Palau’s avoiding the worst impacts of climate change by preparing itself for the worst. Palau’s Climate Change Policy, adapted in 2015 notes that climate change is one of the greatest challenges facing Palau.
“Implementing the policy is challenging because of limited technical and human capacity but even with this challenge, Palau has moved forward in some sectors,” reported Xavier Erbai Matsutaro, National Climate Change Coordinator in interview.
Impacts are real and powerful to our small island country, according to the Climate Change Implementation and Adaption progress report released by the Office of National Climate Change. As an example, both super typhoons Bopha and Haiyan from 2012 and 2013 destroyed most of the east coastal villages and reefs as storm surges brought powerful waves into the coasts of Ngaraard, Ngiwal and Melekeok destroying roads, homes, taro patches and even reefs.
As result and as part of the climate change adaptation and resilience work, research institutes such as PICRC and CRRF are working to study the impact on corals and coral growth rate. Monitoring of pH level and water temperature is also being conducted at various sites collecting information needed to plan mitigation measures and/or identify resilient sites that may be used to reseed damaged areas.
Melekeok State incorporated into its land use plans relocation of housing upland away from danger of storm surge and rising seas.
King tides inundation of lower areas of Koror such as Sechemus and others, show impact on homes and people residing there and plans are being put in place to address increasing high tides and wave surges into these low lying areas of Palau.
Drought of 2014 as well as impact of the super typhoons have Bureau of Agriculture looking at introduction of crops with tolerance for more brackish waters as well as improving other food production techniques. Funds have been sourced to address water shortages due to longer and more intense droughts predicted.
Disaster Risk Preparedness Framework has been adapted and trainings are on going. Schools in Kayangel and in the east coast States have had built in typhoons shutters to enable them to be used in case of emergencies.
Further disaster risks assessments and analysis of vulnerable communities have been undertaken, with special attention to women and other vulnerable members of the community.
National government has been looking also at disaster risk insurance as well as other resilience tools and has recently acquired a $15 million disaster credit line from ADB as another way to prepare for the expected severe impacts of climate change.
“We have been able to source $22.8 million for adaptation and disaster risk management but this is a far cry from $500 million needed to fully implement this policy,” stated report.
Despite limitations, according to Matsutaro, Palau has moved forward on many fronts to prepare us better to withstand the worst impacts of severe natural disasters expected from climate change. (L.N. Reklai)