Building Climate Resilience with Small Island Nations
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1. IPP CommonSensing is a £9.6m project funded by the UK Space Agency’s International Partnership Programme that brings together a wealth of expertise from a consortium of partners around the globe to empower the nations of Fiji, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands.
2. The project began in 2018 seeking to provide the infrastructure, training, and technical skills necessary to provide solutions to support each country in becoming more resilient to the negative impacts of climate change. These include improved access to climate finance, disaster risk reduction following extreme weather events, enhanced food security, and enhanced resilience to climate change.
3. Through the creation of an Open Data Cube (ODC) and platforms to access the information, the project is now in its final stages. IPP CommonSensing is currently hosting training sessions both in-country and virtually to provide lasting skills and expertise to those who will benefit from the CommonSensing system.
IPP CommonSensing is an ambitious project to use satellite remote sensing capabilities to support the Governments of Fiji, the Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu in their efforts to build resilience to the devastating impacts of climate change and improve access to climate finance.
The Solomon Islands are expected to incur, on average, 20.5 million USD per year in losses due to earthquakes and tropical cyclones. In the next 50 years, the Solomon Islands have a 50% chance of experiencing a loss exceeding 240 million USD. (Source: PCRAFI)
Vanuatu is expected to incur, on average, 48 million USD per year in losses due to earthquakes and tropical cyclones. In the next 50 years, Vanuatu has a 50% chance of experiencing a loss exceeding 330 million USD. (Source: PCRAFI)
Fiji is expected to incur, on average, 79 million USD per year in losses due to earthquakes and tropical cyclones. In the next 50 years, Fiji has a 50% chance of experiencing a loss exceeding 750 million USD. (Source: PCRAFI)
“This is a very important project which aims to improve resilience to the devastating impacts of climate change suffered by Small Island Nation Developing States”
What is CommonSensing?
The IPP CommonSensing project is a partnership between a United Nations-led international consortium and the nations of Fiji, the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. The £9.6m project began in 2018 with the aim to create platforms that harness satellite remote-sensing data, combined with data held by government ministries, to support climate resilience activities in Small Island Nation Developing States (SIDS). By empowering communities with geospatial information, the project aims to allow decision-makers to create informed, data-driven judgements concerning climate-related issues, and developing new climate resilience strategies for mitigation and adaptation. CommonSensing provides nation-specific data so that information is tailored to the requirements of the relevant government stakeholders.
At its inception, partners from the CommonSensing consortium travelled in-country to host workshops with local community leaders and groups. This first phase of the project – the ‘scoping’ phase – highlighted four main areas that aim to support the three nations by providing access to data that can be used to inform decisions and policy. These would become the foundations on which the rest of the project is built.
We are supporting access to vital climate funding through strengthening institutional and technical capacity within governments.
We are using satellite-derived imagery and elevation models to develop tools that will highlight risk areas for climate-driven hazards.
We are developing computational simulations on satellite remote sensing data and other relevant data sources to provide insight on the robustness of food production systems.
New satellite data sources will be used to address existing gaps and strengthen existing platforms.
Small Island Nation Developing States (SIDS) are disproportionately impacted by climate effects.
Nearly a third of the population of these nations live on land less than 5 metres above sea level. Rising sea levels are beginning to displace communities and populations, often moving families from their ancestral homes. Since 1993, Fiji has experienced an increase of 0.2 inches of water per year, which is higher than the global average (Nerem et al, 2018) Entire villages have been relocated as a result.
The effects of climate change have had a devastating impact on food production and diets. Reports suggest that there has been a general shift in tastes amongst Pacific Islanders from traditional fresh produce towards imported foods, which are typically cheaper, easier to store, and have a longer shelf life (UN, 2020). Because of the link that food security has to international trade, it has been severely disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite having some of the lowest numbers of cases of COVID-19 in the world, disruption to the food supply chains caused by travel restrictions and difficulties transporting goods have left SIDS disproportionately impacted. Changing weather patterns – which includes an increase in the rate and intensity of tropical cyclones – are also damaging crops, forcing islanders to become increasingly reliant on imported supplies.
Extreme weather events and subsequent natural hazards also exacerbate the displacement of families, destroy infrastructure, and cost the economies of SIDS hundreds of millions of dollars. In the last 5 years alone, Vanuatu has been hit by two major tropical cyclones. In 2015, Cyclone Pam displaced 65,000 people and cost the Vanuatuan economy over $600million USD. The more recent Cyclone Harold displaced 80,000 people and destroyed nearly 90% of homes on Vanuatu’s largest island, Espiritu Santo (Bakumenko, 2021). In the 2020-21 tropical cyclone season, the combined forces of Tropical Cyclones Yasa and Ana occurring just over a month apart, also destroyed thousands of homes and cost hundreds of millions of dollars in Fiji.
“It is very much correct and proven now that climate change impacts are disproportionately impacting indigenous people”
Since the 2015 Paris Agreement was signed at COP21 (United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties), developed nations agreed to pledge up to $100bn USD each year by 2020 to combat the negative effects of climate change through improved funding for mitigation and adaptation strategies. Whilst the sentiment is positive, the reality is complex, and statistics currently indicate a shortfall in the delivered funds.
The most recent data indicates that in 2018, donor countries supplied just $78.9bn of the pledged $100bn. This is an increase on previous years, but inconsistencies in the reporting of funds appear to have led to ‘additionality’; an over-reporting of provided climate funds, estimated to be in the region of $3bn-$4bn USD (OECD, 2020).
It is also difficult to access the funding for climate-related projects, such as improvement to infrastructure. The application process is often complicated, and there is ambiguity in what form the money will be provided. Currently, nearly 75% of all money donated has been in the form of loans with nearly 70% of these funds having been allocated to Middle-Income Countries. Only 3% of climate finance made available by the Paris Agreement have reached SIDS so far, despite these nations being on the frontline of the climate crisis. More needs to be done to support the governments of Small Island Developing States to access the support provided (OECD,2020).
It is for these reasons the IPP CommonSensing project exists.
Solutions and Data
The below information describes how IPP CommonSensing will deliver satellite data and geospatial solutions to the nations by explaining the challenges and procedures required before satellite data can be analysed and accessed by geospatial experts, governments, and policy advisors.