Skip to main content

Beyond the core: community governance for climate-change adaptation in peripheral parts of Pacific Island Countries

Abstract

Pacific Island Countries are highly exposed to climate change. Most impact studies have focused on the most densely populated core areas where top-down governance is most effective. In contrast, this research looks at peripheral (rural/outer-island) communities where long-established systems of environmental governance exist that contrast markedly with those which governments and their donor partners in this region favour. Peripheral communities in the Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, and Vanuatu were studied. Traditional systems of environmental governance are described, and three common barriers to effective and sustainable climate-change adaptation identified. The first is lack of awareness among key community decision makers about climate change and associated environmental sustainability that could be lessened by targeted awareness raising. The second is the inappropriateness of traditional decision-making structures for dealing with both the complexity and pace of climate-driven environmental changes. The third is the short-term views of resource management and sustainability held by many community decision makers. Despite 30 years of assistance, there has been negligible effective and sustainable adaptation for climate change in peripheral parts of Pacific Island Countries, something that is explicable by both the ineffectiveness of top-down approaches in such places as well as a lack of attention to the nature and the context of adaptation communications. It is timely for interventions to be made at community level where the greatest disconnect lies between the science and stakeholder awareness of climate change.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4

References

  • Aalbersberg W, Tawake A, Parras T (2005) Village by village: recovering Fiji’s coastal fisheries, World Resources 2005: the wealth of the poor: managing ecosystems to fight poverty. World Resources Institute, Washington, DC, pp 144–152

    Google Scholar 

  • Alley R (1999) The South Pacific’s environmental policy tensions. Public Adm Dev 19:137–151

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Barnett J (2007) Food security and climate change in the South Pacific. Pac Ecol 14:32–36

    Google Scholar 

  • Barnett J (2011) Dangerous climate change in the Pacific Islands: food production and food security. Reg Environ Change 11:229–237

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Barnett J, Adger WN (2003) Climate dangers and atoll countries. Clim Change 61(3):321–337

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Barnett J, Campbell J (2010) Climate change and small island states: power. Knowledge and the South Pacific, Earthscan

    Google Scholar 

  • Borovnik M (2006) Working overseas: seafarers’ remittances and their distribution in Kiribati. Asia Pacific Viewpoint 47:151–161

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Byg A, Salick J (2009) Local perspectives on a global phenomenon—climate change in Eastern Tibetan villages. Global Environ Change 19(2):156–166

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Chowdhury MR, Chu P-S, Zhao X, Schroeder T, Marra J (2010) Sea level extremes in the U.S.-affiliated Pacific Islands—a coastal hazard scenario to aid in decision analyses. J Coastal Conserv 14(1):53–62

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Connell J (2010) Pacific islands in the global economy: paradoxes of migration and culture. Singap J Trop Geogr 31(1):115–129

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dickinson WR (2009) Pacific atoll living: how long already and until when. GSA Today 19(3):4–10

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Donner SD (2007) Domain of the gods: an editorial essay. Clim Change 85(3–4):231–236

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • FAO (2008) Climate change and food security in Pacific Island Countries. FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, Rome

  • France P (1969) The charter of the land: custom and colonization in Fiji. Oxford University Press, Melbourne

    Google Scholar 

  • Galipaud J-C (2002) Under the volcano: Ni-Vanuatu and their environment. In: Torrence R, Grattan J (eds) Natural disasters and cultural change. Routledge, London, pp 162–171

    Google Scholar 

  • Hassall G (2008) Good governance and political developments in the Pacific: can existing concepts and institutions deliver security? In: Kennedy G (ed) Models of regional governance for pacific island states: the future architecture of pacific regionalism. University of Canterbury Press, Christchurch, pp 211–216

    Google Scholar 

  • Hook S (2009) Institutional reform and state capacity in the South Pacific. Pac Econ Bull 24(2):155–167

    Google Scholar 

  • Hung H-c et al (2011) The first settlement of remote Oceania: the Philippines to the Marianas. Antiquity 85:909–926

    Google Scholar 

  • Hviding E, Bayliss-Smith TP (2000) Islands of Rainforest: agroforestry, logging and eco-tourism in Solomon Islands. Ashgate, Aldershot

    Google Scholar 

  • Iati I (2008) The potential of civil society in climate change adaptation strategies. Political Sci 60(1):19–30

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Johannes RE (2002) The renaissance of community-based marine resource management in Oceania. Ann Rev Ecol Syst 33:317–340

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lane MB, McDonald G (2005) Community-based environmental planning: operational dilemmas, planning principles and possible remedies. J Environ Plan Manage 48:709–731

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lata S, Nunn P (2012) Misperceptions of climate-change risk as barriers to climate-change adaptation: a case study from the Rewa Delta, Fiji. Clim Change 110:169–186

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Marsters E, Lewis N, Friesen W (2006) Pacific flows: the fluidity of remittances in the Cook Islands. Asia-Pacific Viewpoint 47:31–44

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mataki M, Koshy K, Nair V (2007) Top-down, bottom-up: mainstreaming adaptation in Pacific Island townships. In: Leary N et al (eds) Climate change and adaptation. Earthscan, London, pp 264–278

    Google Scholar 

  • McGregor A, Bourke RM, Manley M, Tubuna S, Deo R (2009) Pacific island food security: situation, challenges and opportunities. Pacific Econ Bull 24:24–42

    Google Scholar 

  • Mercer J, Dominey-Howes D, Kelman I, Lloyd K (2007) The potential for combining indigenous and western knowledge in reducing vulnerability to environmental hazards in small island developing states. Environ Hazards 7(4):245–256

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mimura N et al (2007) Small islands. In: Parry ML, Canziani OF, Palutikof JP, van der Linden PJ, Hanson CE (eds) Climate change 2007: impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. Contribution of working group II to the fourth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 687–716

  • Morrison J, Geraghty P, Crowl L (eds) (1994) Science of Pacific Island peoples, vol 1. Ocean and Coastal Studies. Institute of Pacific Studies, University of the South Pacific, Suva

    Google Scholar 

  • Mortreux C, Barnett J (2009) Climate change, migration and adaptation in Funafuti, Tuvalu. Global Environ Change 19(1):105–112

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Nunn PD (2000) Coastal changes over the past 200 years around Ovalau and Moturiki Islands, Fiji: implications for coastal zone management. Aust Geogr 31(1):21–39

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Nunn PD (2007) Climate, environment and society in the Pacific during the Last Millennium. Developments in Earth & Environmental Sciences 6. Elsevier, Amsterdam, Netherlands; Boston, MA, xiv, p 302

  • Nunn PD (2008) Understanding environmental decisionmaking in the rural Pacific Islands: final report for APN CAPaBLE Project CBA2007-03NSY, Asia-Pacific Network (APN). Kobe, Japan

    Google Scholar 

  • Nunn PD (2009a) Responding to the challenges of climate change in the Pacific Islands: management and technological imperatives. Climate Research 40(2–3):211–231

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Nunn PD (2009b) Vanished Islands and hidden continents of the Pacific. University of Hawai’i Press, Honolulu, xii, p 269

  • Nunn PD (2010) Bridging the gulf between science and society: imperatives for minimizing societal disruption from climate change in the Pacific. In: Fukushi K, Hiramatsu A (eds) Adaptation and mitigation strategies for climate change. Springer, Berlin, pp 233–248

    Google Scholar 

  • Nunn PD (2012) Climate change and Pacific Island countries. UNDP, Bangkok

    Google Scholar 

  • PIFS (2007) The Pacific Plan for strengthening regional cooperation and integration. Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, Suva

    Google Scholar 

  • Roberts SM, Wright S, O’Neill P (2007) Good governance in the Pacific? Ambivalence and possibility. Geoforum 38(5):967–984

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Robinson EJZ, Kumar AM, Albers HJ (2010) Protecting developing countries’ forests: enforcement in theory and practice. J Nat Resourc Policy Res 2(1):25–38

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Schandl H, Collins K, Heyenga S, West J (2011) Sustainability assessment of selected countries in the Pacific Islands. CSIRO-AusAID Research for Development Alliance, Canberra

    Google Scholar 

  • Schwarz A-M et al (2011) Vulnerability and resilience of remote rural communities to shocks and global changes: empirical analysis from Solomon Islands. Global Environ Change 21(3):1128–1140

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Solomon SM, Forbes DL (1999) Coastal hazards and associated management issues on South Pacific Islands. Ocean Coast Manag 42:523–554

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Storey D, Hunter S (2010) Kiribati: an environmental ‘perfect storm’. Aust Geogr 41(2):167–181

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Terry JP, Khatri K (2009) People, pigs and pollution—experiences with applying participatory learning and action (PLA) methodology to identify problems of pig-waste management at the village level in Fiji. J Cleaner Prod 17:1393–1400

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Thaman RR (1982) Deterioration of traditional food systems, increasing malnutrition and food dependency in the Pacific Islands. J Food Nutr 39:109–125

    Google Scholar 

  • Thomas FR (2002) Self-reliance in Kiribati: contrasting views of agricultural and fisheries production. Geogr J 168:163–177

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tisdell C (2008) Global warming and the future of Pacific Island countries. Int J Soc Econ 35(12):889–903

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Turner R et al (2007) Declining reliance on marine resources in remote South Pacific societies: ecological versus socio-economic drivers. Coral Reefs 26(4):997–1008

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • UNISDR (2009) Risk and poverty in a changing climate: UNISDR global assessment on disaster risk reduction. United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction Secretariat, p 207

  • van Aalst MK, Cannon T, Burton I (2008) Community level adaptation to climate change: the potential role of participatory community risk assessment. Global Environ Change 18(1):165–179

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Veitayaki J, Tawake A, Aalbersberg W, Rupeni E, Tabunakawai K (2003) Mainstreaming resource conservation: the Fiji locally-managed marine area network and national policy development. In: Jaireth H, Smyth D (eds) Innovative governance, indigenous people. Local communities and protected areas. Ane Books, New Delhi, pp 105–124

    Google Scholar 

  • Webb AP, Kench PS (2010) The dynamic response of reef islands to sea-level rise: evidence from multi-decadal analysis of island change in the Central Pacific. Global Planet Change 72(3):234–246

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Woodroffe CD (2008) Reef-island topography and the vulnerability of atolls to sea-level rise. Global Planet Change 62(1–2):77–96

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

The study on which this work is based was funded by the Asia–Pacific Network for Global Change (APN) through CAPaBLE grant CBA2007-03NSY. Interviews in the Cook Islands were carried out by Miimetua Manuela and Nimerota Jim Brown, in Fiji by Jokim Kitolelei and Duncan Williams, in Kiribati by Elaine Bwebwe and Tiene Tooki, and in Vanuatu by Christy Haruel and Ann Tosiro. Comments by Don Forbes and an anonymous reviewer considerably improved the original manuscript.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Patrick D. Nunn.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Nunn, P.D., Aalbersberg, W., Lata, S. et al. Beyond the core: community governance for climate-change adaptation in peripheral parts of Pacific Island Countries. Reg Environ Change 14, 221–235 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-013-0486-7

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-013-0486-7

Keywords

  • Climate change
  • Pacific islands
  • Community governance
  • Adaptation
  • Sustainability
  • Peripheral areas