Increasing Resilience to Climate Change and Natural Hazards

  • Vanuatu
  • Pacific

ENTRY DATE: 09.03.2012 | LAST UPDATE: 09.03.2012


  • Countrywide


  • Rural


  • Capacity Building


  • Disaster Risk Reduction and Management


  • USD 5,000,001 - USD 10,000,000

Description of Intervention

Since 1939 Vanuatu has experienced 124 tropical cyclones, of which 45 were categorised as having hurricane force winds. Several of these disasters have caused loss of human lives, disrupted livelihoods and resulted in millions of dollars in damage to infrastructure. In recent times, cyclones Uma, Anne and Bola hit Vanuatu during 1987–1988 causing 50 deaths as well as significant damage to the agriculture and tourism sectors resulting in loss of property worth USD152 million. Cyclone Prema in 1993 caused a damage of USD60 million, while Dani in 1999 damaged infrastructure pegged at USD8 million. The Penama earthquake and tsunami of November 1999 affected 23,000 people. Cyclones typically occur during the warmer months between November and April, but Cyclone Rita in May 1991 and Gina in June 2002 were out of season. Vanuatu is also affected by the cycles of El Niño, which is accompanied by changes in precipitation patterns (drought) associated with increased mean temperatures, and La Niña, which brings increased rainfall.

The country ranks as the world’s most vulnerable out of 111 countries on the Commonwealth Vulnerability Index (CVI). The results of climate scenario models and historical trends suggest warmer and drier conditions in the future in much of Vanuatu, though it is expected that some parts of the country may receive more rainfall due to the greater frequency of tropical depressions and storms likely to develop around the islands. Cyclones are also likely to become more intense and frequent. The HADCM2 GCM model indicates that there may be more frequent El Nino type conditions and associated prolonged dry seasons. Climate change is likely to impact all sectors, especially agriculture, water, coastal and marine resources and infrastructure as well as tourism. Agriculture is entirely rain-fed and is susceptible to changes in rainfall distribution. Intense and prolonged rainfall could damage seedlings, result in greater run-off and soil erosion and encourage conditions that promote pests and diseases. Droughts combined with higher temperatures could cause added thermal stress on plants. Projected increases in sea surface temperatures combined with increased ocean acidification (from increased CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere) are likely to put pressure on the marine food chain (particularly reef systems and other calcifying organisms such as planktons) which in turn would potentially threaten aspects of marine food supply and associated livelihoods. The incidence of vector-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever, and water-borne diseases such as dysentery and diarrhoea are likely to increase and shift in distribution (malaria likely to extend further southwards).

Problems to be Addressed

Historically, Vanuatu has shown resilience to natural hazards and the ability to recover by using coping strategies built up from traditional knowledge. It has also been helped in recovering from natural disasters through in-flows of disaster relief. However, the vulnerability to climate change is far more pervasive and longer term and these risks require a clearly defined management strategy.

Without the GEF intervention to support adaptation measures, the impacts of intensified cyclones and cycles of droughts and floods, coupled with socio-economic factors such as settlement patterns, especially poorly planned coastal development, exploitation of coastal resources and over pumping of groundwater, could severely impact the country’s sustainable development prospects. In the absence of adaptation measures for example, small-scale agriculture, which provides for over 65% of the population and relies on rain-fed production systems, is at great risk from changes in rainfall distribution. A major intervention in the agriculture sector being planned by the EC does not include climate resilience measures. Most regions of Vanuatu depend on ground water for drinking and water shortages are already apparent in the dry season. Increase in sea level would also lead to salt water intrusion into the shallow ground water lens in coastal areas, which could impact both the agriculture sector in these areas as well as the availability of potable water. Tourism is the fastest growing sector in Vanuatu, but the planning and design of tourism infrastructure (and land use planning in general) is taking place with little regard to climate or disaster risk. In the absence of GEF support, all the above development activities would be at risk from the impacts of climate change and variability.


To mainstream climate change adaptation and climate-related disaster risk reduction into core aspects of the Vanuatu economy and resource management systems


The overarching goal of this project, to be co-financed by the European Commission (EC), is to mainstream climate change adaptation and climate-related disaster risk reduction into core aspects of the Vanuatu economy and resource management systems. It would aim to reduce the previously mentioned vulnerabilities by promoting a risk management approach that addresses both weather and climate- related hazards.
The key objectives include:
• To address the main climate and weather-related hazards facing Vanuatu;
• To address immediate priorities already identified through the NAPA, NAP and other consultation processes stock-take; • To support the country’s sustainable development priorities; and
• To take account of the existing and potential capacity for implementation.

How it fits into the EbA concept

Climate resilience and disaster risk reduction to be strengthened in key sectors in Vanuatu by promoting a risk management approach to reduce vulnerabilities.