Cablegate: First Pacific Island Climate Change Roundtable Meeting

DE RUEHSV #0455/01 3391928
R 041928Z DEC 08






E.O 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: First Pacific Island Climate Change Roundtable Meeting

1. Summary: The South Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP)
convened the first Pacific Roundtable on Climate Change (CCRT) in
Apia, Samoa from 14 - 17 October with funding from the Government of
Switzerland. 133 participants from governments, regional
organizations, academia, civil society and the media took part. The
Swiss touted their proposal to fund adaptation efforts through a
global carbon levy. Roundtable discussions centered on food
security, adaptation strategies, information gaps and knowledge
sharing. (Participants developed an inventory of regional
activities and set plans in place for developing a Pacific Climate
Change Portal.) Kiribati got no support for considering population
relocation as an option. A UN proposal to set up a Pacific UN
Climate Change Center was met with some skepticism by donors and
regional organizations. End Summary.

2. The CCRT met from 14 to 17 October at the National University of
Samoa to share information on current and planned actions on climate
change in the region; to finalize a matrix providing a clear
overview of ongoing and planned activities including a proposed
climate change portal; and to agree on next steps for the Action
Plan and CCRT process. Representatives from all Pacific island
countries (PICs) were present except Fiji and PNG. The US, UK,
Australia, New Zealand, the EU, Japan, and Switzerland were also
represented, as were ADB, UNDP, UNEP, UNESCO, UN Population Fund,
FAO, the Red Cross, Swedish Commission on Climate Change and
Development, IUCN, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC),
the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, the South Pacific Applied
Geosciences Commission (SOPAC) and various local and international
NGOs working in the region. USG participants were Eileen Shea,
Director of NOAA's Integrated Data and Environmental Applications
Center (IDEA) and Embassy Suva's Regional Environment Affairs
Specialist (RES). Le Laulu, President of Counterpart International
based in Washington, DC facilitated the CCRT, which was opened by
Wellington-based Swiss Ambassador Dr. Beat Nobs. Background papers
are available from:

Swiss funding scheme for the Bali Action Plan

3. Ambassador Nobs presented a Swiss proposal to finance climate
change adaptation through a global carbon levy to be established
uniformly across the countries based on the principles of "common
but differentiated responsibilities" and of "polluter pays." The
proposal would establish a new mechanism for national and
international climate change adaptation to be financed based on
emissions and economic strength.

Factors encumbering effective adaptation across the region

4. Over the course of the week, discussions highlighted common
issues impeding effective adaptation efforts in PICs: lack of
financial resources and human capacity; lack of integration,
coordination and cooperation between the different government
agencies; lack of awareness at community level; lack of data and
poor maintenance of climatic/weather data collecting equipment; lack
of political will/support, lack of leadership, and failure to
mainstream climate change into national/sector planning.
Participants also acknowledged the need to move towards
evidence-based methods of decision making. On the issue of national
capacity, PICs stated that in most countries, there is only one
Climate Change Officer in Government. This is a clear sign that
while countries have identified climate change as a priority, they
have not allocated enough financial and human resources to address
the problem. Some countries highlighted that staff who have been
trained left to join other organizations mostly because of better
pay. Some participants highlighted the need to upscale pilot
projects and share lessons learned. Participants also discussed poor
linkages between biodiversity, health, agriculture and climate
change projects and considered establishing a joint expert group on
biodiversity and climate change to better coordinate activities of
the Pacific Climate Change Roundtable and the Pacific Roundtable on
Nature Conservation and Protected Areas.

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Adaptation Funding/future commitments

5. According to SPREP, the Pacific islands region received a total
of USD 42.1 million between the period 1999 to 2008 for climate
adaptation/risk and disaster management and climate support
(including capacity building, research and monitoring) projects.
AUSAID made a presentation on Australia's new climate initiative,
which entails a commitment of 150 million Australian dollars for
climate change adaptation. According to the AUSAID presentation, the
primary geographic emphasis of the program will be Australia's
neighboring island countries, but targeted policy and technical
assistance will also be available for other countries in the region.
The objectives of the program are to: establish a sound policy,
scientific and analytical basis for long-term Australian action to
help developing partner countries adapt to the impacts of climate
change; increase understanding in partner countries of the impacts
of climate change on their natural and socioeconomic systems;
enhance partner country capacity to assess key climate
vulnerabilities and risks, formulate appropriate adaptation
strategies and plans, mainstream adaptation into decision making,
and identify and help finance priority adaptation measures to
increase the resilience of partner countries to the impacts of
climate change. Japanese representatives discussed Tokyo's Cool
Earth Partnership initiative for adaptation and improved access to
clean energy projects. Under this initiative, Japan will fund
measures to assist developing countries that are vulnerable to the
adverse effects of climate change.

6. Some PIC representatives asked that donors provide countries with
their criteria for funding and with clear reporting requirements.
They complained that a lot of their time is "wasted" on reporting to
the donor agencies. PIC representatives also requested that donor
activities be better coordinated. The CCRT heard complaints that
some countries were not able to access funds because they didn't
have the expertise to write proposals. Cook Islands representative
added that donors could play a part in ensuring that the projects
they fund are in line with national priorities. The Swiss Ambassador
responded by saying that countries need to take a lead and tell
donors what their priorities are and not rely on donors to provide
guidance. Often donors are told that projects are donor driven and
this is mostly because countries are not able to provide a
leadership role, he said.

7. Pacific island country representatives showed little interest in
discussing mitigation in this forum. Few participants attended the
mitigation session or engaged in plenary discussions on the topic.
Nevertheless, the countries did recognize that national policies
should be developed to ensure that countries adapt their energy
sectors to renewable energy. (Comment: The renewable energy agenda
in the region is driven more by the high fuel prices than climate
concerns. End comment.)

Food Security - an emerging issue and new priority

8. Many countries highlighted that there is a need to seriously look
at food security issues. A steering committee made up of SPREP, SPC,
USP, and FAO met in closed sessions during the week to look at next
steps on how to incorporate the Rome 2008 Summit Declaration into
the Action Plan and the Pacific Climate Change project, as well as
other initiatives. The steering committee, during their report back
to the plenary, highlighted some of the key food security issues for
the region, with emphasis on those that had serious climate change
implications or where climate change would exacerbate the current
stresses. They concluded that there is an urgent need to build the
resilience of food production systems to climate change,
particularly by diversifying the options for growing crops and
harvesting fish. The committee recognized the efforts that are
already underway in the region including the US Department of
State's "Conserving and Promoting Crop Diversity to Enhance Food
Security in a Changing Climate" project with SPC. Other issues of
relevance to the region that the committee identified included the
need to step up investment in science and technology for food and

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agriculture, undertake vulnerability analyses for all food
production sectors, and mainstream climate change adaptation into
national policies, strategies and programmes related to agriculture,
forestry and fisheries. They also highlighted the need to maintain
biodiversity and apply an ecosystem based approach. The steering
committee also presented some ideas as to how the region could put
the Rome outcomes into a proper regional perspective.

9. In terms of next steps, their presentation advocated undertaking
vulnerability analyses for all food production sectors, raising
awareness of threats to food security and available solutions at the
community level, providing incentives for economic growth to
increase the options for achieving food security, and ensuring the
appropriateness of agricultural courses taught in tertiary
institutes. FAO would convene a further meeting of the steering
committee to finalize the plan to 'regionalize' the High Level
Declaration and implement the adaptations needed in the Pacific to
provide food security in the face of climate change. The committee
noted that work in this area should be aligned closely with the
Mauritius Strategy for the sustainable development of Small Island
Developing States and the UNFCCC Bali Action Plan.

Relocation - the last option for a sinking atoll nation?

10. Kiribati raised the issue of relocation. David Lambourne,
Kiribati's Solicitor General, told participants that, while many
PICs are considering relocating within their own countries, Kiribati
is considering extra-territorial relocation as an option. Lambourne
emphasized that many people in Kiribati are not keen on moving.
Nevertheless, if extra- territorial relocation does occur, Lambourne
said that the people of Kiribati would, "not like to be taken to
some refugee camp in Australia," so must plan now for better
options. No other delegation addressed this issue, which has been
the subject of heated internal debate among PICs in their
preparations for global climate negotiations.

Pacific Islands Climate Change Portal

11. NOAA's Eileen Shea presented on information needs,
communications issues and the potential for a regional climate
change web based portal. CCRT participants agreed that there is a
need for the Pacific climate change portal, and that a small
technical group made up of experts and interested persons identify
what already exists in the international and regional communities
and explore the lessons learned from existing initiatives such as
the Pacific Disaster net and Pacific Islands Global Climate
Observing Systems (PI-GCOS). The CCRT noted that SPREP has a mandate
as a clearinghouse for climate change information, and urged that
SPREP pursue a climate change knowledge advisor position as a high
priority and endorsed an ongoing role for it in support of the
Pacific Climate Change Portal. NOAA, Australian and New Zealand
representatives agreed to explore options for a scooping phase for
the portal. (In addition, Australia expressed a strong interest in
collaborating with the US in climate services and portal development
in the context of the Pacific Climate Information System (PaCIS) and
the broader Roundtable endeavor.)

Climate Change Inventory/Matrix

12. SPREP and the UNDP Suva Office have developed a Climate Change
Matrix for the region. The SPREP matrix consists of information on
projects that are implemented by national governments and by CROP
agencies while the UNDP matrix contains information on projects the
donors are funding. Both the SPREP and UNDP matrices will be shared
with stakeholders with an aim to better coordinate climate change
initiatives in the region.

2009 Pacific Year for Climate Change - "Our century's challenge -
Our Pacific response"

13. In Pohnpei in September, the 19th SPREP Meeting declared 2009
the "Pacific Year for Climate Change." SPREP presented

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possible/planned activities for next year. CCRT members commented on
the activities and suggested that campaigns should be designed to
meet national as well as regional objectives. SPREP is in the
process of developing a regional communication plan. SPREP suggested
that countries develop national communications plans as well.

UN Pacific Center for Climate Change?

14. FAO's Dr. Vili Fuavao, the Acting Resident Coordinator of the UN
agencies, presented a new UN initiative to establish an inter-agency
Climate Change Centre for the Pacific. Fuavao explained the
rationale behind the proposal and stated that there will be a
thorough consultation with all relevant stakeholders such as
government climate change focal points, experts and civil society.
Although a number of participants expressed concerns that the
proposal is another top-down UN effort. The Samoan Government is
very supportive of the idea and has already allocated a piece of
land on which the proposed center will be built. When asked if any
background document was available on the Center, Fuavao said that
that center is just an idea and there will be a consultation
process. We subsequently obtained a draft concept paper that is
being circulated within the UN circles (copies passed to OES/EGC and
IO/EDA). The main objective stated for this proposal is to further
develop and strengthen the capacity of Pacific countries and
understand and respond to the effects of climate change. The centre
would supposedly provide means to effectively channel the resources
of the UN, other partner agencies, regional institutions and
development partners on climate change. It would also approach
climate change from a "sustainable human development perspective"
rather than just an environmental issue.

15. CCRT members asked whether the establishment of a Climate Change
Centre would increase the effectiveness of climate change programmes
of the UN and other agencies in the Pacific. Delegates asked if
another climate change center is really needed and if the
establishment of this center will result in duplication of work. NZ
representative Tom Wilson sounded a word of caution and remarked
that such initiatives place additional demands on the donor
community. CCRT members questioned how the center would fund itself
and if there will be any implications on the work of regional
organizations such as SPREP.

Next steps

16. A second CCRT is planned for next year to consider the
ramifications of COP-14 at Poznan. The meeting will review
activities planned for the Pacific Year for Climate Change and
should be held in time to produce actions in further support of the
year. The CCRT noted the interest of the Marshall Islands in hosting
this event. The next meeting would also consider operationalizing
the matricies and the portal. The facilitator suggested that
participants should also consider the need to make future meetings
of the CCRT as carbon neutral as possible and look for community
programmes in the host country to donate their carbon offsets to,
building on existing initiatives. Furthermore participants were
urged to start discussing the transformation of their organizations
into carbon neutral entities. There is a need for the CCRT
secretariat, based at SPREP, to investigate the potential for a
regional study on the economic aspects of climate change for the
Pacific region, the affects of climate change on tourism, and to
develop appropriate actions for adaptation and mitigation in that
sector. The facilitator stated that the countries need to seek
private sector support for these efforts.

17. Comment: As it stands, the Pacific region has limited capacity
to adapt to climate change. Countries lack both technical expertise
and financial resources. There is a serious need for
climatic/weather data and equipment. Donors have been asked to pay
special attention to the capacity needs of the region and where
possible help build regional capacity. SPC, SPREP and SOPAC are the
three regional organizations which are assisting countries at
different levels and they have been asked to better coordinate their

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climate-related programs. Members of the CCRT recognized that, since
climate change is a cross-cutting issue, there is a need to better
integrate it into the different sectors. The proposed UN Center for
Climate Change would probably have serious implications on the
operations of regional institutions and donors, however, and would
be an expensive and inefficient mechanism to attempt to achieve this
integration. End Comment.

18. NOAA IDEA Center Director Eileen Shea cleared this report.

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