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Tackling climate change in Vanuatu

21 September 2017
Climate Finance Access Hub expert speaks about his experience in Vanuatu.

Advising a nation ranked number one on the World Risk Index for natural disasters about funding effective climate change action means Anthony Polack has his work cut out.

He’s the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Climate Finance Access Hub expert who is assigned to the Ministry of Climate Change in Vanuatu, a South Pacific Ocean nation made up of roughly 80 islands that stretch 1,300km. The country is considered one of the most vulnerable to climate change and natural disasters.

That was underlined in the early hours of today when a 6.4 magnitude earthquake hit Vanuatu. At a depth of 200km, however, there were no reports of property damage or loss of life.

This year the Commonwealth’s Climate Finance Access Hub began deploying experts to ministries of finance and environment to help developing countries access the billions of dollars pledged for effective climate action. The initiative is an integral part of the Commonwealth’s new regenerative development model and governments have welcomed its vital support.

Here is what attracted Anthony to the role:

Tell me a bit about yourself and what you did before you joined the Hub.

I have worked on energy and climate change issues for the last 15 years for various national governments and international organisations. I have always been interested in international development, so after working on the Clean Development Mechanism for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Secretariat in Germany, I undertook an Australian Government volunteer placement in Vanuatu.

I wanted to assist, first-hand, in lessening the impacts of climate change on small island developing states and least developed countries. I worked with the government’s energy unit and subsequently used my experiences as a basis for my master’s thesis on renewable energy and electrification in Vanuatu. I have since focused my work on small states, working in Palau in the North Pacific, on a European Union-funded energy efficiency and renewable energy project for the Pacific community, and Fiji in the South Pacific for a joint German Government-funded United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UN Environment and World Resources Institute Climate Finance Readiness programme.

Prior to joining the Hub, I was a consultant, which included work with UNDP on its Low Emission Capacity Building programme and the energy chapter for the Commonwealth’s ‘A Sustainable Future for Small States: Pacific 2050’. This gave me a greater understanding of the Commonwealth’s work, especially with small states and climate change, and when another opportunity arose to work with the Commonwealth, it was a great chance to be involved with Vanuatu again.

What does being an expert at the Hub involve, and how will you support Vanuatu?

Vanuatu is listed number one in the World Risk Index and considered one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change and natural disasters. Vanuatu was devastated by Cyclone Pam in 2015 and had cyclones Cook and Donna last April and May.

My work involves supporting and assisting the country’s efforts to better access climate finance to fund adaptation and mitigation interventions to lessen the impacts of climate change. Specifically, I am involved in institutional and human capacity building, raising awareness and improved communication regarding climate finance, and strengthening public finance management to meet the fiduciary requirements of direct access to global climate funds, such as the Green Climate Fund (GCF). I have also been involved in establishing standard operating procedures for Vanuatu’s National Advisory Board for Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction, to assist Vanuatu’s accreditation as a GCF National Implementing Entity. I will also assist, where possible, with finalising the submission of climate change projects and requests for funding to the GCF.

How can the Hub change the climate change paradigm for climate-vulnerable countries?

The Climate Finance Access Hub allows climate-vulnerable countries to use the Commonwealth’s hub and spoke approach of pooling capacity by having climate finance advisers placed in government ministries in each country. The advisers assist in sharing experiences, knowledge, and information from different perspectives so that solutions can be found more quickly and using less resources.

A successful approach to seeking climate finance for an agriculture project in Barbados, for example, may also work in Antigua and Barbuda, and in Vanuatu. Conversely, a first of its kind climate change adaptation programme in Vanuatu may also be replicated in Namibia, Swaziland or Jamaica to achieve similar outcomes. The information, knowledge and experiences shared will be made readily available so that the Hub is a central resource for climate finance information and capacity building.