Interview: Yusuke Taishi - Global Environmental Finance (UNDP)

In preparation for PMC-5 meeting in Samoa, we had the opportunity to speak with Yusuke Taishi, Regional Team Leader for the Global Environmental Finance team for Asia and the Pacific in the UNDP, to talk about the issues facing islands in the Pacific and the better ways that met services can access global finance.

Could you give us a bit of a background about yourself?

I'm currently working as the regional team leader for the Global Environmental Finance team for the Asia Pacific region in UNDP and, technically, I'm working as a climate change advisor supporting countries in the region in accessing various sources of finance for climate change adaptation. Currently, I'm managing a portfolio of about $200 million in eight countries.

I've been with UNDP since 2008.

Could you tell us about your work in Tuvalu?

I started supporting Tuvalu right after I moved to Bangkok in 2010. I led the design of an adaptation project, which included a component on establishing reliable disaster warning and communication systems in the country. The project design started in 2011, was approved in 2013, started implementation in 2014 and it’s closing this year. Since 2015, I have also been involved in the design of the first Green Climate Fund project which focuses on building coastal resilience in three islands of the country. The project with funding of US$36 million from GCF was approved in June 2017. I'm currently supporting the implementation of the project.

What work do you do in the Pacific region in general? Do you work directly with met services?

My work is to support countries in the Asia Pacific region in accessing financing for climate change adaptation and I cover eight countries - two from the Pacific region (Tuvalu and Tonga). The projects that I help design cover a range of topics based on country needs such as agriculture, water, coastal protection, and natural disasters. In the Pacific, Tuvalu was the only country where my project directly supported their met service.

In terms of climate, what changes have you seen in the Pacific islands?

This is a difficult question. My experience in the Pacific, especially through Tuvalu, is only over the last 9 years, a period too short to say anything definitively about trends in climate. However, we all hear about scientific evidence and anecdotes about increasing/intensifying extreme events, rising see levels, etc.

What are the main weather hazards in the Pacific islands and what impact does this have on the population?

Sea level rise and intensifying cyclones are probably the most devastating manifestation of climate change in the Pacific, especially in low lying atoll islands like Tuvalu. We have seen the impact of tropical cyclones like Pam (2015), Winston (2016), Gita (2018), that affected the region in the last few years. Not only are the Pacific Island Nations extremely vulnerable to cyclones because of the geomorphological features of many of their islands, but the impact compounds with their baseline vulnerabilities such as small economies, dispersed islands, underdeveloped disaster risk management capacities, limited human resources, etc. So once they are hit by a major cyclones, the impact on the social, economic and institutional systems trends to be more significant and the recovery takes longer.

Also, the impact of climate change on food and water security is important areas as well. Changes in weather patterns affect food production and availability of fresh water.

In your experience, are the Pacific islands currently equipped to handle these hazards?

No. Even the most advanced nations in the world are struggling to cope with the various forms of climate change impact. Effective adaptation requires a change in social, economic, cultural, institutional, and technological systems, and a lot of resources are required to effect these changes. The Pacific islands definitely needs support from the international community to make these changes.

In your experience, what are the best strategies for met services to respond to these weather hazards and protect the population?

I think effective regional/international cooperation is critical to overcome the geographical, technical and human resource constraints. It will be difficult, in many cases, for a single small nation to be fully equipped with the required capacity to provide effective, sustainable met services to its population. So the overall strategy to build the capacities of the region, with assistance from the regional and international community, I think would go a long way.

What are the best practices for a met service to access finance?

There are perhaps four key sources of financing to serve the capital investment requirements (hardware, institutions, human resources, etc) for a met service: 1) domestic financing; 2) global funds; 3) bilateral support; and 4) public development financial institutions (e.g. ADB, WB, etc).

When we say global funds that are relevant for met services, there are several global funds dedicated for climate change adaptation like the Least Developed Countries Fund, Special Climate Change Fund, Adaptation Fund and Green Climate Fund (which also has a mitigation financing window). In successfully accessing these funds, it’s important for colleagues from met services to think about what “impact-based forecasts” they can deliver in their respective countries. Met services often issue forecasts/projections but without tailor making them for specific use (e.g. disaster risk reduction, agriculture, water, health). Adaptation actions, which these funds have been established support, can be improved if a met service can develop (in partnership with relevant sector ministries) and disseminate forecasts/projections with specific uses in mind. In other words, if a met service continues to ask for money simply to expand and maintain their weather monitoring networks simply to meet their narrow-focused mandate, then it would be difficult to mobilise resources from these funds.