State of the Climate in the South-West Pacific 2021
The report on the State of the Climate in the South-West Pacific 2021 is the result of collaboration between the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services (NMHSs) in the region, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and other specialized agencies of the United Nations. This multi-agency effort provides a summary of the state of climate, extreme events and their socio-economic impacts in the Southwest Pacific region in 2021. The 2021 report is the second in the series of the report; the first can be found here.
The South-West Pacific is a diverse region with multiple small island nations, coastal livelihoods and rich natural ecosystems. However, the “riskscape” of the South-West Pacific is expanding and intensifying with climate change, combined with further challenges emanating from our ongoing mission of COVID-19 recovery.
In 2021, torrential rains, severe winds and floods brought on by Typhoon Rai wreaked havoc in multiple provinces of the Philippines. These events not only caused many fatalities but also impacted large portions of agricultural lands and fisheries. Strong winds and heavy rainfall brought by Tropical Cyclone Ana affected the livelihood and food security of large proportions of Fiji’s population. Multiple flood events in the South-West Pacific continue to cause fatalities and substantial economic losses, with Indonesia and Malaysia particularly affected in 2021. These events point to the urgency of implementing key adaptation solutions. The Glasgow Climate Pact boosts adaptation action as it aims for a decade of transformative climate action. However, policy pathways for adaptation must be solidly rooted in scientific evidence.
The Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) Asia-Pacific Disaster Reports 2021 and 2022 estimate that in the South-West Pacific, investments in adaptation would need to be highest in Indonesia, at US$ 8.8 billion, followed by the Philippines at US$ 5.5 billion. As a percentage of the country’s GDP, the highest cost is estimated for Vanuatu at 9.6%, followed by Tonga at 8.6%.
Given that floods and tropical cyclones account for the highest economic losses, adaptation investment must be directed towards prioritizing anticipatory action and preparedness for these events. Notwithstanding the progress in establishing early warning systems, further strengthening is needed as climate change intensifies. Similarly, new infrastructure needs to be made more resilient, alongside improvements in water resources management and dryland agriculture crop production, while nature-based solutions bring durable and wide-ranging benefits. Investing in these solutions would also ensure progress on Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 13 (Climate Action) and accelerating progress on multiple associated SDGs, including Goal 1 (No Poverty), Goal 2 (Zero Hunger), Goal 3 (Good Health and Well-being), Goal 9 (Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure), and Goal 11 (Sustainable Cities and Communities).
In this context, the State of the Climate in the South-West Pacific 2021 is timely, as it unpacks the interconnections between climate indicators and the SDGs, and helps bridge gaps between science and policy practice. ESCAP and WMO working in partnership will continue to invest in raising climate ambition and accelerating the implementation of climate policy actions. To this end, the ESCAP Risk and Resilience Portal, which uses the latest climate information and identifies risk hotspots and adaptation measures by country and subregions, provides much of the evidence base for this report. Policymakers are invited to use the Portal to help streamline evidence-based decision-making.