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International Coalition Tackles Impacts of Climate Change in Kiribati

Contact:

Elisabeth Mealey in Sydney

61-2-92356551

emealey@worldbank.org

 

Sydney, July 18, 2005— An international coalition supporting measures to reduce the impact of climate change on the Pacific Island nation of Kiribati has been bolstered by the Australian Government’s decision to contribute $US1.5 million to the effort.

 

The first of its kind in the Pacific region, the Kiribati Adaptation Program will reduce the vulnerability of the low-lying island nation of Kiribati to the effects of climate change and sea level rise. 

 

Country Director for the World Bank’s Pacific Islands operations, Mr Xian Zhu said the pilot program reinforced the leadership role of the Government of Kiribati which has been showing the world what can be done to manage the threats from climate change and natural hazards through better planning.

 

“Kiribati is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to climate change and sea level rise so it has always taken a leadership role in the global climate change arena,” Mr Zhu said. “Through this adaptation program, Kiribati is now developing a model from which other vulnerable nations around the world can learn.”

 

Announcing Australia’s funding commitment to the program last week, Parliamentary Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Mr Bruce Billson, said: “The Kiribati Adaptation Program, in partnership with the Government of Kiribati and the World Bank, is a practical example of Australia’s commitment to reducing the vulnerability of Pacific island communities to climate variability and climate change.”

 

The six-year, $US5.5 million program is a unique collaboration between the Government of Kiribati, the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the World Bank, the United Nations Development Program, the Japanese Government and now the Australian Government through its overseas funding agency, AusAID.


The adaptation program is focusing on the country’s most vulnerable sectors in the most populous areas. That includes improving water supply management in and around the capital, Tarawa; coastal management protection measures such as mangrove re-plantation and protection of public infrastructure; strengthening laws to reduce coastal erosion; and population settlement planning to reduce the risks of injury and loss of life.

 

Kiribati, which is made up of 33 low-lying atolls in the central and western Pacific Ocean, is home to 90,000 people – nearly half of whom live in the urban area of South Tarawa which is less than three meters above sea level. At current rates of growth, the national population is expected to increase by 55 per cent by 2025.

 

A 2000 World Bank Regional Economic Report estimated that by 2050, if no adaptation measures were undertaken, Kiribati could face the loss of up to 34 per cent of its 1998 GDP because of the impacts of climate change and sea level rise.

 

The Kiribati Adaptation Program is part of the World Bank’s regional commitment to supporting Pacific Island countries in their efforts to prepare themselves for the impact of climate change and the growing threats from natural hazards, such as cyclones, tsunamis, earthquakes and other events.

 



For more information about Kiribati, visit the Pacific Islands website at http://www.worldbank.org/pi


For more information about the Environment in East Asia and Pacific, visit:  http://www.worldbank.org/eapenvironment

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) is a mechanism for providing new and additional grant and concessional funding to meet the agreed incremental costs of measures to achieve agreed global environmental benefits in the four focal areas - Climate change; Biological diversity; International waters; and Ozone layer depletion. GEF also supports the work of the global agreements to combat desertification and eliminate persistent organic pollutants.





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