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Q&A on the EU - Pacific Island Countries relations and EU actions to address climate change in the region

European Commission - MEMO/10/685   15/12/2010

Other available languages: none

MEMO/10/685

Brussels, 15 December 2010

Q&A on the EU - Pacific Island Countries relations and EU actions to address climate change in the region

Why is the Pacific important for the EU?

Pacific islands are developing countries, particularly affected by climate change and its impacts.

The European Commission provides development aid to the Pacific, as it does for all developing countries. The Commission assistance to Pacific amounts €600 million for 2008-2013. It has reached a 60% increase between the 9th European Development Fund (2002-2007) and the 10th EDF (2007-2013).

In addition, the Pacific is of interest for the EU because of a number of reasons:

  • Biodiversity for the future of the planet: Pacific is one of the world’s centres of marine biological diversity, including the most extensive and diverse reef systems on earth.

  • Sustainable access to natural resources: fisheries, timber, oil, minerals and unknown deep-sea resources have to be preserve.

  • Cultural exchanges between the EU and an extraordinary rich and unique culture which is part of the world heritage.

  • Politically, the Region represents an important number (12) of seats and votes in the UN and international organisations with who the EU works at UN level.

  • Development partnership

  • Trade flow between the EU and the 15 Pacific ACP countries are limited: The EU absorbs around 8% of their exports and provides an estimated 3.2% of their imports. Total Pacific ACP - EU trade in 2008 was around €1,012 million. Pacific share of EU imports and exports is very small – around 0.05% and 0.02% respectively

What are the priorities for Pacific-EU cooperation? Which amounts are involved?

Our priorities are based on the Pacific region's own priorities as specified in the Pacific Plan. The Pacific Plan sets out objectives in four pillars:

  • economic growth,

  • sustainable development,

  • good governance,

  • security.

Our regional indicative programme (€95m) addresses economic growth and sustainable development through its two focal sectors:

  • regional integration and trade, €45 million;

  • and sustainable management of natural resources and the environment, €40 million

Governance is targeted through dialogue as well as through the non-focal sector for 'organisational strengthening and civil society participation' of €10 million. Given the exposure of the region to impacts of Climate Change this priority is also reflected in contributions from the Global Climate Change Alliance (€25m) as well as the Disaster Risk Reduction Facility (approx. €35m foreseen).

Has climate change any actual and visible impact on Pacific Countries now?

Unfortunately, climate change impact is already visible and affects heavily Pacific people.

Pacific islands are inundated by rising sea levels, increasing erosion occurs from intense storms, and saltwater intrudes into freshwater supplies. These changes are affecting livelihood activities such as hunting and fishing and impacting on island infrastructure, access to water resources, food and housing availability.

In Small Islands States, which are the majority of the Pacific Islands Countries, soil salinity and sea water intrusion are serious threats to agriculture as well as increased intensity and decreasing frequency in rainfall. Phenomena such as saltwater flooding and droughts have further reduced freshwater supplies for the growing population. Moreover, Small Islands States are affected by changes in surface and subsurface ocean temperatures, ocean acidification and coral bleaching, pest infestations, reef fisheries deterioration and increase in communicable diseases. Pacific Small Islands States have limited opportunities for private sector led growth, face structural capacity constraints and are very vulnerable to recurrent natural disasters.

Climate change puts further stress on these already fragile situations, can exacerbate tensions around scarce resources such as land or water, impacts heavily agriculture and hampers progress towards Millennium Development Goals. Also, frequency and intensity of cyclones or tropical storms, which recurrently hit Pacific Island Countries, will increase as a result of climate change.

It can be anticipated that living conditions will severely deteriorate across the Region. Certain islands and even entire countries (Tuvalu or Kiribati) will even see their own physical existence at risk. Relocation off from sinking islands is no longer the worst case scenario but a reality in the making.

What is the Commission doing now to address climate change in the Pacific?

The Commission is leading the EU effort on development cooperation to address climate change in the Pacific. Together with Pacific partners, the Commission is already very actively engaged also in financial terms, with €90 million in ongoing and already planned development cooperation projects and programmes at country and regional level for the period 2008-2013.

The Commission approved four programmes through the Global Climate Change Alliance (GCCA) for €25.4 million in total. Two of them cover specifically Vanuatu and Solomon Islands climate resilience specific needs and the two other have a multi country dimension. One supports support strategic actions on adaptation in 9 Pacific Small Island states as well as to prepare those countries to absorb efficiently the expected international climate fast start funds. The second regional project, to be implemented by the University of South Pacific, seeks to strengthen capacity building, community engagement and adaptive actions along with applied research.

In addition, other ongoing and planned interventions focus on "renewable energies and energy efficiency" and "disaster risk reduction", which are integral part of climate change adaptation strategies. Renewable energy is the focal sector for 7 out of 15 Pacific ACP countries (Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Niue, Nauru, Palau, Tonga) under the 10th European Development Fund, with an amount of €28.3 million. The objective is to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency that will help reduce dependency on fossil fuels and improve the quality of life in the concerned countries. At regional level, a program to improve energy security and sustainable livelihoods through strengthening the energy sector (€9 million) is under formulation (approval foreseen in 2012). It will look at renewable energy as well as energy efficiency. Finally, €30 million have been earmarked for a Pacific Regional Programme on natural disasters risk reduction.

Another programme includes the Support to the Energy Sector in Five ACP Pacific Island Countries (REP-5). This programme is a multi-country initiative which funds renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in five Pacific Island Countries.

The REP-5 programme aims at reducing these countries' dependence on imported fossil fuel as a means of achieving fiscal balance, as well as increasing the availability of electricity services to their outer island communities. After the successful implementation of REP-5, the same five countries will continue the project. They have been joined by Kiribati and Tonga.

Moreover, the €8 million Solomon Islands Maritime Infrastructure Project II provides for the construction of seven wharfs and the rehabilitation of navigational aids. The construction of six wharfs was finalised in 2008. Indicators show some early benefits of the completed wharfs in terms of the increased frequency of shipping services and improved economic activities. The supply and installation of an additional 42 navigation lights and other equipment started in 2009.

What are the next steps after the signature of the Memorandum of Understanding?

The Memorandum of Understanding is not just a strong statement of intent. It is a first step towards a joint integrated strategy to address climate change in the Pacific. The next step is the preparation of a plan of concrete actions. The Commission and Forum Secretariat will work together with their respective Member States, institutions, civil society and private sector on a Joint Plan for Action. This will be submitted to the Regional High Level Climate Change Conference in Vanuatu during my visit to the Pacific in 2011.

Will European Overseas Countries and Territories in the Pacific benefit from EU support to climate change?

The OCTs are concerned by the issues addressed in the Memorandum of Understanding. This is the reason why I have always supported and encouraged any initiatives towards a better integration of the OCTs in the action of the Pacific Island Forum. Thus, I have proposed to examine the close association of the OCTs in the context of the Action Plan.

There are quite a few countries that have pledged large sums of money to the Pacific (US, UAE, etc) recently, what is the added value of this initiative?

This is one of the main objectives of the initiative, to address donor coordination within this area. We welcome pledges and we must ensure that this money is available to the countries of the region in a sustainable long-term perspective responding to their needs.

Examples of EU-funded projects

Country

Amount

Actions

1- Tonga (Niuatoputapu island)

€875.000

The only hospital on the Niuatoputapu island, which was at sea level, was destroyed by the October 2010 tsunami. It will be reconstructed at the highest part of the island with Commission funding to account for ocean level rise.

2- Marshall Is., Nauru, Tonga, Tuvalu, Micronesia, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands.

€ 9.2 million

- Sea level rise deteriorates and reduces drinking water sources.

- EU provided water tanks in Marshall Is., Nauru, Tonga, Tuvalu, and financed Emergency Operation Centres and Communications for Micronesia, Palau, Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands.

- Example: Tuvalu a total of 310 rainwater tanks with 10.000 litre capacity each has been supplied and installed in the capital, Funafuti benefitting 5000 people i.e. almost half of the country's population. Under 10th EDF we will continue the 'emergency' water supply to the outer islands with supply of 10,000 litre tanks to additional 1233 households i.e. every single household. On Marshall Islands, 192 tanks have been installed on the outer islands, along with 450 tanks on Majuro and Ebeye with 6,000 direct beneficiaries i.e. 10% of the population.

3- Kiribati

€ 6.8 million

- We will upgrade existing water infrastructure and provide 350 additional water tanks in 16 Kiribati outer islands (with a population of approx. 43,000 people living in 139 villages)

- We will conduct hydro geological assessments combined with participatory community consultations and water, sanitation and hygiene workshops in those 16 islands in view of installing water pumps and sanitation infrastructure.

- The percentage of households with access to improved water sources will raise from 53% to 75% by 2013.

4- Regional Pacific

€ 8 million

- Applied research and pilot projects are very important to prepare long term strategies for adaptation to climate change: with our financial support, the University of South Pacific will:

1- conduct 40 community adaptation projects (including for ex: mangrove replanting, reforestation of watershed areas, rainwater harvesting and water conservation, introduction of drought/salt resistant cultivars, soil retention measures, reduced-impact harvesting, raising infrastructures, etc)
2- Train students in the science of climate change both at formal academic level (45 postgraduate diplomas, 25 Masters scholarships, 5 PhD scholarships) and also to work with communities on climate change adaptation (300 certified trainers)

5- Micronesian countries (Palau, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia)

€14,4million

Traditional sources of energy among Pacific countries have been fossil fuel dependent thereby increasingly expensive, extremely damaging to environment sustainability and to eco-system preservation. The Commission will finance solar energy provision of households, schools and health centres in Federated States of Micronesia, in Marshall Islands and in Palau in North Pacific.

- The project will allow to (1) decrease the number of households schools and medical centres with no access to electricity by 25% ; and, (2) reduce domestic electricity consumption by 10% through energy efficiency measures


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