Changing times: The challenge ahead for Tonga

Published on Thursday, 04 April 2013

Published by on Thursday, 04 April 2013

Properties built in a flood prone area in Popua Village, a suburb in the outskirts of Nuku'alofa, Tonga. Photo credit: Luis Enrique Ascui 2010 for ADB.
Properties built in a flood prone area in Popua Village, a suburb in the outskirts of Nuku'alofa, Tonga. Photo credit: Luis Enrique Ascui 2010 for ADB.

Written by Taniela Faletau, Safeguards Officer, Pacific Subregional Office

Climate change these days is the new development buzzword, and rising sea levels and drought incidences highlight the increasing urgency for action. Yet for some reason, there is disconnect between the high level commitment to action and the carrying out of projects that effect change. 

The situation is dire when we come to consider the Pacific developing member countries of ADB, which struggle with these impacts daily. Born and bred a Tongan national, I affirm that climate change is real for these small islands and its impacts pose significant threats to the Tongan way of life.     

Responding to climate change is made more difficult for these small islands by their geographical isolation, socio-economic characteristics, and lack of technical capacity and knowledge, political instability and inadequate institutional arrangements to name a few. For so long now these capacity and institutional factors have been the Achilles heel of development efforts in the Pacific and the main constraint to successive climate initiatives. I’m a firm believer, however, that we need to learn from our mistakes and keep trying, only then will we find an alternative, another way to look at things. 

This is the challenge faced in preparing the Pilot Program for Climate Change Resilience for Tonga and the reasoning behind this blog. To find that elusive alternative, and to bring about transformational change at the necessary levels, so that Tonga can better adapt, and become more resilient to, the effects of climate change. Led by the Pacific Subregional Office of the ADB, the proposed project will support transformational change through the strategic provision of human, technical, and financial inputs to enable the implementation of Tonga’s Joint National Action Plan on Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Management 2010–2015. The proposed project will thus build capacity; provide information, tools, and legislative frameworks needed for informed climate change risk management; and more importantly provide access to resources (technical, human, and financial) to address the climate change risk management priorities of the Government, as well as those of vulnerable communities. The objective is to achieve a progressive increase in the resilience of ecosystems and infrastructure that are the foundations of any country‘s sustainable development aspirations. 

To conclude this entry, I am going to go out on a limb and say that I am convinced that climate change is not the issue here, and it never has been. The issue has always been about us, humankind   our aspirations and how willing we have been to concede our future. For so long now have been pointing the finger at one another rather than looking to ourselves and what we can do to contribute to addressing this issue. In the process we have squandered opportunities we may have had to arrest the situation. 

In preparing this project we are intent on reversing this trend and I hope you will follow our progress this year. As Barack Obama once said “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek”. 

Watch this space.