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Government of Tuvalu launches new coastal protection project to bolster resilience to climate change

Children at the port of Nui island, Tuvalu © Pacific Office in Fiji
8 July 2017, Suva – UNDP-supported, Green Climate Fund (GCF) financed project will benefit one in three people in one of the world’s most vulnerable Small Island Developing States
With an average elevation of only 1.83 meters, Tuvalu is distinctly vulnerable to rising sea levels and intensifying tropical storms exacerbated by climate change.

The impacts are already being felt by the world’s fourth smallest nation. When Category 5 Cyclone Pam struck in March 2015, the storm surges destroyed homes, crops and livelihoods, displacing 45 percent of the nation’s people. Similar storms are projected to increase in intensity as the air over the planet’s oceans warms.
According to a Pacific Climate Change Science Program study, since 1993 the sea level around Tuvalu has risen by approximately 5 millimeters per year. By 2030, under a high emissions scenario, the rise is projected to be in the range of 7 to 18 centimeters. It is possible that significant areas of the country will be submerged and uninhabitable, and communities forced to relocate.

To strengthen the island nation against these climate threats, the Government of Tuvalu along with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has signed an agreement for a new climate resilience project that will benefit nearly 30 percent of the population. The seven-year project marks a transformational change in coastal protection for one of the world’s smallest and most vulnerable countries.

The Tuvalu Coastal Adaptation Project is financed with a US$36 million grant from the Green Climate Fund and US$2.8 million in co-financing from the Government of Tuvalu. Existing coastal protection measures in Tuvalu are extremely limited. The project will increase protection works from around 570 meters of coverage today to 2,780 meters at the end of the project.

“The protection of our country’s vulnerable coastlines is an urgent priority of the Government of Tuvalu,” said the Prime Minister of Tuvalu, Hon. Enele Sosene Sopoaga. “The project will support integrated coastal resilience for people living on the islands of Funafuti, Nanumea and Nanumaga. These islands have a high concentration of houses, schools and hospitals, and are the important cogs in the social and economic machinery of our nation.”
“This project adopts a comprehensive and systematic approach to managing coastal inundation and erosion. Protecting assets and infrastructure not only are we protecting peoples’ lives and livelihoods; we are also supporting a Small Island Developing State like Tuvalu to advance the goals outlined in the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and the Paris Agreement for low-carbon, climate-resilient growth” said UNDP Resident Representative Osnat Lubrani.
The signing ceremony took place in Suva on 14 June between the Tuvalu Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga and UNDP Resident Representative Osnat Lubrani
The project will build upon existing initiatives, using a range of measures for coastal protection including ecosystem-based initiatives, and geo-textile and rock revetments. National capacity for resilient coastal management will also be developed, and the project will help to catalyze additional coastal adaptation finance.
While new defense measures will act as a buffer during storms, the project will build the capacity of government officials and local communities. This includes an extension of the Government’s existing scholarship program to provide support for students to study relevant disciplines, such as environmental science, civil and coastal engineering, oceanography, and meteorology, and to build hands-on experience with local and international experts. The country’s primary school curriculum will also be updated to increase children’s awareness of climate change and its impacts on atolls and coastlines. Investment in the country’s knowledge capital will support Tuvalu’s current and future environmental caretakers to best manage the hazards in the long run.

 “The people of Tuvalu have done very little to contribute to climate change, yet they are some of the most vulnerable to its effects,” said Lubrani. “This project is an important opportunity for the Government of Tuvalu to support a climate resilient future, protect its economic and social sectors from rising seas, and build toward achieving Nationally Determined Contributions and other important goals that will support this nation well into the 21st century.”

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The Green Climate Fund was established by the 194 parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and given the mandate to fund climate action to limit greenhouse gas emissions and support climate-resilient development.

Emily Moli, Knowledge Communications Analyst, UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji, Tel: (679) 3227 504
Yusuke Taishi, Regional Technical Advisor, Climate Change Adaptation, Bangkok Regional Hub