15 March, Alofi, Niue - Tonga's achievements towards addressing climate change as a nation was showcased during the Pacific Climate Change Roundtable in Alofi, Niue.
The Kindgom of Tonga is the first of the Pacific members of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) to produce a joint national action plan for climate change adaptation and disaster risk management.
The action plan was approved by Cabinet in Tonga in July last year.
The plan has helped bring two separate bodies together that work on similar issues to work in a more unified manner under the one action plan that covers all sectors, instead of working independently and often duplicating efforts. It addresses issues in relation to climate change, sea level rise, extreme events and geological hazards.
"This plan started with political support in 2009,"said Lupe Matoto of the technical and sustainable development division in the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change.
"We also carried out a lot of consultation with stakeholders, nationally we haven't been so quiet, and we have achieved a lot in terms of collaboration with other stakeholders."
The Vision of the Joint National Action Plan (JNAP) on Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Management for Tonga is to 'promote and ensure safe, healthy, secure and resilient communities to climate change impacts and disaster risks'.
The plan has six goals in all covering good governance, enhanced technical knowledge and an increase in education and understanding of the JNAP, analysis and assessment of climate change impacts and disaster risk, enhanced community preparedness and resilience to all disasters, technically reliable, economically affordable and environmentally sound support to Tonga and strong partnerships between government agencies, NGO's and private sectors.
"In preparing this plan we learnt that you need really good teamwork for this to work well, teamwork and strong partnerships. It is also best if there is direct involvement of the communities in project activities to ensure ownership and there is a real need for donor coordination to avoid duplication."
Other major achievements by the Kingdom of Tonga include the passing of two legislations, one being the Environment Management Act 2010 which has led to the establishment of the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, the Renewable Energy Amendment Act 2010 and the Tonga Energy Roadmap 2010 – 2020 was formed which steps out the plan for Tonga to use more renewable energy.
Tonga has completed their second national communications, a report which is required under the United Nations Framework for the Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which will be submitted to cabinet for endorsement.
"We've taken the first step, now we need to follow through and carry out this work. We're hopeful that partners will take our JNAP and other related action plans on board to see how we can all work on this together."
The Kindgom of Tonga has also established a Parliament Standing Committee for Environment and Climate Change which will discuss any issues on a cabinet level to fast track any outstanding issues on climate change. Every quarter the Ministry on Environment and Climate Change will host a national climate change roundtable with resident donors and all relevant stakeholders, the first one was held last year with the next climate change roundtable to be held next month.