NZ boosts support for climate action in Solomon Islands


The New Zealand government has committed N$Z15 million (US$9.28 million) to support Solomon Islands provincial governments to strengthen climate resilience at the grassroots level.

Deputy Prime Minister Carmel Sepuloni, who is on a three-country Pacific tour, made the announcement in Honiara on Monday, with the funding coming out of the NZ$1.3 billion (US$805 million) climate finance commitment for 2022-2025.

The money – guided by the Tuia te Waka a Kiwa, NZ’s international climate finance strategy – will go directly into the existing Solomon Islands Provincial Capacity Development Fund that assists with developing climate adaptation plans and managing climate adaptation projects at a local level.

The funding has been made available though the Local Climate Adaptive Living (LoCAL) Facility designed by the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF).

LoCAL builds on the existing Solomon Islands Provincial Capacity Development Fund by providing performance-based climate resilience grants to cover costs of adapting to climate change – particularly small projects at local level that reach the people who need help the most, such as women and youth.

Sepuloni said effective climate actions requires partnerships.

“Climate change is a global challenge that requires global and collective action,” Sepuloni said.

“That’s why we’re stepping up to provide climate finance to support provincial governments to build climate resilience at the grassroots,” she said.

“At the heart of this Mission and our shared focus as a Pacific region, is the importance of supporting local and indigenous-led solutions to support effective climate action.”

She said the support delivered on that and doubles down on Aotearoa’s focus to tackle the threat of climate change in the Pacific.

Empowering provincial governments to integrate climate change resilience and adaptation into their planning, as well as accessing additional sources of climate finance to respond and adapt to climate change at the community-level is a priority of the Solomon Islands government, Sepuloni said.

She said the support was also a immensely practical investment in building climate resilience in the region.

Climate Change Minister James Shaw said most Solomon Islanders live in rural, low-lying coastal areas of the country, where provincial governments, churches and other community groups deliver essential services.

“These communities are among those on the frontline of the climate crisis – but are those who have contributed the least to climate change,” Shaw said.

He said the support package is aimed to reaffirm NZ’s efforts to ensuring the response to the climate crisis is inclusive and supportive of local leadership and support communities’ right across Solomon Islands.

“We also welcome the opportunity this creates for others to invest in Solomon Islands provincial government programmes to respond to climate change,” he added.

This Sepuloni’s fist first stop on a Pacific tour marking the return of the government’s regional visits which prior to the pandemic had been undertaken annually.

She is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare and Foreign Minister Jeremiah Manele later today.

Last year Solomon Islands signed a security deal with China, which caused disquiet among Australian, New Zealand and U.S governments.

Since that deal there has been a string of diplomat missions by alarmed Western powers to the region. In September last year a summit was held in the U.S with Pacific Island leaders.

Sepuloni would not be drawn on whether she would be discussing the issue with Manasseh. She would not comment on whether U,S influence in the Indo Pacific region and tensions with China should be a key issue in discussions with Pacific leaders.

There has been increasing militarisation and geopolitical machinations in the Pacific. A recent deal involving Western military alliance AUKUS, which will see Australia spend $400 billion (US$247 billion) on a fleet of nuclear submarines, has alarmed Pacific leaders.

China has called the latest move an error that would stoke tensions and spark a new arms race, increasing the chances of open conflict. There have been talks between New Zealand and high-ranking US officials on New Zealand joining the alliance with Australia, the United Kingdom and the U.S.

“There’s a range of issues that will be front of mind” Sepuloni said. “Certainly when I met with specific leaders in February, it wasn’t so much anything to do with China that was front of mind or even discussed. It was climate change. It was labour mobility, it was education, it was a chat about the challenges that came with the global inflation and cost of living.

“We’ll be discussing resilience issues that are shared challenges for us across the Pacific region, and solutions moving forward”

“So we’ll see what they put on the table. But we’ve certainly got our agenda lined up with regards to our visit, and looking forward to seeing what is priority and the focus for conversation from the Pacific leaders that we meet with.”

She said the focus of her visits would be to shore up New Zealand’s relationship with those nations by engagement.

“Firstly, we’ll be connecting because we haven’t actually had a chance to engage with the Pacific to the extent that we had prior to Covid. So that’s really meant that we haven’t been able to connect to the same extent.

“We’ll be discussing resilience issues that are shared challenges for us across the Pacific region, and solutions moving forward. And just that focus on whakawhanaungatanga, that we’ve got a special relationship with the Pacific. And we need to continue strengthening and building that.”

The Minister said the Pacific regions had not been neglected over the past number of years and that Ministers and parliamentarians had travelled to the region, but with Covid-19 restrictions, bringing a large delegation had been impractical in recent times.

Sepuloni said she was relieved that was now possible.

“The interesting thing that New Zealand does on its Pacific missions that no one else does, is that we bring a delegation, and most of them are part of the Pacific diaspora in New Zealand. They span from across the social sector, health, education, or business, and they are connected to the Pacific as well.”

Her delegation of New Zealand MPs, government officials, community leaders and journalists will also attend various presentations and events led by the local community with a focus on early childhood education, climate change, youth development and labour mobility.

Over the course of the week Carmel Sepuloni will also be visiting Fiji and Tonga.

These annual Pacific Missions are described as an integral part of the New Zealand governments commitment to maintaining its relationship with Pacific Island countries through consultation and helping them respond to ongoing challenges.