THE EUROPEAN Union and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) have signed a €35.5 million financing agreement to help Pacific Island nations address the challenges of climate change.

The Adapting to Climate Change and Sustainable Energy (ACSE) program aims to help the nations adapt to climate change, build capacity and reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

The total project cost is €37.26 million with the European Union contributing €35.5 million through the European Development Fund (EDF).

For the implementation of this program, the European Union will be working in partnership with the German International Cooperation Agency, the New Zealand Government, the Asian Development Bank and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC).

Countries to benefit from the scheme are the Cook Islands, East Timor, Fiji, Kiribati, the Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

The European Commission’s Director for Asia, Central Asia, Middle East, Gulf and the Pacific Dirk Meganck said he was thrilled to signing the financing agreement.

“Climate change adaptation and sustainable energy are in the core of EU’s support towards the Pacific countries,” he said.

“This project not only illustrates this but it’s yet another example of the ever closer cooperation between the European Union and our partners in the Pacific.”

The Secretary-General of the Pacific Island Forum Tuiloma Neroni Slade said the Forum Secretariat and its partner regional agencies warmly welcomed the EU’s commitment to climate change.

“In almost every forum communiqué in recent years, leaders have emphasised the importance of securing access to energy, their commitment to renewable energy, the promotion of efficiency measures and the need for significant progress in diversification by developing domestic renewable energy to reduce their reliance on imported fuels,” he said.

“Similarly, forum leaders have given affirmation of the dangers of climate change – to the livelihoods, security and well-being of the peoples of the Pacific.”

The program aims to strengthen the Pacific island countries’ capacity to adapt to the adverse effects of climate change and to enhance their energy security at national, provincial and local/community level.

The program also seeks to enhance sustainable livelihoods through the support of government institutional efforts and empowering communities to increase their self-reliance and their ability to cope with the effects of climate change through appropriate practices in agriculture, securing their daily water supply and by improving their access to energy, among other initiatives.

Climate change is already disproportionally affecting the Pacific island states, although islanders have done little to contribute to the cause – producing less than 0.03 per cent of current global greenhouse gas emissions. They are among the first to be exposed, often disproportionally, and with limited means to adequately respond.

At the same time, despite efforts to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels, many small Pacific states remain almost 100% dependent on these imports for power generation and transportation. Sustainable energy and climate change adaptation are therefore top priorities for the Pacific ACP governments.