Tuvalu is fighting for its survival against climate change impacts with a national adaptation plan and recognising the need to pursue a more permanent solution to climate change

The impact of the climate crisis on Tuvalu, the fourth smallest nation in the world, is profound. Sea level rise and coastal erosion are threatening to sink Fongafale, the 26 sq kilometre home of 11,000 residents. It is one of Tuvalu’s nine islands, which is barely three metres above sea level. 

For the people of Tuvalu, this is their daily reality. But they are not sitting idle, they are fighting for their survival, and they took a critical step in this fight when Tuvalu’s Department of Climate Change under its Ministry of Finance, and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) launched a week-long national inception workshop for the Development of Tuvalu’s National Adaptation Plan (NAP) project.

Tuvalu’s Minister of Finance and GCF National Designated Authority (NDA), Seve Paeniu, opened the workshop. He reminded about his country’s plight in dealing with the existential threats of climate change and stated that they had been trying to adapt to the impacts of climate change for more than three decades. 

He said Tuvalu’s need to adapt continues to be driven by ongoing anthropogenic or Green House Gas (GHG) emissions, a price that smaller countries and low-lying atolls like Tuvalu continue to pay. He also reflected on the available science (referencing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report and most recent findings) that reaffirms the reality of climate change.

The inception workshop which started on Monday 17 April 2023 was attended by more than 40 stakeholders from the Government of Tuvalu, non-government organisations and civil society, private sector, other development partners with complementary projects in Tuvalu, as well as virtual representation from the Fale Kaupule (Tuvalu’s traditional assembly of leaders). 

The Tuvalu NAP project, funded under a US$3 million grant by the Green Climate Fund (GCF), will support the Government of Tuvalu to develop a medium to long-term adaptation plan that will consolidate priorities for adaptation across six key sectors – Water, Agriculture, Fisheries, Health, Disaster, and Coastal Protection.

Paeniu shared a timeline of adaptation initiatives including previous plans such as the National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA) developed in the 1990s. In supporting the need for a consolidated and current National Adaptation Plan, Paeniu said: “This is an important time to reflect on those national adaptation experiences and really try to come up with a plan that provides a permanent adaptation solution, for a permanent adaptation outcome”.

Tuvalu’s vision for a long-term adaptation solution lies in its Te Lafiga o Tuvalu or Long-Term Adaptation Plan. Minister Paeniu spoke about the need for the National Adaptation Plan to take into consideration this long-term adaptation vision, but he also acknowledged the need to pursue a more permanent solution to climate change.

“We need to design immediate and medium-term adaptation measures which are temporary as it is our belief that with each cycle of impacts such as cyclones, those measures may be wiped out,” he said.

SPREP’s Climate Change and Adaptation Adviser, Filomena Nelson echoed Minister’s sentiments, saying: “Adaptation is not a one-off suite of actions or measures. Impacts and priorities will change from time to time for countries like Tuvalu. The continuous process of adaptation and adaptation planning, ensures that there is consideration for these changes and that the process is responsive.”

 Nelson added: “We acknowledge past initiatives such as the NAPA which responded to immediate adaptation needs at the time of its development. Several years on, the Tuvalu NAP process will involve a stocktake to rationalise what has been undertaken so far, and to inform Tuvalu’s medium to long-term adaptation priorities which will be articulated in its NAP”.

The Tuvalu NAP project will be implemented over a period of three years, and the NAP itself is anticipated to be a platform for Tuvalu to leverage additional climate financing to implement prioritised adaptation options.

This story was originally published at SPREP on 20 April 2023, reposted via PACNEWS.

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