22.10.2015 - UNESCO Office in Apia

Leading and Gearing Up for the Loss and Damage Survey and Consultations in the Pacific Island Countries

An interactive and engaging assessment workshop on Loss and Damage (L & D) and Resilience was successfully organised by UNESCO’s project implementing partner, the University of the South Pacific (USP). The workshop involved USP’s in–country community experts and coordinators from several Pacific Island Countries (PICS), as well as major regional stakeholders and partners including UNISDR and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC). It was the largest workshop to date to be held in the region dedicated to L & D from Climate Change and climate extremes.

The workshop was facilitated by Dr. Helene Jacot Des Combes and Mr. Viliamu Iese. The UNESCO Apia Office for the Pacific States Natural Science Programme specialist Dr. Denis Chang Seng made a key note presentation on the background and concept of L &D from Climate Change. L & D can be understood as the negative effects of extreme weather events and slow-onset climatic changes that people have not been able to cope with or adapt to. It L& D has significant implications for global Climate Change negotiations and policies. The more ambitious mitigation efforts are, the less Climate Change impacts will be.

L & D was highlighted in the UN 3rd SIDS Outcome document (SAMOA Pathway), as well as in the recent Pacific Islands Forum Leaders meeting in PNG. There is a general recognition of the importance of generating more information and knowledge about current and future L & D from Climate Change and understanding the limits of adaption. It is equally important to explore new solutions in order to address L & D.

After the workshop, Dr. Denis Chang Seng pointed out that certain people who have become aware of the project have suggested the need to focus on Climate Change Adaptation rather than L & D from Climate Change. Seemingly there is a concern about perceived attribution to global warming and funding issues. However, Dr. Denis Chang Seng pointed out that the project is solution oriented. It is not designed to contribute to the debate and blame game of global warming. For example, the project will help develop a monitoring system of L & D, not only for post disaster situations, but also in the case of slow-onset Climatic Changes. He emphasised that the project will contribute to understanding the performance of existing and ongoing adaption efforts when subjected to any onset disturbance. He comments that if we chose an alternative pathway and approach, we will not be as aware of the limits, the effectiveness and efficacy of the on-going adaptation efforts. This may lead to falsely constructed perceptions of adaptive capacities and resilience. In other words, it may endanger our knowledge and understanding about what is working or not-(maladaptions). It will also be a lost opportunity to further advance adaptation and resilience in the respective countries and communities.

The workshop was designed to firstly support and prepare the USP in-country community experts and coordinators understand the project and concept of L & D from Climate Change and climate extremes. Secondly, it provided an opportunity to have a bottom-up approach in the design of the survey and consultation methodology (Toolkit). It was also an opportunity to inform other stakeholders and partners including UNISDR about the ongoing UNESCO–USP- Malaysian Funds-in–Trust project on L & D from climate change and climate extremes in the agriculture and tourism sectors in PICS.

A concept Toolkit and framework for L &D was prepared thanks to the useful feedback from the country experts and coordinators. The Toolkit will help structure and collect L &D data from the selected Pacific Island countries. The ToolKit is intended to b comprehensive and integrative. It is being designed to capture both rapid and slow onset (e.g. sea level rise, coastal erosion, salinisation and drought etc) processes and impacts. Other Pacific Island countries not currently involved in the project expressed their interest in working on L & D.  Other recommendations included linking country experts and coordinators with the Pacific Climate Change Roundtable Working Group on L & D which was established in 2013 in Nadi, Fiji.

<- Back to: UNESCO Office in Apia
Back to top