Image: Robert Issell – Pixabay
The Cook Islands has secured US $3 million to help front-foot climate change off the back of a proposal jointly prepared by our subsidiary Nimmo-Bell & Associates and Rarotonga-based Pacific Consultants Ltd.

Money from the international Adaption Fund is now helping Cook Islanders living on the remote Pa Enua islands adapt to and prepare for hazards such as coastal erosion from sea level rise, ocean acidification, tropical cyclones and drought.

The Cook Islands is made up of 15 small islands scattered over about two million square kilometres of ocean.

Just 7 per cent of the population live in the Pa Enua, with the furthest islands more than 1,250 km from the capital of Rarotonga. The islands comprise seven low-lying, sparsely populated, coral atolls and sand cays with little arable land.

While the Cook Islands once boasted a vibrant economy based on agriculture and agricultural products such as citrus, bananas, taro, pineapples and coconuts, today its mostly subsistence-based agriculture sector contributes less than 3.3 per cent to GDP.  

Nimmo-Bell & Associates Director Michael Yap says the Government is unable to fund climate change adaption efforts itself; however, leaving the Pa Enua populations to fend for themselves is not an option.

“Residents of the Pa Enua are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change due to existing socio-economic, infrastructure and environmental pressures,’ Mr Yap says.

“Without providing assistance, the Government would have to witness the possible demise of some of the communities and immense hardship suffered by individual members of the population.”

The Cook Islands is the first country in the Pacific region to receive funds directly from the Adaption Fund.

Resilience-building activities are now being implemented by the Cook Islands’ own Ministry of Finance and Economic Management and executed by Climate Change Cook Islands under the Office of the Prime Minister.

Teresa Manarangi-Trott of Pacific Consultants Ltd, which co-authored the Adaption Fund proposal, says it is pleasing to see the project now being implemented “and to know that the Pa Enua will now be more resilient as a result of the Adaptation Fund intervention”.

The three main focusses of the three-year programme are:

  1.  Strengthened disaster risk governance to manage disaster risk and enhance disaster preparedness for an effective response to ‘build back better’ during recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction phases;
  2.  Integrated water security management planning and implementation; and
  3.  Revitalised agricultural production systems to strengthen island food sources and livelihoods in the Pa Enua.

The first Adaptation Fund project for the Cook Islands was designed and implemented by international development agency the United Nations Development Programme, which is still helping other Pacific nations.

Mr Yap says it is important that countries such as the Cook Islands are empowered to manage their own funds and implement their own adaption programmes.

“Small island nations are most vulnerable to climate change yet have the least capacity to access international climate finance. Direct access provides ownership and efficiency dividends for vulnerable nations.”

The Adaptation Fund is an international fund that finances projects and programmes aimed at helping developing countries to adapt to the harmful effects of climate change.

It is set up under the Kyoto Protocol of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

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