British High Commission Consult Ha’apai for COP26
On Thursday 7th of October, the British High Commission in collaboration with the Ministry of MEIDECC held consultations on Climate Change with stakeholders in Ha’apai. The consultation took place in the Stake Centre Hall of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Pangai. The participants were from government ministries, non-government organizations, the private sector, women’s groups, including district and town officers.
The British High Commissioner Her Excellency Lucy Joyce spoke of the significant concern the United Kingdom has in addressing Climate Change since it will be hosting the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP 26) in Glasgow this year and with assurance of continued support for Small Island Developing States like Tonga in building their resilience. Ms. Joyce commented, ‘As reported in 2020 World Risk Report, Tonga is the 2nd most vulnerable country in the world to natural disasters, and we fear this will likely get worse.’
The Officer-In-Charge of MEIDECC Ha’apai Mr. ‘Amoni Taumoe’anga gave the opening remarks to welcome the British High Commissioner and the participants.
The Guest of Honor for the consultation was the Governor of Ha’apai Honorable Viliami Manuopangai and a climate change advocator delivered the keynote address in which he gave a strong statement that, “although Tonga is vulnerable to climate change, Ha’apai is the most vulnerable island group in Tonga”. To commemorate the consultation, a tree planting ceremony also took place within the LDS compound. Lucy Joyce planted a Langakali to support Tonga’s commitment to its NDC target of planting one million trees by 2023.
During the consultation process participants were assigned groups to dialogue and discuss questions concerning the issues that they are facing caused by climate change and to recommend the actions needed to take and timeframes for the actions. A prominent and recurring issue that came out from the discussions was the impact of sea level rise and coastal erosion in low lying areas of Ha’apai and how it affects agricultural produce and fisheries upon which the people’s livelihood depend on.
A representative from one of the groups voiced the “need to rebuild the coastal road being eroded by the sea because it affects their ability to travel inland”.
The CEO of MEIDECC Mr. Paula Ma’u gave the closing remarks by reaffirming the participants that ‘support for Ha’apai will continue from MEIDECC as we have seen in 2019 with the relocation of Ha’apai’s hospital.’ He continued: “Her excellency and the government of UK understand very well the urgency of Ha’apai’s situation and the need for immediate climate action. Today’s consultation, initiated by the British High Commission, is a platform to magnify Tonga’s climate change issues to international leaders and Heads of State at COP26 that they need to increase their climate ambition and support for vulnerable small island developing states now. The time to act is now.”
The day concluded with the UK photography exhibition and a reception held at the Sandy Beach Resort hosted by the British High Commission.