Pacific Women In Climate Change - Meet Dr Netatua Pelesikoti
Pacific Women In Climate Change - Meet Dr Netatua Pelesikoti, Tonga
This is the second in a series of human interest stories by SPREP's Nanette Woonton on Pacific women showing leadership in the climate change field.
30 November 2012, Doha, Qatar - For the first time ever, a Pacific woman is one of the lead authors in the next report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Dr. Netatua Pelesikoti from Tonga is the Director of the Climate Change Division at the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP). She is also a lead contributor to Chapter 29 on Small Islands in the 5th Assessment Report.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is the leading international body for the assessment of climate change. It was established by the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Meteorological Organization in 1998, and won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for its work on climate change.
The 5th Assessment Report is to provide the world with a clear scientific view on the current state of knowledge in climate change and its potential environmental and socio-economic impacts. The report is the leading climate change reference report by the international community. Having undergone rigorous scientific review, information from this document is quoted often at the UN climate negotiations, referred to in research reports and news articles.
Being one of the lead authors for the small island chapter is not an easy feat.
"Time management has been a challenge for me in contributing my work towards the report as well as managing a division of over 20 staff," said Dr. Pelesikoti.
"8am to 5pm is a short day! I have really had to draw upon dedication, dedication, dedication and commitment in order to achieve as much as I can!"
She has come a long way.
Dr. Pelesikoti, or Neta as she is often called, is well known throughout the Pacific region having had over 20 years worth of experience in climate change, coastal management and disaster risk management.
She began as an environmental technical officer in Tonga and then progressed to working on policy and management at the national level including monitoring and evaluation, training, and project management.
She was also an advisor at the Secretariat of the Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC). Often described as the 'Queen of Disaster Risk Management' in the Pacific region, Neta is well received and welcomed by many Pacific island communities who have spent time with her in their work field.
Dr. Pelesikoti is a coastal ecologist by profession. She did her first degree at the University of the South Pacific in geography and economics; she completed her Masters in Coastal Management in the Netherlands and finished her PhD in Australia in coastal monitoring focusing on the coastal water quality, coral reef and seagrass.
Now, Dr. Pelesikoti is staking her claim in the international region having attended the UN Climate Change Negotiations since 2010 and with her role as a Leading Author in Chapter 29 of the 5th IPCC Assessment Report.
"I enjoy making a difference where I can this is a highlight for me in my work."
"Whether this difference is in developing a government policy, providing advice or working with the community in an activity to build their resilience or simply through watering a plant - I enjoy making a difference and this is what really drives me in my work."
Neta's career has seen sacrifices made along the way, a mother of two teenagers, her family is spread across the Pacific region in Tonga, Fiji and Australia, with her based in Samoa. However the demands of her job require a lot of attention.
As the Director of the Climate Change Division she must coordinate and oversee her team that also manages multi-million dollar projects across the Pacific region. Along with this her role also includes providing input and guidance as a member of the Senior Management Team to help with the running of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme.
A typical day for her in the office includes a staff meeting, project development planning and reporting, communications work, negotiations and meetings with partners and donors as well as management meetings. She is constantly, constantly working.
"It's challenging and I thrive in challenges and I know what I'm doing and am good at it!"
Dr. Netatua has a keen scientific mind. Having worked with her for the last several years, we often talk about emotive news versus scientific news, which leads to now being the right time to share Neta's personal attributes.
In the office she is a strong Pacific island woman. Her opinions are bold and she is thick skinned, I admire that you can debate and discuss issues with her and then quickly move on to the next issue, she moves on and gets over things quickly.
At the same time, Neta is also a generous Pacific island woman that often shows Pacific hospitality. It is this Pacific cultural grounding which has helped her be at home whether she is attending bilateral meetings in the corridors of the UN climate negotiations, or if she is providing community advice in a fale near the coast in the Pacific islands.
Neta is a hard worker, with this work ethic and dedication she has persevered in her field. I admire her strong work ethics that have propelled her into the world stage, seeing her name stamped on an internationally reputed document on climate change. It is no easy feat to provide accepted scientific input as well as be the Manager of a large division.
In closing her interview, she imparts this tip for other Pacific women entering into their professional career, a short tidbit that can help many other Pacific island women be successful at whatever they do.
"Use your talents and share your experiences and skills to make a positive impact in your career, family, country, region and the world."
I like it, good sound advice. Onwards and Upwards!
Pacific Women in Climate Change