Asia-Pacific Human Development Report Discusses Climate Impacts for SIDS

UNDP10 May 2012: The UN Development Programme (UNDP) has released its regional human development report for the Asia-Pacific region, focusing on the need for the region to find ways to continue to grow economically, while reducing poverty and tackling climate change and environmental concerns. The report addresses climate challenges facing small island developing States (SIDS) in the region due their low elevation. 

Special focus is given to Least Developed Countries (LDCs), including Kiribati, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. The report assesses climate change impacts from the perspectives of mountain dwellers, delta communities, islanders, indigenous and tribal peoples and the urban poor.

The report notes that island communities in the Pacific countries suffering from rising sea levels are increasingly migrating to other countries due to lack of options. For instance, the Tuvaluan population in New Zealand increased by 34% in 2006, making them the country's seventh-largest Pacific Island ethnic group. The Government of Kiribati is also looking at labor migration options. The Government of Maldives has launched the Safer Island Strategy, which offers voluntary relocation to people from more vulnerable islands to higher and safer areas within the Maldives.

Overall, the report indicates that migration and resettlement costs can be very high, including cultural loss, loss of livelihoods, and limited access to health and education services for migrant people. The environmental vulnerability index, developed by the South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC), the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and their partners, describes Kiribati, Maldives and Tuvalu as among the most vulnerable countries to extreme environmental shocks.

The report describes that in some parts of Asia and the Pacific, levels of access to energy are among the worst in the world, with some Pacific islands, such as Solomon Islands and Vanuatu having 5-7% coverage for rural electricity access.

Disputes over customary land ownership and resources are somewhat frequent, as identified by the Solomon Islands 2008 National Adaptation Programme of Action (NAPA). The Solomon Islands government is undertaking a formal recording of ownership and mapping land boundaries.

The report indicates that a recent survey of outer-island communities in Fiji, Kiribati and Vanuatu identified that the majority of respondents did not understand what climate change is about, even though many reported the effects of environmental changes in their livelihoods. The report argues for the need to build awareness and effectively communicate the impacts of climate change, including through a knowledge sharing strategy to facilitate local action.

The report provides a series of recommendations for a lower-carbon development path, including to: encourage the transition to green technologies; reduce industrial emissions; promote greener agriculture; support cleaner energy generation; improve the prospects of the rural and urban poor; expand sources of finance; strengthen climate knowledge for citizens awareness; and boost transboundary cooperation. [UNDP Press Release] [UN Press Release] [Publication: Asia Pacific Human Development Report 2012: One Planet to Share – Sustaining Human Progress in a Changing Climate]