Climate change has emerged as perhaps the most important challenge of our time because its impacts will determine the way that we live and survive in the future,' commented Inoke Ratukalou, acting Director of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) Land Resources Division.

Mr Ratukalou made the comments at a regional workshop on forest carbon assessment and monitoring in Pacific Island countries and territories currently underway in Nadi, Fiji.

'The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its 4th Assessment Report in 2007 described the Pacific Islands as one of the world's most vulnerable regions with respect to the adverse impacts of climate change.'

'The effects of climate change are very likely to adversely affect agricultural and forestry production systems in our region, and issues such as food and water security, coastal vulnerability and biodiversity loss, and their socio-economic, environmental and cultural implications, will be important considerations for us over the coming decades,' Ratukalou said.

In the current international climate change negotiations under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the important role of forests and trees in reducing the emissions of carbon dioxide is well recognised.

This, Mr Ratukalou added, has opened up opportunities for new forestry funding through mechanisms such as REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) and REDD+ (which includes the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks). These programmes will enable developing countries, including those in the Pacific, to pursue measures to improve the management of their forest and tree resources.

'One of the major technical barriers for REDD+ implementation anywhere is the accurate forest and carbon monitoring at the national level, and this will be extra challenging for the Pacific given the fact that most of us have never done any national forest inventory or have not done it to the desired level of acceptability and regularity,' he said.

The workshop aims to build capacity of key personnel and institutions on forest carbon assessment and monitoring in Pacific Island countries and territories and share information on the latest methodologies and technologies for forest carbon monitoring to identify common challenges.

Other goals of the workshop are to facilitate discussion on the regional standard methodologies, to establish a regional forest carbon monitoring technical group, and to allow continued discussion towards the formulation of the draft Regional Policy Framework for REDD+. The workshop also includes training on development, use and management of relational databases for analysing, storing and reporting of forest information using Microsoft Access.

The week-long workshop, attended by 54 participants/observers, is being supported by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the European Union African-Caribbean-Pacific Forest Research Network (EU-ACP-FORENET), German technical cooperation agency Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) via the SPC/GIZ Regional Project on Climate Protection through Forest Conservation in Pacific Island Countries, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute (FFPRI) of Japan, Forest Research Institute of Papua New Guinea (PNGFRI), Centre for International Forest Research (CIFOR), and Asia Pacific Network on Sustainable Forest Management and Rehabilitation (APFNet) in Beijing, China.