Increasing financing for climate change mitigation and adaptation is a critical goal for Pacific island countries and territories, according to panelists who presented Tuesday at a conference featuring leaders and others from the region.

The Pacific Islands Conference of Leaders took place in Honolulu just over two weeks before many Pacific Island leaders will meet in Washington for a summit hosted by President Joe Biden amid growing tensions between the United States and China.

Representatives of 15 countries and territories convened at the East-West Center adjacent to the University of Hawaii Manoa for the three-day conference, which kicked off Monday. Tuesday marked a day of public panels and private meetings on issues ranging from pandemic resilience to transparent governance.

Climate change also was a frequent topic of discussion. Demetrio Innocenti of the Green Climate Fund said the need to accelerate access to climate finance especially in the Pacific is a key goal of his organization.

An aerial photo of the northeastern coastline of Choiseul island, Solomon Islands.
The Solomon Islands was one of the countries participating in a conference this week at the University of Hawaii Manoa. Getty Images/iStockphoto

Joining a panel via Zoom from Europe, Innocenti noted that the Green Climate Fund, which is the world’s largest, has worked on simplifying its accreditation process to better enable Pacific communities to receive the money.

But Pacific entities hoping to tap into the climate financing face many other challenges, noted Pepetua Latasi, who Zoomed in from Tuvalu.

She noted the importance of having access to data and science-based information to strengthen project proposals.

The need for better data came up repeatedly in Tuesday’s panels. Ryan Longman, ocean research fellow at the Honolulu-based East-West Center, described the Hawaii Climate Data Portal, demonstrating how the website enables mapping of rainfall.

“It took so long to do something like this prior to this coming online and now a 7 or an 8 year old can make a map in a number of seconds,” he said.

He also announced the soft launch of the Pacific Islands Portal, which will start by hosting data from Guam and American Samoa and link to existing climate data resources for countries and territories throughout the Pacific.

This week’s conference in Honolulu is the 12th since the forum was created in 1980 by former Fiji Prime Minister Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara and former Hawaii Gov. George Ariyoshi.

The countries participating in person included the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, the Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Tuvalu. American Samoa participated virtually.

On Monday, attendees met with representatives from Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea. Gender equality was also discussed on Monday by the members of the Women of the Wave Network, a group of women from the Council of Regional Organizations in the Pacific.

Gov. David Ige and his wife hosted delegates for dinner Monday evening.

The United States has stepped up engagement in the Pacific as concern has increased about China’s activity in the region. Biden invited Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, Palau, Nauru, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Samoa, Tuvalu, Tonga and Fiji to take part in the Sept. 28-29 summit in Washington, D.C.

Civil Beat’s coverage of climate change is supported by the Environmental Funders Group of the Hawaii Community Foundation, Marisla Fund of the Hawaii Community Foundation and the Frost Family Foundation.

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