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Pacific marine climate change

Pacific marine climate change - partnership with regional and UK experts reveals full regional impacts

The first ever Pacific Marine Climate Change Report Card has been launched today as part of World Oceans Day, at events in Fiji and Samoa. The Report Card is a product of a year-long project to analyse and co-ordinate the work of 60 Pacific climate change experts, with marine scientists from the United Kingdom.

The report card, which is accompanied by 13 detailed supporting reviews, summarises current scientific understanding of climate change impacts on the region’s marine environment. The document is intended to help Pacific islanders and decision-makers to understand and respond to the likely impacts of marine climate change. The accessible report card format highlights what action is already being taken in the region and what further responses are needed. The reviews provide further information on each of the topics.

The Report Card initiative is a product of a dynamic collaboration that includes the UK’s Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), the Secretariat for the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), UN Environment, The University of the South Pacific, The Secretariat for the Pacific Community (SPC) and Climate Analytics IMPACT project.

Mr Kosi Latu, Director General, SPREP said: “We believe this report card will be valuable to our Pacific islands in helping to form policies and decisions at the national, regional and international levels. Being Large Ocean Island States, our Pacific people are strongly interlinked with our ocean and as our Pacific islands live on the frontlines of climate change, we know all too well the impacts and risks it brings. This report card clearly outlines the risks and provides guidance for actions which can help make a difference.”

The user-friendly presentation of the most current scientific knowledge on climate change and the Pacific’s marine environment is particularly important for supporting sustainable decision-making in the ocean-dependent Pacific islands. According to the study, projections of rising sea levels, more intense storms, floods, higher temperatures, and ocean acidification place fundamental needs such as living space, housing, food and water security, culture, health and wellbeing at risk.

Mr Sefanaia Nawadra, Head of the UN Environment Pacific Office said: “Climate change is a multifaceted issue so decision makers will appreciate a region specific report card that summarises its current status, recommends management options and through its supporting documents can provide scientific guidance for actions. This is exactly what the region needs to strengthen evidence based management, informed negotiations and sound decision making that builds climate change resilience.”

The report card underscores the urgency of action, and recommends measures for addressing the projected impacts including:
• Emphasising the importance of significantly reducing existing pressures from pollution, marine waste, population growth, overfishing and coastal development, to increase resilience to climate impacts.
• Further incorporation of knowledge and needs of social and cultural groups in adaptation planning.
• Ensuring that coastal planning and management are adaptable, and can be further developed with time, in line with future climate change.
• Developing a better understanding of localised climate impacts, by bringing scientists and local communities together.

Deputy Vice Chancellor Armstrong from The University of the South Pacific said: “The Report Card provides an accessible, well-evidenced and comprehensive analysis of the effects of climate change on the Pacific Ocean and on the people who rely on it. This is very useful for the twelve member countries of The University of the South Pacific and underlies our ongoing University-wide commitment to oceans and climate change. Our role in the Report Card exemplifies the importance of progressive development of scientific capacity in citizens of our member countries in order to meet regional challenges.”

The initiative was funded by the UK Government as part of the Commonwealth Marine Economies Programme (CME Programme).

Dr Bryony Townhill, lead co-ordinator of the Climate Change Report Card for the Caribbean and Climate Change Scientist at Cefas said: “This report card builds on similar work we undertook in the Caribbean last year, which has helped to raise the profile of marine climate change issues at international climate change meetings. We hope that the Pacific report card can similarly help Pacific nations clearly understand the key risks of climate change, and how they can respond on a local and international scale.”

Funded by the UK Government and led by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the CME Programme is supporting 17 Commonwealth Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in the Pacific and Caribbean in identifying the potential of, and developing, their marine economies in a sustainable, resilient and integrated way. The programme promotes growth, innovation, jobs and investment whilst safeguarding healthy seas and ecosystems. In partnership with the SIDS, the programme will develop and implement national Maritime Economy Plans to ensure the programme leaves a lasting legacy.

The CME Programme brings together three of the UK’s world-class multidisciplinary marine organisations: Cefas, the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office and the National Oceanography Centre to enable training and capacity building for Commonwealth SIDS in the Caribbean, and Pacific allowing national and regional governments and actors to make decisions for the region’s marine economy.

The Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) is an executive agency of the Department for Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) within the UK government. It provides ministers and government officials with impartial expert advice and evidence relating to marine and closely related environments and is a provider of UK statutory monitoring and inspection services, including national emergency response capabilities.

Climate Change Report Card for the Pacific: Cefas has been working with regional partners to share expertise and knowledge to coordinate and analyse existing research into a regional overview of potential marine impacts of climate change. The report card provides a comprehensive, peer-reviewed and highly accessible information on:

• What is happening already
• What could happen in the future
• Our confidence in understanding
• Case studies from across the region
• Knowledge gaps
• Potential socio-economic impacts

Outputs include a 16 page report card, based on one overview paper and the following hot topic reports, authored by invited experts:

• Extreme events, ocean acidification and sea temperature (physical driver theme)
• Mangroves, corals, fish and shellfish (biodiversity theme)
• Fisheries, tourism, and settlements and infrastructure (society and livelihood theme)
• Society, culture and gender paper, and 1.5°C temperature paper
• Scientific contributors were drawn from across the Pacific marine science and policy community, and the working group contained regional experts from SPREP, USP, SPC, UN Environment, Climate Analytics. Contributors from the UK included researchers from the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science’s (Cefas) Marine Climate Change Centre (MC3).

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