TONGA- Climate Change Policy 2006

TONGA- Climate Change Policy 2006

The adverse effects of climate change, climate variability and sea level rise identified in the Kingdom of Tonga’s First National Communication present significant risks to sustainable development in Tonga. From the information gathered it is evident that Tonga will be among the first to suffer from these effects due to its physiographic, ecological and socioeconomic characteristics.   

Concern for the environmental consequences of man made activities in the Kingdom and in this context the impacts of climate change, climate variability & sea level rise go relatively unnoticed.  The Government has been aware for at least the past three decades of the importance of including environmental issues in its development planning (National Strategic Development Plan 5, 6 and 7). This level of awareness, however, has not been considered high enough to be an essential part of the process. This low level of awareness of the true dimensions of environmental problems has been a key characteristic defining the response by government and the country to the effects of climate change, climate variability and sea level rise.   

An apparent lack of knowledge, plus added physical and financial resource restraints, has combined to prevent definitive and positive steps from being taken to strengthen existing environmental policy and legislation. Historically, the focus by government on sustained economic growth has been at the expense of the physical environment and environmental priorities. As a consequence this trend will almost certainly continue unless public perceptions and certain institutional constraints are addressed with new environmental guidelines and standards sanctioned.   

The way forward for appropriate government response is therefore beset with a multitude of obstacles which include a lack of knowledge, lack of physical and financial resources, a lack of comprehensive environmental legislation, inherent difficulties in discerning overlapping and unclear management powers, lack of appropriate policy support, lack of public participation, coupled with a basic lack of political will and commitment for sustainable development.

A working framework must be found to address these difficulties and especially those concerning climate change, climate variability and sea level rise. From this framework it will then be possible to formulate the Kingdom of Tonga’s first Climate Change Policy. This policy will be a major step forward in addressing the impacts of climate change, climate variability and sea level rise in the Kingdom. It is crucial that decision makers recognise and respond accordingly for given the limited resources of the country; sustainable development and environmental concerns of utmost significance such as climate change, climate variability and sea level rise will continue to be accorded low priority unless a crisis results from continued negligence and mismanagement of the environment.  

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