In his speech from the throne, Queen’s Representative Tom Marsters outlined measures set to reduce the Cook Islands vulnerability to climate change, severe extreme weather events, sea surges and sea level rise.
“We cannot understate the fact that our islands and people are extremely vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, and the socio-economic, infrastructure and environment pressures intensify this vulnerability,” he said.
“The key characteristics of building resilience in our context is to ensure that the government, private sector, communities and households have the ability to adapt to changes, anticipate what might happen next and absorb shocks when they do come along.
“With more frequent dry periods, stronger storms, creeping sea level rise, changes in agriculture productivity and the marine environment, it is essential that families, communities and the private sector can manage and improve their ability to bounce back.
“It is important to build the adaptive capacity to reduce the impact of future hazards.”
Marsters said it is essential that key public, private sector and domestic infrastructure is not only protected, but also constructed and developed in a manner that takes into account the dangers posed by nature.
“My government will actively seek Green Climate Fund support to climate proof ports, airports and buildings.”
He added: “With the lives of people at risk during disasters and extreme climate events, and the prediction that extreme events will intensify with climate change, further investment is required to build resilience and safeguard lives.
“My government will work with the Green Climate Fund to ensure that our communities have adequate shelter from disasters and build up national meteorological and hydrological services essential for preparedness, monitoring of the climate and forecasting climatic conditions.”
And, he said, the government would work with the fund to identify solutions that may ease the financial burden on Cook Islanders adapting to the impacts of climate change.
“Flood management is an issue on Rarotonga, resulting in the erosion of river banks and the foreshore and with the run off into the lagoon causing stress on the marine environment.
“An increase in severe tropical storms and rainfall variability, the impacts of storm surges seriously undermine flood protection.
“The related issue of waste management becomes more profound during flood events.
“The combination of these factors critically affects the livelihoods of people and communities, infrastructure and built environments, and ecosystem and ecosystem services.
“Thus, my government will pursue an integrated approach to reduce the vulnerability of communities to flooding, with the support of development partners.”