Doom and gloom

BY 2050, Fiji’s annual losses due to extreme weather events could reach 6.5 per cent of GDP because of the impact of climate change, pushing 32,400 Fijians into hardships every year.

This was revealed in a significant new climate vulnerability study launched at COP23 in Bonn, Germany ? an event where Fiji has taken the lead role.

According to the report Climate Vulnerability Assessment: Making Fiji Climate Resilient, prepared by the Fijian Government in partnership with the World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), an estimated $9.3 billion over 10 years ? almost equivalent to 100 per cent of the country’s GDP for one year ? is needed to build the resilience and capacity to adapt to climate change.

Economist Dr Neelesh Gounder said in the current nominal GDP terms, 6.5 per cent of GDP would amount to about $500 million per year.

The vulnerability assessment in the study provides significant new analysis of Fiji’s vulnerability to climate change, with projections outlining potential impacts for Fiji over the coming decades, covering the impact of climate change on Fiji’s economy, livelihoods and poverty levels, health and food security, together with key industries including agriculture and tourism, as well as potential impacts of sea level rise on coastal areas and low lying islands.

Key projections in the report outlined that because of the impacts of climate change, the number of Fijians being pushed into poverty and hardship would increase from 25,700 people per year to an estimated 32,400 per year by 2050.

Also, sea-level rise and increased intensity of coastal storms, with most models projecting an increase in global sea levels of 17-38cm relative to current levels by 2065, potentially creating a major threat for the country with 30 per cent of Fiji’s population currently living in risk-prone areas, the report outlined.

The assessment identified 125 measures across five priority areas that could make Fiji and Fijians more resilient.

The five areas include: building inclusive and resilient towns and cities, improving infrastructure services, climate smart agriculture and fisheries, conserving ecosystems and building socioeconomic resilience.

According to the assessment, an estimated FJ$9.3b over 10 years was required to finance these interventions, in addition to maintenance and operation costs and social protection systems.

Fiji’s Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Climate Change, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said the assessment was critical for climate and risk-informed development to strengthen the resilience of the Fijian economy.

“Assessing vulnerability to climate change is important for defining the risks posed by climate change and provides information for identifying adaptation measures,” Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said.

“It enables practitioners and decision-makers to identify the most vulnerable areas, sectors and social groups.

“This in turn means, climate adaptation options targeted at specified contexts are developed and implemented,” he said.

Michel Kerf, the World Bank’s country director for Pacific islands, said that the World Bank had set out to support Fiji with a comprehensive assessment that would paint a realistic picture of the challenges ahead and provide a roadmap of recommended priorities for climate resilience.

“This assessment presents, in stark terms, clear evidence of the costs of climate change,” Mr Kerf said.

“Yet crucially, it also provides an evidence-based resource from which we can best support Fiji, and other island countries, in their drive towards more climate resilient development.”

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