In the Pacific islands, SPREP is promoting ecosystem-based adaptation as our preferred adaptation tool. Ecosystem-based adaptation has been described by the Convention on Biological Diversity as the use of biodiversity and ecosystem services as part of an overall adaptation strategy to help people adapt to the adverse effects of climate change. Ecosystem-based Adaptation aims to maintain and increase the resilience and reduce the vulnerability of people and the ecosystems they rely upon in the face of the adverse effects of climate change.
Ecosystem-based adaptation enables people to adapt by using opportunities through the sustainable management, conservation, and restoration of ecosystems, and is an essential ecosystem services.
Ecosystem based adaptations on landscapes, foreshores and lagoons help to:
- reduce downstream impacts of land-uses on coastal reef ecosystems, and thus reduce local threats on reef and lagoon waters; thereby enhancing health and productivity of local reef fisheries
- improve coastal mangrove and seagrass habits that in turn i) enhance carbon storage and in some cases can reverse ocean acidification; ii) protect shorelines against Sea Level Rise and increased storm wave energy; and iii) improve local fisheries production.
The economic benefits of ecosystem-based adaptation, and ecosystem services in general, can be hard to quantify due to their limited use to date and given some of their non-monetary benefits such as cultural identity and strengthening local ownership and governance. However, several studies have demonstrated the value of ecosystem-based adaptation, for example, a study conducted in Lami Town, Fiji found that restoration of mangroves had considerable cost-savings and benefits as compared to hard options, especially when considered over longer time scales.
While ecosystem-based adaptation is our preferred first option, care must be taken when selecting and implementing to help prevent maladaptation. It is important to undertake thorough evaluation before selecting and implementing interventions, and to not only consider the short-term impacts but also consider the longer-term, especially if a given intervention will still be effective under likely future climate change scenarios. Ecosystem-based adaptation also needs to be considered against a range of other options and conditions to determine which will ultimately have the greatest benefit for the impacted communities.
SPREP is committed to the promotion of the effective use of ecosystem-based adaptation by our 21 Pacific island member countries and territories, and by the Regional Seas family as a whole.
(Speech made by Mr. Tommy Moore)