COP26 Stakeholder Consultation and UK Photography Exhibition in Vava’u
On Thursday the 30th of September 2021, the British High Commission in collaboration with the Ministry of MEIDECC held consultations on Climate Change with stakeholders in Vava’u. The consultation took place in Maama Mo’onia Hall at Mailefihi-Siu’ilikutapu College in Neiafu. The participants at the consultation were stakeholders from government ministries, non-government organizations, women’s groups, district and town officers, communities and the private sector. The Governor of Vava’u, Reverend Lord Fakatulolo was Guest of Honour at the event.
The British High Commissioner Her Excellency Ms. Lucy Joyce in her remarks stated that, “The UK is committed to working with Tonga and joining forces with civil society, businesses and those on the frontline of climate change to inspire climate action ahead of COP26. Today’s stakeholder consultation is just one part of our commitment, and your commitment (stakeholders) to support building a Resilient Tonga”.
Tupou Havea who is currently a Form 7 student at Saineha High School and the Winner of Vava’u’s secondary schools Speech Competition gave a heartwarming speech on the importance for Tonga to re-visit traditional knowledge and methods of fishing to help preserve marine resources that are being depleted as a result of climate change. She mentioned the importance of Special Management Areas (SMAs) and urged that fishermen should fish wisely and responsibly.
In his keynote address the Governor of Vava’u Reverend Lord Fakatulolo used the analogy of an aging elderly to describe the changing environment and as stewards of the land we need to be more responsible and caring towards the natural resources afforded to us.
To commemorate this event and Tonga’s ongoing relation with the British government, a tree planting ceremony took place where Her Excellency Lucy Joyce planted a Heilala Tree in support of climate actions and Tonga’s NDC target to plant 1 million trees by 2023.
During the consultation process the different stakeholders were allocated into groups and assigned key questions to discuss impacts of climate change on their sector/village/community, proposed actions to address the issues and proposed timeframes for implementation. A representative from the Women’s Group voiced the issue of ‘changing weather patterns’ and their concern for ‘flooding occurring in places that never flooded before’. From the Government group there was recommendation to introduce legislation to make tree planting a mandatory activity to encourage re-forestation. The private sector group recommended establishing an ‘emergency fund’ to help businesses located near coastal areas i.e. resorts, hotels to recover after a cyclone event.
The consultations concluded with closing remarks from the CEO of MEIDECC Mr. Paula Ma’u. He remarked: “Conferences like COP26 is important for a small island nation like Tonga. We need to project our voices and concerns to be heard by larger countries, which is why I commend the British High Commissioner for today’s event.” Mr. Paula Ma’u also emphasized to the stakeholders that their work and efforts in building Tonga’s resilience is not for a futile cause, “we need to leave behind an environment and land that is sustainable and healthy for our children, and their children’s children – that is our legacy for the future of Tonga”.
The UK Photography exhibition was hosted at ‘Ene’io Botanical Garden. As a picture speaks more than 1000 words, the photos exhibited showed how climate change affects the daily lives of people across the small vulnerable islands in the Pacific. The winning photos were selected through a competition that was held across seven pacific islands, Tonga included. The images also serve to highlight how people must adapt to protect communities and natural habitats from a changing climate and environment.
The 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) on Climate Change will be held in Glasgow, Scotland in November this year and presided over by the United Kingdom.