The virtual 2020 Pacific Ocean Pacific Climate Change Conference (POPCCC) was opened by The Prime Minister of Samoa, Mr Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, and the Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Mr James Marape, and welcomed over 300 attendees. The biennial conference was the third event and was hosted by the Government of Samoa in collaboration with the National University of Samoa, SPREP, and Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington. The conference was held under the theme “Blue Pacific, Climate Action for Climate Resilience” multiple presentations and panel discussions about the science, impacts, and solutions to climate change in the Pacific. The theme of the conference overarched three sub-themes of science, people and oceans.
The Prime Minister of Samoa noted that “As many borders remain closed due to the current COVID situation, climate change respects no borders, and the devastation continues. We cannot ignore nor delay actions that threaten our livelihoods and the very existence of some of our Pacific islands. The solutions do not lie with a handful of people. It requires a sector-wide and whole of society approach,” he added.
APN was highly engaged in the POPCCC conference with four members of the Pacific Group joining, and four presentations were given in two of the side streams, science and people, featuring two presentations from the Secretariat and two presentations from project leaders in Australia and New Zealand.
APN and its recent work
APN’s Secretariat Director, Mr Gen’ichiro Tsukada, presented on APN and its work noting APN that an intergovernmental network serves developing nations on issues of global change and sustainability through regional-based research and capacity building. He stressed partnership approaches with like-minded organizations to address climate change, risk and resilience, and adaptation in pacific island nations. Mr Tsukada also noted that APN emphasizes holistic and interdisciplinary approaches, focusing on strategies and activities that engage a broad array of stakeholders, including local and traditional communities, regional partners, scientists, and policy- and decision-makers.
Ms Christmas Uchiyama of the Secretariat presented on regional cooperation as an enabling mechanism can contribute to the SIDS Accelerated Modalities of Action (SAMOA) Pathway. She discussed challenges in the Pacific, including the extreme and slow climate change impacts to human dimensional aspects of adaptation, need for capacity building and the issue of synergizing multiple knowledge systems across communities and institutions. Ms Uchiyama noted that genuine and durable partnerships at national/regional levels that enhance cooperation in addressing the unique vulnerabilities of small island nations must be realized to facilitate sustainable development, as stated in the SAMOA Pathway. She then connected the similarities and opportunities for partnerships and collaboration with APN.
Risk and resilience in the Pacific
Prof Patrick Nunn of the University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia gave a presentation on risk and resilience in the Pacific—community exposure and response to climate change. In his presentation, he discussed a case study that was conducted to inform improved interventions for climate change adaptation in developing-world communities. The was by (i) demonstrating the diversity of community exposure rather than assuming that “one-size-fits-all”; and (ii), showing the existence and diversity of culturally-grounded community coping in communities. In these ways, a better understanding of risk and resilience among communities who participated in the study has been obtained.
Prof Andreas Neef of the University of Auckland, New Zealand, gave a presentation on integrated and participatory action research for enhanced resilience to climate change—capturing community perception and narratives of climate adaptation for informing policy. The project provided policy recommendations drawn from “real-life” lessons and collective knowledge co-produced with local communities and practitioners and presenting actual narratives relevant in international forums and processes such as the IPCC. The results indicated that community perception of changes in the environment combined with climate data allows for enhanced understanding of shifts in environmental patterns and provides an opportunity to co-design adaptation strategies.
On the final day, under the theme of oceans, a keynote speech was delivered by Dr Vladimir Ryabinin, Executive Secretary of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission and Assistant Director-General of UNESCO on the decade of science. He described ocean science challenges and highlighted the UN Decade of Ocean Science (2021-2030) and highlighted a call for action until Jan 15 proposing intensive science design of decade programmes. He noted the main decadal challenges for ocean science, including act and understand pollutants and their sources; protect, monitor, manage ecosystems; sustainably feed the world population; ensure an economically viable ocean; consider the ocean-climate nexus; provide access to capacity development—access to data, knowledge and technology; and identify and overcome the barrier to behavioural change, among others.