Fiji's Emission Reduction Program to Build Resilient Communities
The world and our country as we know is changing. Since 1993, Fiji has recorded a six millimetre (0.2 inch) increase in sea level annually. The rapid rise in sea levels and the resulting saltwater intrusion that stem from the increased ferocity of coastal floods have made portions of our island nation uninhabitable. This together with the alarming rate of deforestation increases the urgency to reverse the impacts of Climate Change for the sake of our future.
Facing the backdrop of these severe effects, the Fijian Government has ensured all its national plans and strategies emphasise the need to embed climate change mitigation and adaptation as well as resilience initiatives in all national and sectoral plans and strategies. More recently is the draft Climate Change Bill that is currently undergoing consultations.
Fiji’s efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change through the reduction of emissions from deforestation and forest degradation began in 2009, and to which Fiji through the lead financial agency – Ministry of Economy and the lead implementation agency – the Ministry of Forestry and other stakeholders have together progressed towards major milestones.
Some of these milestones include the Fiji National REDD+ Policy endorsed in 2011 and which is currently being reviewed and updated, Fiji becoming a recipient of the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF) REDD+ Readiness grant of USD$8.5million for REDD+ Readiness activities in 2015, Fiji successfully submitting its Readiness-Package at the FCPF Participants Committee Twenty Seventh (PC 27) Meeting on Fiji’s Readiness process and Fiji’s Emission Reductions Program Document (ERPD) gets accepted into the Carbon Fund.
Team Leader for the REDD+ program in Fiji Ilaisa Tulele said the endorsement of both Fiji’s Readiness-Package and the ERPD strengthened Fiji’s access to the FCPF Carbon Fund with the World Bank for the implementation of its Emission Reductions Program (ERP).
In July 2019, Fiji’s ERPD was endorsed without conditions by the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF).
In January 2021, the Emission Reduction Program Agreement (ERPA) was signed between the Fijian Government and the FCPF.
This is indeed a milestone achievement for Fiji as this will begin to address deforestation and forest degradation and unlock rewards for national and local efforts to reduce carbon emissions.
Emissions Reduction Program
With the recent signing on 28 January 2021, of the ERPA between Government and the FCPF, Fijian communities that choose to participate will be rewarded for efforts to reducing carbon emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.
The Ministries of Economy and Forestry will play leading roles in the implementation of activities in the next five years in conjunction with stakeholders across Government, the private sector, civil society organisations and communities.
Mr. Tulele said the ER Program will focus on 20 districts on the islands of Viti Levu, Vanua Levu and Taveuni with an area totalling about 1,685742 ha or about 90% of Fiji of critical terrestrial biodiversity.
“The ERP accounting area has a population of approximately 734,307 people and the islands are generally hilly with the population often concentrated on coastal plains and undulating rolling hills of peri-urban areas,” he said.
He added, Fiji’s ER program is expected to reduce 9,500ha of deforestation over the five years of implementation.
Mr. Tulele emphasized that Fiji’s ER program sites have been selected through stakeholder participatory meetings and validated by the REDD+ Steering Committee.
“There was unanimous agreement to target existing forest area and to select 20 districts with areas at high risk of forest loss and degradation; areas with large communities and settlements at the forest edge; area with high poverty and known biodiversity hotspots,” he said.
He highlighted that even though the 20 districts had been selected for specific interventions this would not deter areas outside the priority districts from participating.
For Viti Levu, the districts include Nalotawa, Savatu and Tavua in the Ba Province, Namataku, Noikoro and Tuvu in the Nadroga/Navosa Province, Saivou in the Ra Province, Lutu, Nagonenicolo and Naboubuco in the Naitasiri Province and Serua in the Province of Serua.
For Vanua Levu and Taveuni, the districts include, Bua in the Province of Bua, Vaturova, Saqani, Tunuloa and Taveuni in the Cakaudrove Province, Dreketi and Seaqaqa in the Macuata Province and Wailevu and Labasa in the Province of Macuata.
Mr. Tulele said that Fiji’s ER Program will address the main drivers of deforestation and forest degradation through integrated land use planning, forest conservation of native trees, sustainable use of pine and mahogany plantations, community driven afforestation, climate smart agriculture and alternative livelihood initiatives.
“The program also aims to support restoration of degraded lands through afforestation and reforestation and to promote Fiji Pine Ltd. managed plantation forestry activities in 2500ha per year (1,219ha above BAU) and Fiji Hardwood Corp. Ltd. managed plantation activities in 478ha above BAU.
“At the same time community-based afforestation and reforestation activities are proposed in support of the Govt. initiative of planting 2 million trees a year where carbon enhancement planting is expected to cover an estimated 5,750ha by the end of the five-year period,” Mr. Tulele said.
The program will also include training and agricultural extension services to establish community plantations and woodlots and promote agroforestry planting systems through yaqona and vanilla farming.
“Agroforestry will focus on restoration of riparian zones estimated at 5,000ha over 5 years and shade grown agriculture is proposed for implementation in 5,000 ha over 5-year period. A total area of 36,400 ha is proposed to be set aside as protected area.
“These sustainable land management and sustainable forest management activities is what will boost alternative income sources for our communities and in doing so ensure that there is less pressure on the use of forest resources,” he said.
Mr Tulele emphasized that no one community, landowner, land user or those that own freehold land or lease land will be forced to participate in Fiji’s ER Program.
“This is keeping in line with the Cancun Safeguards and the principles of Free, Prior, Informed Consent (FPIC) where there must be full and effective participation of relevant stakeholders including indigenous peoples and local communities may choose to participate at their own free will,” he said.
He said an inclusive benefit sharing plan was developed through extensive stakeholder consultations at national and local levels, to ensure that participating stakeholders, and particularly local communities, are fairly recognized and rewarded for their role in reducing emissions.
Mr. Tulele said an ER Program Awareness package is currently being prepared in consultation with stakeholders and once the necessary toolkit is available in English and translated into the vernaculars, the Ministry will work with the REDD+ CSO Platform as well as the Provincial offices in disseminating information and making Fiji’s ERP known in communities, schools, statutory bodies, the private sector and to resource owners.
He added that land and forest resource owners and users are being encouraged to visit the forestry offices closer to them and request for information on Fiji’s ER Program.
By reconciling humanity with nature, redressing unsustainable practices and ensuring sustainable and inclusive recovery, Fiji’s ER Program will help to build climate resilient communities and ultimately secure the future for generations indefinitely.