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Vanuatu’s commitment to climate change adaption is a model for the world

The Republic of Vanuatu, located about two thousand kilometres to the east of Australia, surprised the world as it became the first country in the world to call for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty to end their use. President Nikenike Vurobaravu of the island nation made the proposal at the recently concluded session of the United Nations General Assembly.

Vanuatu is a small nation composed of only 3 lakh people but spreads to over 80 eighty islands. The island country faces greater dangers from rising sea-water level and climate change risks than large nations. Its commitment to counter climate change can be gauged by the fact that the country has aimed to attain ambitious targets under its own nationally determined contributions (NDCs). Its enhanced NDCs goes all the way to target 100 percent renewable energy by 2030.

The Vanuatu 2030, also called the People’s Plan had a long-term vision which states the goal as “A stable, sustainable and prosperous Vanuatu.” The enhanced NDC for 2021-2030 is based on updated science and based on requirements for the future where the country faces grim climate challenges. Vanuatu faced over 600 million dollars in damages (over half of its GDP) after the cyclone Harold ravaged the country in 2020.

The plan involves two parts: mitigation and adaptation. Under mitigation, the country sets an ambitious target of 100 percent electricity generation from renewable energy by 2030. Some of the important targets of the plan include 100% of electricity from renewable energy, adoption of Electric Vehicles, thousands of biogas plants for commercial and residential use, increase ecotourism, decrease greenhouse gas reductions by 31 Giga grams by 2030, and enhancing the quality of its forest cover. Most of the targets under this is dependent on global financial support.

Notably, Vanuatu is a net carbon sink and helps absorb some of the emissions from the developed countries. Yet, the country has made admirable ambitions for adaption to greener and sustainable future in many sectors including agriculture, biosecurity, fisheries, forestry, livestock, water, health, environment, oceans, waste, etc. The adaption measures included targets in the social arena too including gender and social inclusion, people with disabilities, infrastructure, human rights/climate change, indigenous people, youth, collaboration, governance, climate policy, meteorology, tourism, etc.

Most of the sectoral adaptation contributions are planned in agriculture as two-thirds of the country depends on it. It is followed by forestry and tourism which provide for most of the revenue for the government. Increase in bio-tourism is one of the targets under the plan. Apart from foreign support, Vanuatu commits to identifying innovative sustainable financing mechanisms to support the establishment and management of ecosystem-based climate adaptation.

Apart from these, the plan also includes a loss and damage contribution section to deal with the devastating effects of climate change disasters. Vanuatu aims to compensate its people who are victims of such disasters under its Disaster Risk Reduction Policy. In addition, the country has championed the cause for compensation to states who face such calamities under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) through establishment of a Loss and Damage Finance Facility.

Vanuatu’s ambitions for sustainability, and its commitment to pursue goals that is greater than most of the countries when compared with respect to emissions, is certainly admirable. Developing countries are suffering from climate change disasters and the challenge of development though they have contributed little to the rise in average global temperature. Small Island states like Vanuatu face stiff challenges as rising sea water and cyclones cause tremendous setback to development process.

The United Nations and the developed countries need to do more for ensuring that poorer countries which are facing the brunt of the disasters are compensated. Developed countries must also push the mantle when it comes to making green finance easily accessible for these countries. In addition, disaster mitigation and infrastructure development through climate resilient technology needs to be locally adapted through cooperation.

Photo Credit : https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Iririki,_Vanuatu.jpg


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