In the context of COVID-19 crisis, what are the risks for climate action?
Climate change still continues and climate impacts are still very visible in the Pacific. A few weeks ago, we had major forest fires in Australia and in other countries. Now we’re battling tropical cyclone Harold which is a result of climate change. This week a new study was released, pointing out that the great barrier reef in Australia suffered one of its most severe bleaching in 5 years. Climate change is still happening, so climate actions have to be pursued. People might have different priorities these days, with funding being reoriented to other activities, but the action definitely needs to be continued to strengthen the resilience of our systems to global changes.
How is the crisis changing the way CCES works?
First, we had to revisit all of our projects and programs and develop contingency plans. For a lot of our activities, that means postponing, delaying, suspending some of the missions and travels. Workshops have to be reprogrammed. There’s a lot of anticipation and planning work going on. We are also anticipating: developing terms of reference, tender documents – In fact, getting ready for when activities pick up again. We are also keeping everybody informed, with the Pacific Territories Regional Project for Sustainable Ecosystem Management (PROTEGE) for example. We’re sending newsletters, reaching out all the partners via Skype and videoconferencing. We will have a regional steering committee next week by videoconference. Things are happening, a bit differently, but they’re happening: contingency planning, anticipating and still going on, and we are working hard to meet the needs of our members.
How do you manage to keep the work going?
Like all of the divisions and teams at SPC, we’ve been relying a lot more on IT solutions. I would like to acknowledge the work of the IT team at SPC. They’ve been outstanding in getting us ready for that. When the confinement started, we were all ready. [We’ve faced] minimum problems as far as I can tell in terms of reaching out and working together. We’re also paying a lot more attention to people, making sure that no one is left behind – These are the values of SPC and of the Pacific as well. We’re making sure everybody is ok, we try to reach out to everyone, both as a team, and as an organization.
How will global climate action look like in 2020?
It will look different for sure. The climate change year is punctuated with a lot of international events, conferences, and that helps advance the negotiations and the decision-making processes. All of these conferences have been postponed: the One Planet Summit, the Ocean Conference, the IUCN congress and now the COP26 postponed to 2021. The first thing that is happening is a lot of logistics, with the need for reorganizing and reprogramming all of these big events and conferences.
Secondly, a lot of things are still happening. We are currently submitting all of the contributions for the ocean and climate call for submission. A lot of things are happening online as well. And a major virtual ocean and climate conference is being organized for early June.
What will happen after the crisis ends?
With that crisis, there are a lot of things that are going to be changing as well at the international level. There’s a greater understanding now that things are global, and that climate change is a global issue, just as COVID-19. We have to address it together. We have this communality, this multilateralism that I hope will be stronger. We’re also looking now at a more systemic type of approach. Climate change, like COVID-19, has to be treated in a systemic way, looking at job uncertainties as well as financial risk and food security. Climate change will have to have a more systemic approach looking at all these issues.
My final point is the capacity to adapt, which is proper to climate change: we’re talking about climate change adaptation and mitigation. We have to make sure that we build the systems and the infrastructures to adapt to shocks and crisis. This is the case now with COVID-19, and it’s going to be the case tomorrow with climate change. We have to strengthen the resilience of our systems, including ecosystems, and of our infrastructure to build a more resilient system for the Pacific, and the rest of the world.
Climate Change and Environmental Sustainability (CCES)