Pacific Countries Convene in Apia to Prepare for the Climate Change Conference in Madrid.

The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) in collaboration with Climate Analytics and funded by the IMPACT Project is hosting a training from the 5 th – 9 th of November 2019, for Pacific ministers and negotiators at the newly opened Pacific Climate Change Centre in Apia, Samoa.

The main objective of this training is for Pacific countries to come together and discuss key issues and prepare for the upcoming 25 th Conference of the Parties (COP25) to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at Madrid, Spain from the 2 nd – 13 th December 2019. Represented at the training are government officials from Cook Islands, Marshal Islands, Kiribati, Solomon Islands, Niue, Tuvalu, Nauru, Vanuatu, Samoa and Tonga. Also in attendance is staff from regional organisations including the SPREP, Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS), University of the South Pacific (USP), Pacific NDC Hub and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC).

The upcoming COP25 will be an important forum of international climate change negotiations as parties will negotiate on elements of the Paris Agreement Work Programme (PAWP) that were not adopted at COP24 last year in Katowice. The training is strengthening participants with information on the latest developments in climate change negotiations since COP24 and the UNFCCC subsidiary bodies’ meetings at Bonn, earlier in June this year. The training also covered three recently adopted Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports, which can form the basis for Pacific countries to negotiate for increase ambition and action. Moreover, the training also provides Pacific negotiators with opportunities to discuss key issues that are of importance to the Pacific region. Moreover, the training prepares Pacific ministers and new negotiators with strategies to be able to engage effectively at COP25. As a small developing country, Tonga is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change because of its geographical, geological and socio-economic characteristics.

The impacts from increasing sea level and intensity of extreme weather events such as tropical cyclones are crucial for Tonga, as they have severely affected the environment, the people and their livelihoods. Tropical Cyclone Ian in January 2014 and Tropical Cyclone Gita in February 2018 were two major tropical cyclones that have wreaked devastations in Tonga, and which the country is still grappling to recover from. Climate change continues to affect all the communities and economic sectors of Tonga including agriculture, fisheries and tourism hence addressing climate change is an urgent priority for Tonga and other Pacific countries.

On the international scale, Tonga has made significant progresses in addressing climate change and disaster risk issues since it acceded to the UNFCCC on the 20 th of July 1998. This includes the completion of its Initial (INC), Second (SNC) and Third National Communication (TNC) on climate change. In December 2015, Tonga submitted its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) with ambitions to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and increase climate resilience. In September 2016, Tonga ratified the renowned Paris Agreement and has since participated in the on-going negotiations on the rulebook to operationalize and implement the agreement.

Furthermore, Tonga is currently working towards a revised NDC and a Long-term low emission development strategy (LT-LEDS) to be submitted to the UNFCCC by next year’s COP26. Attending from Tonga are Ms. Lilu Moala and Ms. ‘Alilia Fine, from the Department of Climate Change, and Mr. Sione Folau, a current Master of Climate
Change student at the USP, funded by the PACRES Project to attend COP25 together with six other USP students.