Plans for new climate change adaptation project for Tonga


15 February 2017

A new climate change adaptation project for Tonga, likely to cost more than $40m in grant financing, is expected to be submitted to the Green Climate Fund (GCF) board for approval in June.

The new project is a combination of two ongoing Green Climate Fund design projects at the request of the Deputy Prime Minister of Tonga, Hon Siaosi Sovaleni, and will involve a coalition of government leaders, technical experts and cooperation entities working together.

They include the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), technical experts at research institutions such as Deltares and MWHGlobal, the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) and UNDP technical experts.

“Our Climate Change vision is to have [a] more resilient Tonga and a key part of that vision is to strengthen the resilience of our coastal communities,” said Hon Sovaleni.

“With the support of this broad coalition, the Government of Tonga is pursuing integrated solutions and building a strategy that will support lasting resilience to dramatic changes in climate that are affecting people’s livelihoods, destroying homes and taking lives.”

With Tonga being a Small Island Developing State with one of the world’s highest climate risks, it is imperative climate resilience works are progressed.

UNDP Climate Change Adaptation Regional Technical Advisor, Yusuke Taishi said Tonga can fast track the completion of the design that has been many years in the making by leveraging the technical expertise of everyone involved.

Between January 20-28, a team formulating the project was in Tonga doing site visits, talking with local experts, and designing a series of interventions to address climate change induced coastal erosion.

Coastal protection

The new adaptation project will include building 16 kilometers of coastal protection along the Tongatapu and Ha’apai coastline, upgrading risk-based land management practices in the Vava’u marine system and supporting the restoration of coastal ecosystems.

A monitoring system will also be established for sediment flows and erosion, coral reef health, mangrove health and rock revetment, building capacity to monitor and maintain coastal protection works and engaging with communities to support the maintenance and sustainability of project initiatives.

The project will be implemented by the Tonga Climate Change Department, with UNDP assisting as the accredited entity to the GCF. SPREP will also provide implementation support if requested by government.

The most recent devastating climate change effect in Tonga was in 2014 when Cyclone Ian wreaked havoc displacing 70% of residents in Ha’apai, causing around US$48 million in damage. A severe drought followed affecting agricultural production throughout Ha’apai and Tongatapu.