Monday 7 November 2011, Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC), Noumea, New Caledonia

'The social, cultural and economic significance of agriculture and fisheries to the people of the Pacific, and the high susceptibility of these sectors to projected climate change impacts means that addressing effects on food production and securing safe drinking water must be a central focus of climate change adaptation initiatives,' the Director-General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) Dr Jimmie Rodgers told a high level Pacific regional meeting in Noumea, New Caledonia today.

Heads of government, ministers and ambassadors from 22 Pacific Island countries and territories (PICTs) and Australia, France, New Zealand and the USA have gathered at the headquarters of the region's largest development agency for the 7th Conference of the Pacific Community.

The theme of the two-day conference is 'Climate Change and Food Security - Managing the Risks for Sustainable Development'.

Dr Rodgers added, 'Building a better understanding of the risks presented by climate change and the types of actions that can help minimise these risks is essential to sound, evidence-based decision-making.'

'Many of the projected impacts of climate change can be effectively managed through adopting a well-informed and targeted risk management approach to addressing existing threats to food production and water security.'

Climate change projections indicate there will be many challenges to achieving the sustainable development objectives of PICTs.
Managing risks to food security (including water) and reducing exposure to extreme weather events are arguably the most pressing climate change issues confronting PICTs.

Effective risk reduction strategies, both proactive and reactive, need to be put in place to minimise the impacts of climate change.

Key challenges for PICTs include improving the understanding and quantification of climate-related risks to food security, identifying viable adaptation options and marshalling resources to implement timely and effective responses.

'Decision-makers must ensure that timely and cost-effective responses are put in place to minimise the emerging additional risks of climate change to food security,' told Dr Rodgers told the Conference.

'Importantly, your decisions will depend on having relevant data together with information and knowledge products to determine levels of acceptable risk,' he said.

Given the human and financial resource constraints faced by many PICTs, climate change adaptation responses must take into account the relative timeframes and risk profiles of the projected impacts on PICTs.

Responses must also ensure that available resources are allocated to the highest priority and most cost-effective actions.

SPC addresses climate change through all its technical programmes, including those in agriculture, forestry, aquaculture, fisheries, water and sanitation, and disaster risk reduction.

Representatives from regional and international development agencies and international aid donors are also attending the Conference.

The Conference of the Pacific Community, which meets every two years, is SPC's governing body.