomatic relations in its own name with 21 countries and international organisations.
Figure 1 Source: Taken from Map No. 3974 Rev. 15 (Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific), United Nations, July 2007.
Date updated: March 2016
National Climate Change Priorities
The NSDP strategies are national priorities and all sector and government agencies planning is aligned to these strategies. The NSDP has 8 key goals that seek to address the 5 Strategic Outcomes in Te Kaveinga Nui. While none of the Strategic Goals explicitly reference climate change; several references are cross cutting across the goals. The strategies under Priority Area 5 (resilience) of the National Sustainable Development Plan (NSDP) 2011–2015 address responses to climate change and disaster risk management as follows:
- Ensure strong governance arrangements for disaster risk management and climate change adaptation
- Ensure that high quality risk information is available to inform planning and implementation
- Enhance effective preparedness response and recovery
- Build resilience through effective disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation
The C&DCDP strategic (priority) outcomes are:
- Sustainable water, food, energy and social security
- Increased community preparedness and adaptation to risks and impacts
- Effective and sustainable use of land, sea, and natural resources
- Safeguarded biodiversity and ecosystems
- Reduced greenhouse gas emissions
- Reduced reliance on fossil fuels
- Improved energy security
- Enhanced coordination and strengthened implementation through integrated institutional and implementing arrangements across communities and sectors.
As guiding documents to the JNAP, the NESAF and the Second National Communication to the UNFCCC provides a strategic goal and a number of pertinent sector-based adaptation needs and priorities respectively. These are summarised in the table below.
NESAF 2013 -2016 (draft)
Second National Communications to the UNFCCC priorities:
Target Programme 3 Strategic Goal:
The Cook Islands Joint National Action Plan (JNAP) for Disaster Risk Management and Climate Change Adaptation is aligned to the National Sustainable Development Plan (NSDP), the Medium Term Budgeting Framework (MTBF), the Disaster Risk Management Act 2007, and its associated regulations and arrangements including the Cyclone Recovery Reconstruction Plan (CRRP), the Preventative Infrastructure Master Plan (PIMP), the National Environment Strategic Action Framework (NESAF), and the Second National Communication report to the UNFCCC.
The 2011-2015 JNAP vision is ‘a Safe, Resilient, and Sustainable Cook Islands’ outlines four strategic areas:
- Strategic Area 1 - Governance.
- Strategic Area 2 - Monitoring.
- Strategic Area 3 - Disaster Management.
- Strategic Area 4 - Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation.
A preliminary review of the 2011-2015 JNAP was carried out in early 2014 and concluded that the majority of actions are in the implementation stage while some actions will be ongoing beyond the shelf life of the JNAP, especially those related to capacity building and education, and awareness.
With respect to disaster risk management, the JNAP identifies priorities and actions to facilitate the effective implementation of existing DRM legislation as well as aligning to the Hyogo framework. In 2005 the Cook Island Government developed a Disaster Risk Management Policy which takes an ‘all hazards’, integrated and ‘whole of government’, ‘whole of country’ approach to disaster risk reduction and disaster management. The policy states that formal processes of risk management are to be applied in all aspects of national development planning in order to reduce the underlying risks created by changing social, economic, environmental conditions and resource use, and the impact of hazards, including those associated with climate variability, climate change and extreme weather events.
The priorities under each strategic area of the JNAP is summarised as follows:
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration (MFAI) is the political focal point for climate change, disaster risk management and development. In 2011 Climate Change Cook Islands (CCCI) as a division of the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) was established and signalled the transfer of the operational focal point functions from the National Environment Services (NES). All international, regional and national climate change matters are managed, overseen and coordinated by CCCI. Disaster risk reduction matters are coordinated by Emergency Management Cook Islands (EMCI) as legislated by the 2007 Disaster Risk Management Act. The Central Planning and Policy Division (CPPO) is mandated to oversee the implementation of development priorities. Advice and information on progress is currently provided to Cabinet on C&DCD related outcomes by these divisions through the National Sustainable Development Commission (NSDC) and the minister. As portfolios of the Prime Minster, these divisions along with the Office of the Energy Commissioner and Renewable Energy Development Division form a central policy and planning hub in addressing climate and disaster risks to Development.
Cook Islands has broadened its Climate Change Country Team (CCCT) to include members of the DRM community in what is now renamed the National CC and DRM Platform. The Platform is a multi-stakeholder forum that operates to share information and unite around related policy and programmes of action as an ‘all of country’ approach. It provides CCCI and EMCI a setting to communicate with stakeholders but it also provides for prospective collaboration with stakeholders through the CC funding schemes and the JNAP’s activities.
Cook Islands development plans, policies and strategies established at the national levels to address climate chane are provided in brief below. These guide governance decisions at the national and local (pa enua) levels and are listed in the List of Publications, Links and References tab pages. A summary of each of these are provided below.
The Cook Islands National Sustainable Development Plan (NSDP 2011-2015) and its 20 year vision - Te Kaveinga Nui (TKN) is “To enjoy the highest quality of life consistent with the aspirations of our people, and in harmony with our culture and environment”. Like many countries, there is limited documented evidence of frameworks that integrate CC, disasters and development. Cook Islands TKN and the NSDP as the basis of development planning will be framed to address climate change and disaster using a climate change and disaster policy framework. This considers ‘development that minimizes the harm caused by climate impacts while maximizing the many human development opportunities presented by low emissions, more resilient future.’ Three goals of the NSDP will be met when challenges of climate change and disaster risk management are addressed:
- Goal 4: “Sustainable use and management of our environment and natural resources”
- Goal 5 “Strengthened and affordable basic infrastructure, transport and utilities to support national development”; and
- Goal 6 “A safe secure and resilient community”
The NSDP is aligned with the nation’s regional and international commitments such as the Pacific Plan, the Sustainable Development Goals, the S.A.M.O.A. Pathway and other multi-lateral environmental agreements such as the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the United Nations Convention on Combating Desertification among others.
In 2013, Cook Islands completed an assessment of its climate change policy and recommended the endorsement of a Climate & Disaster Compatible Development Policy 2013 – 2016 (C&DCDP). The Policy was endorsed in August 2013 and its overarching statement is to ‘ensure that the sustainable development of the Cook Islands is actively pursued by (the) people through a climate and disaster resilient approach that has the capacity to manage climate and disaster risks and reduce emissions in the context of sustainable development’. The Policy serves to connect the overarching strategies of the NSDP 2011-2015 and Medium term Budget Framework to a range of existing development, climate and disaster related policies an plans. It also serves to provide direction to new policy, planning and budgetary tools available to the government and its partners seeking to build upon or incorporate the directions set out in this policy.
The National Environment Strategic Action Framework 2013–2016 (NESAF) is mandated by the Environment Act 2003 and is a key document for the environmental sector including climate change. NESAF is currently in draft form. The NESAF Target Programme 3 has the Strategic Goal of: “Increasing Resilience by strengthening national capacities for climate change, variability, adaptation and mitigation”. The NESAF and Second National Communication to the UNFCCC are guiding documents for Cook Islands Joint National Action Plan (JNAP) which focuses primarily on CC adaptation and DRM measures. For a diagrammatic presentation of these measures refer to page 16 and 19 of the Cook Islands 2012 Disaster Risk Management & Climate Change Adaptation Joint National Action Plan (2012 JNAP). The 2016-2019 JNAP is in draft form.
Date updated: March 2016