Presentation to Standing Committee on Environment and Climate Change

29th September, 2020 As part of the Department’s activities during National Climate Change Awareness Week 2020, the Policy and Planning Division of the Department of Climate Change presented on the 22 September to the Parliament Standing Committee on Environment and Climate Change.

The team was led by the  CEO for MEIDECC, Mr Paula Pouvalu Ma’u , and comprised of the Director Ms Lu’isa Tu’i’afitu Malolo and staff of the Division, Head of Policy and Planning Ms Fololita Sienisia Takau Sila and members of the JNAP Secretariat headed by Mr Fe’ao Vakata.

The team were warmly welcomed by the Chairlady of the 6 member Standing Committee, Hon. Losaline Ma’asi.  Her address was followed by an Opening Prayer before the presentation commenced with an Introduction from the Head of the JNAP Secretariat Mr Fe’ao Vakata.

The purpose of the presentation was to inform the Committee on the existing policies and plans of the Department implemented by MEIDECC in collaboration with relevant govt. line ministries and key stakeholders, to address impacts of climate change and disaster risk on vulnerable areas and populations in Tonga.

The presentation was a 10 minute video which commenced by showing harsh realities felt by Tonga and the loss and damage left behind due to Category 4 and 5 cyclones that occurred in 2018, 2019 and 2020 respectively.  To address these impacts on the ground, the presentation emphasized the role of Department of Climate Change in implementing the second Joint National Action Plan (JNAP 2).The JNAP 2, a 10 year plan, was launched in 2018.  It was developed from reviewing the first JNAP (2010-2015), the Tonga Climate Change Policy (2016) and consultations with relevant stakeholders, government ministries, civil society organizations and communities.

The Policy is the national framework for building climate resilience actions in Tonga.  The presentation showed how the JNAP 2 aligns to the national Tonga Strategic Development Framework (TSDF), regional and international frameworks and agreements such as the Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific (FRDP), Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement (2016) established under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).  These policy documents and frameworks share a common goal towards strengthening adaptation, disaster preparedness, response and recovery and low carbon development.

The presentation highlighted some of the works and milestones completed under the first Joint National Action Plan which was implemented by the Climate Resilience Sector Project (CRSP), the government’s first large scale climate resilient project funded by ADB totaling to US$20million.  This included the relocation and construction of the Niu’ui hospital in Ha’apai, now called the Princess Fusipala Hospital, completion of the sea wall in Kolovai and foreshores in ‘Ahau and Eastern Tongatapu coastline, climate proofing of five schools on the main island and distribution of water tanks under the Climate Change Trust Fund, evacuation roads and installation of 21 automatic weather stations across Tonga.

The presentation concluded on a strong note, bringing to the Committee’s attention once again the importance of relevant key sectors, bodies and organizations “working together” to build Tonga’s resilience to climate change.  This is the “whole-of-country approach” stated in the Climate Change Policy which is necessary to building Tonga’s climate resilience.  The significance of having policies and plans in place that are “inclusive” and “sustainable” was emphasized to ensure that no one is left behind and that the environment is sustainable to meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the needs of Tonga’s future generation.

The closure of the presentation was followed by a brief Q &A for members of the Standing Committee.  Lord Tu’iha’angana raised his concerns on the disaster impacted road in Holopeka, Ha’apai and the Minister of Education Hon Siaosi Sovaleni voiced the need from his ministry to work together with Department of Climate Change in reviewing and updating climate change information in the schools’ curriculum.  CEO of MEIDECC Mr Paula Ma’u responded that work is progressing with the Ministry of Infrastructure towards fixing the Holopeka Road but a more viable strategy will require building a foreshore to ensure sustainability of the road and safety of the people.

The Chairlady Honourable Losaline Ma’asi on behalf of the Standing Committee for Environment and Climate Change thanked the CEO of MEIDECC Mr. Paula Ma’u, the Director of Climate Change Ms Lu’isa Tu’i’afitu Malolo and Climate Change staff for the presentation remarking that today’s meeting was significant in informing and updating the Committee on the work that MEIDECC is doing daily on the ground through its policies and plans to address the impacts of climate change and disaster risks for Tonga, and looks forward to closer collaboration of the Standing Committee with the Department of Climate Change in tackling issues of climate change.


Issued by the: Department of Climate Change (MEIDECC)