Climate change impacts poses great threats to Kiribati and the I-Kiribati livelihoods. It has been, and will continue to be, a hindrance of our efforts to pursue sustainable development. As a result of its inherent characteristics as an atoll nation, a least developed country, and with its fragile economy and environment, Kiribati is extremely vulnerable to climate change and disasters and has little capacity to cope with natural and man-made disasters.
Climate variability, driven by the natural phenomena ENSO, intermittently causes extreme weather events. There are also other non-weather related hazards such as oil spills (man-made) or tsunamis (tectonically caused). Coupled with climate change, extreme weather events are predicted to become more frequent. Additionally, existing socio-economic and environmental pressures are intensifying. This highlights how these factors are strongly interrelated in the Kiribati context. It is therefore logical to consider and address climate change adaptation and disaster risk management in a systematic and integrated manner.
Already climate-related hazards such as salt-water inundation, droughts, plagues and epidemics as well as man-made hazards such as fires, oil spills and aircraft accidents pose risks to the nation’s economy, food and water security, as well as the overall livelihoods the people.
Climate variability and climate change are already causing and are predicted to continue to cause: increasing surface air and sea temperatures, increasing precipitation throughout the year, more days of extreme rainfall and heat, rising sea-levels and increasing ocean acidification. In addition, although the risks are generally considered minimal, Kiribati could also be affected by a tsunami.
The social, economic and environmental ramifications of the observed and projected climatic changes and hazards are multiplied when overlaid with the high levels of vulnerability of people and their environment.
Government’s Adaptations & Mitigation Strategy
Climate change and disaster risks are being addressed in policies and strategies relating to population, water and sanitation, health and environment, and are progressively being incorporated into policies and strategies relating to fisheries, agriculture, labour, youth and education.
However, only a few sectors have transferred strategic actions to address climate and disaster risks into their annual Sector Operational Plans and Ministerial Plans of Operations and budgeting.
A climate change and disaster risk management rapid assessment report on budgetary allocations for 2011, 2012 and 2013 revealed that, over this period, a total of AUD 83 million (about 15.7% of the national budget) was allocated to programs related to climate change while AUD 90 million (about 17% of the national budget) was allocated to disaster risk management programs.
Further analyses showed that between 2011 and 2013, the Consolidated Budget and Development Fund committed approximately AUD 82 million to addressing climate change and AUD 89 million to disaster risk management. Such budgetary commitments support the notion that, while measures to address climate change and disaster risks seem to be well integrated into key sectors, these efforts need to be maintained and up-scaled in order to improve the resilience of the Kiribati population.