Cook Islands' Second National Communication - In Progress

Introduction

The creation of a National Communication offers countries the opportunity to contribute with technically sound studies and information that can be used for designing mitigation and adaptation measures, and project proposals that can and will help increase their resilience to the impacts of climate change. Activities generally include: V&A assessments, Greenhouse Gas Inventory preparation, Mitigation Analysis or Education, and awareness raising activities. The ultimate goal is the integration of climate change considerations into relevant social, economic and environmental policies and actions.

It is recognised that development and social changes have placed pressure on sensitive environmental systems and sectors of the Cook Islands and therefore adverse impacts of anticipated changes in climate and sea level rise will further exacerbate the stress on these systems. For the Cook Islands to respond successfully and implement appropriate adaptation strategies each major sector has identified information gaps and capacity building requirements that must be addressed. The most vulnerable sectors identified are agriculture and food security, coastal zone and coral reefs, marine resources, water resources and biodiversity.

To view progress on Cook Islands' SNC click here.

Project Details

It is recognised that development and social changes have placed pressure on sensitive environmental systems and sectors of the Cook Islands and therefore adverse impacts of anticipated changes in climate and sea level rise will further exacerbate the stress on these systems. For the Cook Islands to respond successfully and implement appropriate adaptation strategies each major sector has identified information gaps and capacity building requirements that must be addressed. The most vulnerable sectors identified are agriculture and food security, coastal zone and coral reefs, marine resources, water resources and biodiversity.

The Cook Islands comprises 15 small islands scattered off the northeast coast of New Zealand.  The islands are divided geographically along a line between Palmerston and Suwarrow into a Northern Group (six islands) and a Southern Group (nine islands). The total land area is 240 sq. km with over 88 per cent (214 sq. km) of the area in the Southern Group. The Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the Cook Islands covers approximately 1.8 million square kilometers of the South Pacific Ocean.  The population is primarily gathered on the island of Rarotonga.  Tourism is by far the country's main industry, with other industries such as pearls, offshore banking and the export of marine and fruit products.  

Adaptation Needs and Priorities

As climate change progresses, the Cook Islands are anticipated to be at greater risk due to sea level rise, extreme rainfall events, storm surges, strong winds and extreme high air temperatures (ADB, 2005). These changes are expected to adversely affect the following priority sectors:  coastal and coral reefs; agriculture, food security and diet; marine resources; water resources; and biodiversity. To enhance capacity to address the impacts of climate change, the following priority actions have been identified by the Cook Islands (CIES, 1999):

  • Gain more information about flora, fauna and how their interactions are and will change. 
  • Understand circulation processes within lagoons and the influence of climate to assist in the understanding of pearl and mariiculture production, shallow lagoons, lagoon flushing and lagoon temperature change.
  • Gain knowledge on the interactions between marine flora and fauna and the effects of external influences on these species and their interactions, such as: pelagic fisheries migration and recruitment; gene bank of marine flora/fauna; and model low diversity marine ecosystems.
  • Understanding of ecosystem rejuvenation after implementation of traditional conservation management practices  (e.g. Ra’ui Island).
  • Identify specific integrated effects affecting marine resources, such as coastal sedimentation from rainfall runoff through Avatiu Harbour.
  • Capacity building in areas like: local physical oceanography expertise; systems/ecosystem approach; environmental ocean modeling of tuna and other pelagic stocks; training and equipment required; and an improvement in the biological species database.
 
National Level Policies and Strategic Documents
 
The Cook Islands released their Initial National Communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1999. It  outlines the socioeconomic  and environmental  status of the islands and  identifies its main  vulnerabilities to the impacts of climate change.  Measures to reduce vulnerability to these impacts are  briefly outlined in this document  (CIES, 1999). Building on information gathered through this process, the Cook Islands worked in 2003 to integrate climate change adaptation into its National Sustainable Development Strategy. Sectoral reviews were undertaken and National Guidelines for Mainstreaming Adaptation to Climate Change were prepared and adopted by Cabinet (ADB, 2005).
 
Current Adaptation Action
 
Current adaptation action in the Cook Islands tends toward capacity building and  focuses on sectors such as agriculture, water, risk reduction and strengthening meteorological systems.  The country is predominantly involved in  regional projects;  few  projects  focus exclusively on the Cook Islands or are implemented by the island government itself.
 
Proposed Adaptation Action
 
 
The Cook Islands has submitted project proposals to both the Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF) and the Adaptation Fund for consideration.  These projects are to focus on building the resilience of the islands’ infrastructure and its communities.   
 
Primary Source:
 
Additional References

 

Climate-Related Hazards Addressed: 
Level of Intervention: 
Primary Beneficiaries: 
Through improved identification of national circumstances, government agencies and other actors will increase their abilities to insulate at risk urban and rural populations from the adverse effects of climate change.
Implementing Agencies & Partnering Organizations: 
Central Policy and Planning Unit, Office of the PM, Cook Islands
Government of Cook Islands
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
Global Environment Facility (GEF)
Project Status: 
Under Implementation
Location: 
Urban
Financing Amount: 
420,000
Co-Financing Total: 
410,000

Key Results and Outputs

  • Sustainable development and the integration of climate change concerns into medium- and long-term planning
  • Inventories of anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases
  • Measures contributing to addressing climate change
  • Research and systematic observation
  • Climate change impacts, adaptation measures and response strategies
  • Education, training and public awareness

Agriculture and Food Security

Information Gaps

  • Understanding of areas most vulnerable to changes in weather patterns
  • Understanding causal factors leading to insect and disease outbreaks
  • Identification of most suitable plants, crops, varieties and cultivars to climate change
  • Additional methods of quarantine to reduce further pests and diseases introduction
  • Measures to understand land zoning and building policies
  • Gene bank of plants
  • Lack of up-to-date information on plant/crop, livestock, and forest production figures

Specific Capacity Building Needs

  • Develop geographical information system (GIS)
  • Update information on agricultural land use through application of GIS
  • Continuous monitoring of insect and disease incidences and severity.
  • Gather information from other countries and organisations on performance of plant cultivars/varieties under certain climatic conditions
  • Education and awareness
  • Gene bank development

Coastal Zones

Knowledge of circulation processes within lagoons and the influence of climate. This would assist in understanding oceanographic processes relevant to:

  • Pearl and mariculture production
  • Shallowing lagoons
  • Lagoon flushing
  • Lagoon temperature change
  • Knowledge of the interactions between marine flora and fauna (including coral), and the effects of external influences on these species and their interactions. These effects could include local species extinctions, changes in species dominance, species resilience (tolerance) to disturbance, species introductions and species substitutions.
  • Increase knowledge of pelagic fisheries migration and recruitment patterns in our EEZ.
  • Develop gene bank of marine flora/fauna.
  • Model low diversity marine ecosystems.
  • Understanding of ecosystem rejuvenation after implementation of traditional conservation management practices e.g. Ra’ui.
  • Identify specific integrated effects affecting marine resources – e.g. coastal sedimentation from rainfall runoff through Avatiu Harbour.

Water Resources

Information Gaps

  • Identification of leakages
  • Water quality and chemical analysis monitoring
  • Methods and measures to improve water distribution at all times
  • Water consumption data
  • Pipeline network data
  • Lack of co-ordination between development and water distribution
  • Methods to improve water storage and conservation

Specific Capacity Building Needs

  • Education and awareness
  • Training and equipment
  • Geographical information systems development
  • Legislation
  • Metering and tariffs
  • Groundwater management
  • Mechanism for water development
  • Improvement in water quality

Health

Information Gaps

  • Unavailability of up-to-date information on the pattern of lifestyle disease, vector borne disease and water borne disease in relation to climate change.
  • Limitation of resources to monitor the high density of mosquitoes and possible outbreaks of dengue fever.
  • Limited access to modern technology (internet) to enhance skills and knowledge on global impacts of climate change on human health
  • Measures to develop and enforce legislation
  • Methods of development and implementation of integrated pest management

Specific Capacity Building Needs

  • Regular access to workshops, conferences, meetings and internet services
  • Education and awareness
  • Training and equipment
  • Integrated pest management systems
  • Legislation

Monitoring and Evaluation

In 1992, countries joined an international treaty, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, to cooperatively consider what they could do to limit average global temperature increases and the resulting climate change, and to cope with whatever impacts were, by then, inevitable.

Parties to the Convention must submit national reports on implementation of the Convention to the Conference of the Parties (COP). The required contents of national communications and the timetable for their submission are different for Annex I and non-Annex I Parties. This is in accordance with the principle of "common but differentiated responsibilities" enshrined in the Convention.

The core elements of the national communications for both Annex I and non-Annex I Parties are information on emissions and removals of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and details of the activities a Party has undertaken to implement the Convention. National communications usually contain information on national circumstances, vulnerability assessment, financial resources and transfer of technology, and education, training and public awareness.

Since 1994, governments have invested significant time and resources in the preparation, collection and validation of data on GHG emissions, and the COP has made determined efforts to improve the quality and consistency of the data, which are ensured by established guidelines for reporting. Non-Annex I Parties receive financial and technical assistance in preparing their national communications, facilitated by the UNFCCC secretariat.

Contacts

UNDP
Yamil Bonduki
Coordinator, National Communications Support Programme (NCSP)
Environmental Services
Pasha Carruthers
Project Affiliate
Environmental Services
Teresa Miimetua Matamaki
Project Affiliate