30 August 2022, Nadi, Fiji - Vanuatu has been voted to Chair the third PACRES Project Steering Committee, and the man occupying the seat, Mr Mike Sam Waiwai, the Director of the Department of Climate Change, has reiterated the urgent need to scale up action to address the impact of climate change.
During the opening session at the Novotel Hotel in Nadi Fiji, Samoa moved the motion for Vanuatu to chair, which was seconded by Fiji. Mr Waiwai said he was honoured to facilitate what he believes is a crucial meeting for the Pacific region.
“There have been two Steering Committee Meetings where we haven’t met physically and we’ve been through a lot of challenges so it’s great to have everyone come together once again,” he said.
The three-day meeting has brought together PACRES country representatives and partners to discuss the progress and the best way forward, for the European Union-funded project designed to improve regional, national adaptation and mitigation solutions to climate change concerns.
“I expect more urgency from everyone, especially Pacific island countries because we are faced with climate change every day. I expect the participating countries to share their experiences, concerns and expectations,” Mr Waiwai said. “I want them to share what has gone well, what hasn’t worked well especially with the COVID challenges. It really helps to hear from countries especially where the needs are, for example there has already been an expressed need to beef up the capacity of the consultants, because when international borders closed, it became clear we need to look at building the capacity of local consultants to roll out the project.”
The Vanuatu Chairman speaks very highly about the impact of the PACRES project on the ground in his country.
“When the borders closed, we had to make use of the resources that we have and I’m happy for PACRES because we have reached people from the community,” he explained. “Through the project, we’ve built the capacity in the community and as a result ordinary members of the community are seeing climate change in a different way.”
According to Mr Waiwai, when there was a climate change event planned in the past, members of the community used to see it as a government only event. But that is not the case in Vanuatu anymore.
“If we educate them and tell them to plan and look after that as the community, now they feel that they own that plan and protect it. It has changed the mindset of people seeing the project that it’s not from the government or the donors but it belongs to them because they are the ones who plant the tree to protect the river banks. The people are now involved, we train them to be actively involved in addressing the issues we are trying to tackle.”
Prior to the meeting in Nadi, Vanuatu hosted a joint mission by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and the University of the South Pacific (USP) where they met with key stakeholders, community representatives and change agents for the PACRES project. Mr Waiwai said his country appreciates the work being done.
He concluded: “We need to be more concerned about the younger generations and the generations that will come after us. Climate change will become more severe but we recognise that we need to do something about it and as Pacific islanders we share the same resources, same ocean and we need to fight. We are not drowning, we are fighting, and this meeting here in Nadi is part of that.”
PACRES aims to improve regional, national adaptation and mitigation solutions to climate change concerns faced in 15 Pacific ACP countries. The 15 Pacific ACP countries are: Cook Islands, Fiji, Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
The €12.18 million PACRES is funded primarily by the European Union (EU) with targeted support from Monaco and the Swiss Confederation and is delivered jointly by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programmme (SPREP), the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS), the Pacific Community (SPC) and the University of the South Pacific (USP).