The University of the South Pacific (USP) is currently hosting the second Author’s Conference of the Pacific Oceans and Climate Crisis Assessment (POCCA) Project at the Tanoa International Hotel in Nadi.
The conference was officially opened by the Honourable Acting Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Professor Biman Prasad.
In his opening speech, Professor Biman Prasad, the Honourable Acting Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, highlighted the significance of this groundbreaking regional conference on climate change assessment, which brings together two esteemed Pacific educational institutions, the University of Canterbury in New Zealand and the University of the South Pacific.
Professor Biman expressed his sincere gratitude, stating, “I wholeheartedly thank the Government of New Zealand for their support of this project and their investment in local researchers and expertise.”
Climate change is no longer a distant threat; it is a present reality that our Pacific family experience firsthand. The effects of climate change are evident in our daily lives. Although it has been seven years since Cyclone Winston struck Fiji, the impacts of the disaster, both economically and emotionally, are still being felt.
The Pacific islands face significant threats from climate change, including the loss of coastal infrastructure and land, intensified cyclones and droughts, damage to subsistence crops and coastal fisheries, the degradation of coral reefs and mangroves, and the spread of certain diseases. Our people are directly affected by these consequences.
It is crucial for us to integrate traditional knowledge with modern scientific advancements, research, and development in order to find innovative solutions that will help us adapt to the challenges posed by climate change.
Professor Biman emphasised, “As representatives of our people in global climate change negotiations, we must ensure that their stories, interests, and voices resonate through us. That is why gatherings like this are vital in reminding us of our role in the larger picture. Ultimately, climate change negotiations, despite their technical jargon, are about people—our people.”
He stated, “Your climate assessments are fundamental building blocks for Fiji and the Pacific’s international diplomacy. Fiji urges the industrial world to make substantial contributions to the new loss and damage facility before the upcoming climate talks in the UAE later this year. The time for mere talk is long gone.”
The POCCA project aims to unite Pacific Indigenous knowledge systems with western scientific approaches in a harmonious way. Pacific Indigenous knowledge of climate change is built upon centuries of knowledge, daily experiences, and observations. It involves adapting to change, responding innovatively to disasters, developing resilient mechanisms, protecting the environment, and recognizing the interconnectedness between the ocean, sky, land, and people. By taking an interdisciplinary approach, the project integrates data that is often missing from Pacific regional stances on climate change. The information gathered from this assessment will enhance policy development for Pacific governments and contribute to global negotiations by highlighting the unique perspectives and experiences of the Pacific region.
The three-day author’s conference, which will conclude on June 18, will bring together 80 authors and contributors from across the Pacific.
The three-year project is funded by New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFAT) and is a collaboration between the Pacific Center for Environment and Sustainable Development (PaCE-SD), the University of the South Pacific (USP), and the Macmillan Brown Centre for Pacific Studies at the University of Canterbury (UC).