30 November 2023, Dubai UAE - Niue, a Pacific nation that has made an ambitious pledge to control four priority invasive species by 2030, has called for international support to ensure a holistic approach to manage key invasive species and help them achieve their goal.
“We’re not as privileged as other islands to have two or three islands, we only have one island and the impact of invasive species is very severe,” said Hon. Mona Ainuu, Niue's Minister of Natural Resources. “When we look at the taro vines, it’s a very complicated plant to get rid of, it just takes over everything. We have rodents as well as feral pigs and they have a huge impact on the habitat of other species we rely on for our food security. Our oceans are affected and it’s very sad. The impact is huge.”
Hon. Minister Ainu’u spoke during a side event titled “Restoring Island Resilience - Managing Invasive Species for a Resilient Pacific” at the Moana Pacific Blue Pavilion, on the margins of COP-28 in Dubai, UAE, on Thursday.
The panel discussion also featured Mr Sefanaia Nawadra, Director General, Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), Ms Margaret Leinen, Director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Mr Benjamin Singer, Senior Forest and Land Use Specialist, Green Climate Fund. Facilitated by Mr Steve Menzies, on behalf of the Pacific Regional Invasive Species Support Service (PRISMSS), the panel of experts discussed how Pacific Island nations are scaling up investment in the management of invasive species to increase the climate resilience of their ecosystems and communities.
“PRISSMS has been really instrumental in allowing us to get expert advice, programmes that have benefitted us in helping to reach our aspirations to manage invasive species,” said Minister Mona.
“We need to have a holistic approach for us to be able to manage and sustain whatever programmes or whatever developments we have to address invasive species. We need to understand that increasing investment in invasive species management is one of the most cost effective things to restore resilience of island ecosystems and communities.”
Niue is one the islands leading global efforts to scale up the management of invasive species to increase the resilience of their ecosystems and communities to the impacts of climate change. It is doing this with the help of PRISSMS, a project launched by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) in 2019 to enhance the collective efforts of Pacific countries to address the threat of invasive species to biodiversity and ecosystems.
At COP27 in Egypt, Aotearoa New Zealand identified invasive species as a key part of the $1.3 billion they had allocated to support climate adaptation efforts in the Pacific region. In September 2023, the Aotearoa New Zealand government provided additional funding of NZD20 million to support the PRISMSS Restoring Island Resilience project to help Pacific nations to scale up efforts to control priority invasive species at a large landscape scale.
At the launch of this new project, Niue’s Environment Minister, Hon. Mona Ainuu made an ambitious pledge for the country to control four priority invasive species by 2030. If successful, Niue would become the largest permanently inhabited island in the world to be free of rats and other invasive species. This work will help to enhance Niue’s premium ecotourism brand and directly support the provision of green jobs.
“It’s imperative that we act now and do something about this. If we don’t do anything, what would that mean for our next generation?” Hon. Ainuu said.
Studies have shown that the removal of invasive rats, and the increased nutrients from returning seabird populations, can help to restore the climate resilience of coral reefs and increase fish stocks by up to 50%. Using “natural enemies” to control invasive plants can help to restore the resilience of forest ecosystems, protect water supplies, and reduce the impacts of cyclones and flooding.
The Green Climate Fund (GCF) has already approved more than $1 billion in projects and programmes related to restoring ecosystems in order to help communities adapt to the impacts of climate change.
“We are investing a lot in nature based solutions because nature based solutions is the nexus between the two crises we are facing today, biodiversity loss and climate change,” said Mr Benjamin Singer, Senior Forest and Land Use Specialist, Green Climate Fund. “So when you invest in nature based solutions, you’re contributing to solving both of these crises. The problem of invasive species and climate change is not one plus the other, it is one times the other. With extreme temperatures, cyclone winds, you have easy spread of invasive species. So climate change is exacerbating the problem of invasive species. Addressing invasive species is one of the key instruments in achieving greater resilience to climate change in the Pacific.”
PRISMSS was established in 2019 with the assistance of the Global Environment Facility Regional Invasive Species Project (GEF 6 RIP): Strengthening national and regional capacities to reduce the impact of Invasive Alien Species on globally significant biodiversity in the Pacific. It is supported by the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade under the Managing Invasive Species for Climate Change Adaptation in the Pacific (MISCCAP) project.
SPREP’s Director General, Mr Nawadra acknowledged the Government of New Zealand as the biggest supporter of invasive work in the Pacific.
“They have identified the need for this service and the reason is that Pacific island countries have very small administrations, people can’t specialise in this area. Quite often it’s people who don’t work in invasive species who are asked to address this issue, and often countries struggle because they don’t know where to start,” said Mr Nawadra.
“This is where this service provides assistance by having these networks and links already established with entities that can provide this service, and have a long term interest in doing this in the Pacific. So when the need arises, all the countries need to do is to contact SPREP, and then SPREP matches the need with the partner that has the best ability to provide that service, which is essentially what has been happening in Niue and other countries where this service is being used.”
Invasive species such as rats, wild pigs and invasive plants are the leading driver of bio-diversity loss in the Pacific and by degrading ecosystems they also increase susceptibility of Pacific communities to the devastating effects of climate change and natural disasters.
“From the lens of oceanography and geology, before our ancestors came to these beautiful places the islands and the oceans around them had evolved a relationship,” said Ms Margaret Leinen, Director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography. “That relationship controlled, supplied things from the islands to the ocean, and it also evolved a set of protection for the island, with the coral reefs, sea grasses, seaweed and mangroves. That rich relationship developed over millions of years has been completely disrupted by invasive species.”
The 28th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP28) in Dubai, UAE is taking place from Thursday 30 November 2023 – Tuesday 12 December 2023.
It is being attended by Pacific leaders and their delegations, who are advocating for the survival of Pacific communities who continue to be at the forefront of climate change impacts.
A key part of amplifying the One Pacific Voice at COP28 is the Moana Blue Pacific Pavilion, which is a Pacific partnership with Aotearoa New Zealand and Australia. Another key part of the Pacific’s work at COP28 is the Pacific Delegation Office, which is a partnership with Aotearoa New Zealand. Both the Moana Pacific Pavilion and the Pacific Delegation Office are managed by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).