The Director General of Vanuatu’s Ministry of Climate Change, Ms. Esline Garaebiti
November 15, 2022
Climate Change Resilience
Environmental Monitoring and Governance

15 November 2022, Sharm El-Sheikh - The issues concerning the collection, management, processing, integration and dissemination of environmmental data were highlighted at the Moana Blue Pacific Pavilion in Sharm El-Sheikh on Monday, as the second week of the COP27 climate change negotiations get underway.

They were brought to the fore during the “Data Based Reporting in the Pacific” talanoa, organised by the Inform Project, which exists as a response to the need for data-driven decision making in the Pacific.  The regional GEF Inform project is funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF), implemented by UN Environment, and executed by SPREP through the Environmental Monitoring and Governance Programme.

“As climate change events become more extreme, more frequent and intense, the Pacific islands require reliable and timely information, and early warning on their local weather and environment,” said Dr. Maarten Kappelle, the Head, Thematic Scientific Assessments, UNEP, and Head, Secretariat of UN’s World Adaptation Science Programme (WASP).

Dr. Kappelle was among the talanoa’s panelists, including Ms Diana Gora, Policy Analyst, Climate Change, Department of Prime Minister and National Executive Council, Papua New Guinea, Ms Esline Garaebiti, Director General, Ministry of Climate Change, Vanuatu and SPREP’s Director General, Mr Sefanaia Nawadra. The discussion was moderated by Mr Tavita Su’a, Acting Inform Project Manager, Environmental Monitoring and Governance (EMG), SPREP.

The panellists at the side event.

Added Dr. Kappelle: “Environmental climate data is foundational to underpin informed investments, adaptation, mitigation and sustainable development for people and planet.” He also made special mention of the UN Joint Programme on Ecosystem Services project for Samoa and the GCF-funded “Enhancing Climate Information and Knowledge Services for resilience in 5 island countries of the Pacific Ocean” as complementary projects that UNEP and SPREP collaborate on.  Dr Kappelle’s remarks emphasized three key items: better data collection, analysis, interpretation, integration and access; collection of metadata is more often than not, forgotten but very important to keep collecting metadata; and lastly, ensure continuity of data collection due to vulnerabilities to natural disasters.

Capacity building in data management and use was highlighted as one of the key challenges and a priority. As such, Dr Kappelle’s remarked that as a possible solution, to establish a centralized, single, integrated platform for data to inform national approaches and accessible by Pacific island countries.

SPREP’s Director General, Mr Nawadra concurred and pointed to the need to increase the availability of environmental data to benefit Pacific populations, who are at the forefront of the climate crisis despite their negligible contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.

“Data has always been a need for the Pacific and will continue to be a need going forward. Data is the bed rock of all decision making,” Mr Nawadra said. “Before you get to the reporting, you need the data for good planning and that has been the emphasis of the Inform Project.” The significance of reporting under MEA obligations cannot be overstated and as such, the need for good data is critical. Pacific island countries must be supported on data collection, management and use to meet reporting obligations and requirements under the multilateral environmental agreements.

The Director General added that SPREP exists to assist Pacific countries to improve their data management, and improve the use of that data management for good environmental management and sustainable development. 

“You can’t have good decision making if your data is faulty, or if it’s not long term data.”

In the Pacific, it has been identified that data collection and management is an expensive exercise in terms of time, money, and resources. Specific capacity and established workflows are necessary to process and publish this data into useful insights to helped decision makers and communities make informed decisions. The GEF funded UNEP-SPREP Inform project has addressed several of these issues by establishing data tools, strategic partnerships and products together with processes to assist Pacific Island countries to meet identified priorities and to report back on national, regional, and global reporting obligations.

To meet these obligations, the ACP MEA 3 project is working together with the Inform project to ensure that data and the reporting processes from the national environment and climate change ministries meet  the various multilateral environmental agreements that Pacific island countries are parties to, such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The Director General of Vanuatu’s Ministry of Climate Change, Ms. Esline Garaebiti, said the remoteness of many Pacific islands is already a challenge in itself in terms of data collection. She highlighted the work of the Vanuatu Government to compile their first state of the environment (SOE) report whereby the collation and processing of data from all stakeholders who have an impact on the environment and climate change is critical.

“One of the biggest challenges is that it is very expensive in terms of time, money and resources to generate good data to update the status of the environmental indicators both within the ministry and with stakeholders,” she said. “For example one of the indicators is climate related disaster loss. Vanuatu is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change and frequently experiences droughts, floods and high temperatures. Loss includes death, infrastructure damage, degradation of natural resources and ecosystems. It is one of the most important issues discussed here at COP and requires multiple government departments to collate data to accurately report back on the total disaster loss for Vanuatu and other Pacific islands.”

Ms Diana Gora, of Papua New Guinea, echoed the experiences from her Papua New Guinea colleague.

“I agree about how important data is but the biggest challenge in PNG is collection, sharing that data to the people who need it.”

The talanoa session was formally closed by SPREP’s Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) Coordinator, EMG, Ms Anastacia Amoa Stowers.

The 27th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP27) is being held in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt from 6 to 18 November 2022.

It is being attended by Pacific leaders and their delegations, who are advocating for their survival.  The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) is lead of the One CROP, working together to provide support to Pacific Islands.