Pacific Island government leaders and ministers as well as their metropolitan counterparts attending the 7th Conference of the Pacific Community in New Caledonia this week recognised the importance of ensuring that food and water security can be maintained in the face of climate change now and in coming decades.

Heads of government, ministers and ambassadors from 22 Pacific Island countries and territories and Australia, France, New Zealand and the USA met over two days at the Noumea headquarters of the region's largest development agency, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC). The theme of the meeting was 'Climate Change and Food Security - Managing the Risks for Sustainable Development'.
Delegates welcomed the timeliness of the theme, which highlighted the range of projected impacts that climate change poses, particularly to food and water security in the Pacific Islands region.

The Conference emphasised the importance of a paradigm shift in thinking and planning for climate change, that is, not necessarily 'doing different business but rather doing business differently' to determine the level of acceptable risk at all points and prepare to respond effectively.

The Conference agreed that clearly no one organisation can address climate change related challenges in the Pacific region and that partnerships between development organisations such as SPC and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) were key. SPC and SPREP signed an agreement to collaborate closely on climate change issues at the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) Leaders Meeting in Auckland in September.

The Conference welcomed the initiative by the heads of CROP (Council of Regional Organisations in the Pacific) organisations to establish a CROP Executives Climate Change Subcommittee, which is jointly chaired by the Secretary General of PIFS and the Director of SPREP, to ensure activities undertaken by the various agencies to support island nations are streamlined and well coordinated under a 'many partners, one team' approach, in line with the Pacific Plan.

The CROP subcommittee will meet shortly to articulate the role of each agency in addressing climate change and agree on how they will collaborate to better support Pacific Island countries and territories in their efforts to undertake adaptation initiatives nationally and engage in international forums.

SPC has also developed an internal Climate Change Engagement Strategy. As well as supporting cooperation between SPC's own technical programmes covering 20 sectors, the strategy outlines how SPC will work with partners.

Among its efforts to support future food security in the Pacific Islands, SPC has just produced a report, Food Security in the Pacific and East Timor and its vulnerability to climate change, for the Australian Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, which was distributed to Conference delegates.

A highlight of the Conference was the launch of the book Vulnerability of Tropical Pacific Fisheries and Aquaculture to Climate Change. The Conference commended SPC for leading this ground-breaking scientific research project to assess the possible impacts of climate change on Pacific fisheries.

Almost 90 scientists and fisheries experts from 36 institutions around the world have contributed to this analysis of the effects of projected changes to surface climate, the tropical Pacific Ocean, fish habitats and stocks to identify implications for future food security, economic development and livelihoods.

Representatives of the Timor Leste Government attended the Conference for the first time as observers. Regional and international development agencies and international aid donors were also represented at the two-yearly conference of SPC's governing body.
SPC's members include the 22 PICTs it serves: American Samoa, Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Caledonia, Niue, Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Pitcairn Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, and Wallis and Futuna, plus its four founding members ? Australia, France, New Zealand and the USA.