MANILA, PHILIPPINES - Low-lying Pacific island countries, which are among the most vulnerable in the world to climate change, are stepping up efforts to counter the threats posed by rising sea levels and extreme weather events.

To support national actions, the Asian Development Bank's (ADB) Board of Directors approved $3.47 million in grants to help the 14 Pacific developing member countries (DMCs) build up their capacity to respond to challenges posed by changing climatic conditions.

"The assistance will help develop climate change adaptation and mitigation plans among Pacific DMCs, and where possible build on or complement existing national adaptation plans of action and climate change strategies," said S. Hafeez Rahman, Director General of ADB's Pacific Department.

Pacific island nations are characterized by their small size, remoteness and fragile environments. Climate change-linked events, such as increased storms and rising sea levels, threaten both their economies and, in some instances, their existence. Governments in the region are moving to respond to the threats but face financial, technical, scientific and human resource constraints.

ADB's assistance will support selected DMCs through a Pacific Climate Change Program, which will help mainstream climate change risk management into each country's development strategies and programs. It will also help build up the capacity of the DMCs to prepare and implement climate change adaptation plans, and will identify and promote mitigation projects, such as renewable energy projects that can be upscaled, and those that support potential carbon trading through the Clean Development Mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol.

The assistance will seek to complement existing climate change activities in the region. It will also assess financing gaps and examine cofinancing opportunities with development partners for future assistance and investments in key sectors covered by ADB's Pacific area work program from 2010 to 2012.

Based on that work plan, funding for projects which require climate adaptation measures will average about $130 million from 2010 to 2012. ADB's Pacific Department will implement the projects, through its Pacific Operations Division. The project will be completed by September 2011.

The project grants include $1.78 million from ADB's Technical Assistance Special Fund, $1.36 million grant from ADB's Climate Change Fund, and $325,000 grant from the Canadian Cooperation Fund on Climate Change, administered by ADB. Pacific DMCs will contribute $350,000 in kind towards the total cost of $3.81 million. The Climate Change Fund was established in 2008 - with an initial contribution of $40 million from ADB - to help finance mitigation and adaptation projects.