Climate vulnerability assessment: Making Fiji climate resilient

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Executive Summary

Fiji is a small island nation in the South Pacific Ocean with a population of about 900,000.

The country has an area of 18,000 km2 spread over 332 islands, of which about 110 are inhabited. Most of the population lives on two large islands, Viti Levu and Vanua Levu (figure ES.1).

Fiji faces significant development challenges, and the government has set ambitious development objectives to address them. Economic growth in Fiji has been relatively slow in the last decades. Recently, the 20-year and 5-year National Development Plan was prepared to respond to this situation; its ambitious objectives are to more than double the real gross domestic product (GDP) per capita by 20361 and to provide universal access to all services, including housing, electricity, clean and safe water and sanitation, high-quality education, and health care.

Natural hazards and climate change represent a major obstacle to the achievement of these objectives. Tropical cyclones have already affected GDP growth in a significant manner. Tropical Cyclone (TC) Winston in 2016 caused damages amounting to F$2 billion, or 20 percent of GDP. The cost of natural hazard–induced disasters is likely to increase over the coming decades, driven by socioeconomic trends—such as increasing urbanization and concentrations of development along coastlines— and climate change. In addition, other parallel impacts of climate change, such as sea-level rise, ocean acidification, increased risk of flood or the spread of vector-borne diseases into new areas, may also affect development outcomes and options.

This report seeks to inform development planning and investment decisions in Fiji. It pilots a methodology that can be replicated in other countries to assess climate and disaster vulnerability and design climate change adaptation and risk management plans and strategies.

The report aims to quantify and enhance the understanding of the threat that natural hazards and climate change pose to the country’s Development Plan and objectives. In analyzing the climate vulnerability of Fiji, this study considers two dimensions: (1) the physical threats to the country created by current climate variability and climate change, including shocks such as tropical cyclones and floods as well as longer-term stressors like sea-level rise or temperature impacts on health; and (2) development needs and opportunities of the country, as described in the 20-year and 5-year Development Plan. The analysis identifies threats that could jeopardize Fiji’s development needs and opportunities, and the interventions that could minimize these threats.

An innovative approach has been used to undertake the analysis presented in this report, combining a crosssectoral climate vulnerability assessment and preparation of integrated adaptation and disaster risk management plans. The methodology combines sectoral analysis considering multiple dimensions of climate vulnerability— including infrastructure, governance and financing, socioeconomic aspects and population characteristics, and the environment. When possible, sector-level studies have been integrated into a national-level assessment, with risks measured in monetary terms and through their impact on poverty. Analysis at the sector level has contributed to the identification of priorities for action within each sector, enabling the creation of a resilience and adaptation plan that has been assessed in terms of investment needs and recurrent expenditures.

The analysis is limited by the availability of data and models, the large uncertainty in future climate change, and the existence of multiple approaches to cope with each issue. As a result, some interventions cannot be described or evaluated precisely, and the report sometimes recommends more work or in-depth analysis of some of those interventions. This additional work could be technical (e.g., model development or data collection) or institutional (e.g., consultation with stakeholders, policy dialogue, or risk-informed decision making). In some other cases, available information is sufficient to identify important opportunities. Considering the scope and schedule of the present study, however, the interventions recommended in this report would all require specific additional work before implementation.

This methodology is replicable and can support the design and update of the adaptation components of the Nationally Determined Contributions of the Paris Agreement. This report provides a useful approach for performing a vulnerability assessment that starts from one country’s national development plans and objectives, and that enables the preparation of adaptation plans. This approach could be used by other countries in the region and elsewhere, including but not limited to other island states.