UN Environment, Partners Launch Pacific Marine Climate Change Report Card

SUVA, 22 JUNE 2018 (UN ENVIRONMENT) – The UN Environment Programme (UNEP, or UN Environment) and partners have launched the first-ever Pacific marine climate change report card, which details climate change impacts on marine and coastal biodiversity, and outlines actions being taken in the region and further responses required.

The ‘Pacific Marine Climate Change Report Card 2018,’ which was produced for the Commonwealth Marine Economies (MEP) Programme and released to coincide with World Oceans Day on 8 June 2018, enhances understanding of climate change impacts on the region’s marine environment, recommends management options and provides guidance for building climate resilience.

The report card focuses on the themes of climate drivers, and climate impacts on biodiversity and people. It can be used to support policy, programme and project development, and to advance SDGs 14 (life under water), 13 (climate action) and 15 (life on land), in particular. The report card can also help promote activities of the Pacific SDG Taskforce and the development of the Pacific Roadmap for Sustainable Development.

Recommending measures that reduce pressures from pollution, marine waste, population growth, overfishing and coastal development, the report calls for adaptive coastal planning and management, and bringing together scientists and local communities to better understand localized climate impacts.

The report card highlights the need to reduce specific impacts on seagrass, mangroves and coral reefs, underscoring their value. It notes that, for example, in Melanesia, a subregion of Oceania, services provided by these ecosystems are valued at around US$151.4 billion for seagrasses, US$145.7 billion for coral reefs, and US$109 billion for mangroves. In addition, seagrass habitats and mangrove forests act as carbon sinks, absorbing and storing blue carbon over the long term, as well as natural carbon capture and storage (CCS) habitats, due to their high below-ground root biomass which traps organic carbon for thousands of years. Mangroves are also being used in carbon credit schemes.

Regarding climate change impacts on people and livelihoods, the report discusses coastal fisheries, settlements and infrastructure, and oceanic fisheries.

The report urges recognising and accounting for diversity among Pacific islands in climate change and sustainable development planning. It calls for flexible management systems that connect terrestrial and marine systems, link government and industry, provide long-term planning solutions, and address habitat destruction and pollution. The report card also emphasizes: engagement of social and cultural groups; community involvement in research and knowledge collection, decision making and project outputs; and use of traditional knowledge.

The publication is based on a number of scientific reviews that elaborate on climate responses, provide detailed information to support action, and identify additional research priorities and examples of successful adaptation projects in the region. They focus on topics related to the report card’s themes of climate drivers, and biodiversity and human impacts. The 13 review papers address, inter alia: culture and gender; differences in the scale of Pacific impacts at different global temperature thresholds (1.5°C and 2°C temperature rise); past and future climate change impacts; knowledge gaps; and socioeconomic effects. Wider impacts on people and livelihoods include tourism. A net contributor to Pacific gross domestic product (GDP), in 2016 ranging from 1.9% for Papua New Guinea to 44.5% for Vanuatu, it is expected to have its revenues negatively impacted by climate change.

The supporting issue papers also highlight potential responses, such as: developing future Pacific climate projections for use at local scales; building resilience to avoid climate impacts on coral reefs, mangroves and seagrass; supporting assessments on the status of and future projections on seagrass and mangroves to support adaptation planning; and assessing the ways in which fisheries’ livelihoods can be diversified on some Pacific islands.

The report card is a collaboration of UN Environment, the UK’s Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, the Secretariat for the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), University of the South Pacific, the Pacific Community (SPC) and the Climate Analytics Impacts project. It is based on a concept developed by the UK Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership.

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