Tonga’s Third National Communication Report on Climate Change

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23rd March, 2020 As a Party and an integral requirement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Tonga has successfully completed and submitted its Third National Communication Report on Climate Change Report (TNC) to the UNFCCC Secretariat in Bonn, Germany in February 2020.

Tonga was the first Pacific Island Country to submit its TNC.

A national communication is a report that each Party to the UNFCCC prepares periodically according to the guidelines developed and adopted by the Conference of the Parties (COP), in accordance with its Convention.

National communications, at a minimum, contains six thematic components including national circumstances and institutional arrangements; national greenhouse gas inventory; programmes containing measures to facilitate adequate vulnerability assessment and adaptation to climate change; programmes containing measures to mitigate climate change; other information; and constraints and gaps, and related financial, technical and capacity-building needs.

The national circumstances chapter covers national objectives, priorities and circumstances that serve as the basis for addressing climate change. Information on Tonga’s national circumstances included climatic, geographical, natural resources, population, health and economic information. These information are critical for understanding the country’s vulnerability, capacity and ability to adapt to the adverse effects of climate change, as well as the capabilities for addressing the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, all within the broader context of sustainable development.

The National Greenhouse Gas Inventory (NGHGI) chapter covers major greenhouse gas (carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide & methane) emissions from different sources under four sectors – Energy, Agriculture, Land use , land use change and forestry (LULUCF) and Waste. Guided by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2006 Guidelines for GHGI, Tonga’s greenhouse gas emissions were calculated for the baseline year 2006 and reported a total emission of 310.41 Gg whereby 300.55Gg or 96.8% of the total emissions is carbon dioxide.

The main sources of GHG emissions in the energy sector are from the combustion of primary energy sources into usable forms in the energy transformation and the usage of fuel in mobile applications in the transport sectors. In the Agriculture sector, the main sources of GHG emissions are from enteric fermentation, managed soils and urea fertilisation. The main emissions under the LULUCF sector were from the forest and grassland conversion of biomass. The Waste sector reported landfills, wastewater and human sewage as the main sources of emissions.

The TNC’s Vulnerability and Adaptation Assessment (V&A) chapter explores Tonga’s vulnerabilities to the adverse impacts of climate change on vulnerable sectors including agriculture, fisheries, coastal areas, water resources, lands, infrastructure, disaster risk management, biodiversity and human health. The key findings of the V&A chapter allowed integrated analysis of Tonga’s vulnerability to climate change, adaptation measures and adaptation options to meet the concerns arising from the adverse effects.

Agriculture as one of the key sectors of Tonga’s economy is constrained by various factors including climate change. Tonga’s vulnerability to the adverse impacts of climate change pose significant threats to the agriculture sector due to the increasing air temperature, changing precipitation patterns and increasing extreme weather events such as droughts and tropical cyclones. It is reported that climate change affect agriculture in Tonga, in terms of productivity, agricultural practises, crop diversity and adaptation capacities.

Moreover, the TNC reported the vulnerabilities of the low-lying coastal areas in Tonga and the adaptation measures in place to counter the adverse impacts of sea level rise and storm surges such as coastal erosion and inundation. In Eastern Tongatapu, hard (groynes with sedi-tunnel and detached breakwaters) and soft (beach nourishment and coastal trees replanting) adaptation measures were implemented by the Department of Climate Change coastal adaptation projects including the $11.4 million Euros regional European Union Global Climate Change Alliance Small Island States Project (EU-GCCA PSIS Project) and the $20 million USD Climate Sector Resilience Project (CRSP). Similarly, in Western Tongatapu, the EU-GIZ Adapting to Climate Change and Sustainable Energy (ACSE) Project trialed various adaptation measures such as replanting mangroves at the coasts of Kanokupolu, ‘Ahau and Kolovai. As an adaptation response to the coastal flooding and erosion in Lifuka Island, the CRSP Project funded the relocation of the Niu‘ui hospital from its former coastal location in Hihifo to higher grounds in Pangai.

Mitigation are measures that either reduce the sources of GHG emissions or enhance the removals of GHG from the atmosphere. The Mitigation Analysis chapter is directly linked to the NGHGI chapter as it covers measures implemented or planned to mitigate climate change by addressing the anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of all greenhouse gases not controlled by the Montreal Protocol. The chapter noted existing legislations, policies, projects and their mitigation contributions such as the Renewable Energy Act 2008, Tonga Energy Road Map, National Forest Policy, USD$21 million Outer Island Renewable Energy Project (OIREP) and other renewable projects.

The Other Information chapter contains information on technology transfer, research and systematic observation activities, education, training and public awareness on climate change and capacity building and information sharing efforts. A Technology Needs Assessment (TNA) was also conducted as part of the TNC process and integrated into the Other Information chapter. The objective of the TNA is to identify, evaluate and prioritise technological means for both adaptation and mitigation in Tonga. The TNA involved various stakeholders in a consultative process and they identified soft and hard technologies, regulatory options and fiscal and financial incentives in relation to technology.

The TNC further reported on trainings, capacity-building activities and education opportunities in relation to resilience or climate change and disaster risk management. One of the notable opportunities are trainings and education opportunities supported by the CRSP Project. This included trainings for local communities in applying for the Climate Change Trust Funds (CCTF) which funds community-based projects such as water tanks, communities’ halls and evacuation centres. In addition, the CRSP funded Undergraduate Scholarships for 20 Tongan students to pursue tertiary studies at the University of the South Pacific, Tonga Campus. In December 2019, 19 of these 20 students graduated with Bachelor degrees in Environment Studies, Marine Studies, Chemistry and Biology and in February 2020, 5 of the 19 CRSP-sponsored graduates were recruited as staff in the Department of Climate Change.

The Constraints and gaps, and related financial, technical and capacity-building needs Chapter comprised of issues and challenges associated with the implementation of the Convention and the preparation of the TNC. A commonly identified constraint in the TNC process is technological and institutional limitations relating to the data collection, collation, documentation and archiving at the data sources. It is envisaged that the identified constraints and needs will be addressed through the Department of Climate Change’s existing and planned works including externally-funded programmes and projects such as the Fourth National Communication and Biennial Update Report Project and the Green Climate Fund National Designated Authority Strengthening and Country Programming Phase 2 Project.

The completion of the TNC Report was a culmination of invaluable contributions from the; Joint National Action Plan on Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management (JNAP) Technical Working Group, local technical experts, Global Support Programme (GSP) for National Communications, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as the TNC Project’s Implementing Agency and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) as the financier for the TNC Project.

The preparation of the TNC Report contributed significant data and information for the formulation of Tonga’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) in 2015, Climate Change Policy in 2016, the JNAP 2, 2018 and the Tonga Green Climate Fund Country Programme in 2018 and other various project concepts/proposals.

The Department of Climate Change and UNDP are currently developing the Tonga’s Fourth National Communication Project Proposal which will be submitted to the Global Environment Facility (GEF) in the Third Quarter, 2020.

Tonga acceded to the UNFCCC on the 20th of July 1998. As a party to the convention, Tonga is therefore obliged to prepare and submit a national communication report to the Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC to comply with Article 12 of the Convention.

Tonga has submitted its Initial National Communication (INC) and Second National Communication (SNC) in May 2005 and March 2012, respectively.