Pacific Islands Climate Outlook Forum focusses on disaster risk reduction and information relevance

17 October 2016, Nadi, Fiji - The second Pacific Islands Climate Outlook Forum officially opened today with national, regional and international experts on climate services and disaster risk reduction present to explore common approaches and best practices for climate services that can be extended throughout the Pacific Island region.

With the cyclone season closing in, the two-day event hosted by the Fiji Meteorology Service in Nadi is placing a special focus on disaster risk reduction and the importance of climate information for community preparedness.

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Fiji Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport Deputy Secretary, Policy and Planning, Mr Lui Naisara in his welcoming remarks, "Looking forward, we must be vigilant in the effective provisions of credible timely science information and dissemination and coordination of key agencies during such states of emergency, to ensure we minimise the impact to critical infrastructural systems that our economies are so dependent on, and more importantly, the safety and protection of human lives, particularly our vulnerable communities."

He added, "The morning after the devastation of Cyclone Winston was one of the saddest moment in Fiji when our people lost families and loved ones. The tropical cyclone season is only a few weeks away. Your challenge is to inform our governments in the region for when another cyclone or drought visits our shores that our people are well prepared."

Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme's Climate Change Director, Dr Netatua Pelesikoti said, "In a few weeks' time, we will again enter the tropical cyclone season where destructive winds and waves can bring about devastation to our communities.

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"The PICOF concept is an opportunity to bring together the providers of climate information, that is, the National Meteorological and Hydrological Services and one of the end users of this information identified by the Global Framework for Climate Services, the Disaster Risk Reduction Community or the National Disaster Management Offices at the country level, in a roundtable discussion where information can be exchanged and guidance on decision-making."

The Forum is expected to improve the understanding of how seasonal climate outlooks are produced, how they are and can be made regionally and nationally relevant, and how they can be tailored to the needs of end users.

UNDP Pacific Office in Fiji Country Director and Head of Regional Policy and Programme, Mr Bakhodir Burkhanov said in his opening remarks, "Last Saturday, I was able to see first-hand the recovery efforts and the resilience of the people of Koro Island here in Fiji, as they rebuild their lives after TC Winston. It is therefore extremely important that technical information on adverse weather is simplified in a manner that can be easily understood by communities, so that they can take pre-cautionary measures to protect lives and safeguard assets to the extent that they can."

He added, "We might not be able to control when and where a disaster strikes, but we can certainly educate and prepare communities to ensure that there are the appropriate preventive measures and local plans in place to protect them and their vital assets."

In 2015, UNDP signed a partnership framework agreement with the Government of Russia to create a Trust Fund for Development. In the Pacific the Government has allocated over US$8m for a Regional Disaster Resilience in the Pacific Small Island Developing States (SIDS) Project also called RESPAC and the Tropical Cyclone Pam Rehabilitation Project in Vanuatu.

PICOF2 cMr Dimitry Maximychev, Deputy Director, Department of International Organisations,
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Russia

Russia Ministry of Foreign Affairs Department of International Organisations Deputy Director, Mr. Dmitry Maximychev said, "The RESPAC project was initiated by Russia as an expression of solidarity, strategic cooperation and friendship with the island states of the Pacific and also a contribution to the global efforts to support small island developing countries.

The project and its activities are fully in line with the global 2030 agenda for sustainable development, the Samoa Pathway, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction for 2015-2030. The overall goal of the project is to effectively address the consequences of and responses to climate-related natural hazards.

Maximychev added, "We are confident that our joint efforts will enable us to significantly improve the resilience of the Pacific SIDS to climate-related hazards and will further improve our strategic cooperation and friendship with partners in the region."

World Meteorological Organization representative, Ms. Lisa-Anne Jepsen in her opening speech thanked participants and organisers of the forum.

"I am hoping that during the next two days we will be able to look forward and consider together how to make the PICOF process sustainable, strengthening communications between providers and users of climate services."

The forum concludes tomorrow with a regional statement which will provide guidance and emphasis on all the communities on the importance of preparedness and remaining vigilant.

The Pacific Islands Climate Outlook Forum is held in Nadi, Fiji 17 - 18 October, 2016.  It brings together national regional and international experts from the Meteorological Services Sector and the Disaster Risk Reduction, to provide a platform to consolidate seasonal forecasts from multiple sources to issue a consensus climate outlook for the Pacific region.  This will include the presentation and discussion of the Tropical Cyclone outlook for the upcoming Season.

Partners supporting the PICOF2 are Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme, World Meteorological Organisation, Environment and Climate Change Canada, United Nations Development Programme, Australian Bureau of Meteorology, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Climate and Oceans Support Program in the Pacific, Government of Fiji – Fiji Meteorological Service, National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Pacific Meteorological Council, University of the South Pacific and the Government of the Russian Federation.

The PICOF-2 is undertaken with the financial support of the Government of Canada through the Federal Department of the Environment (Ce projet a été réalisé avec l'appui financier du gouvernement du Canada agissant par l'entremise du ministère fédéral de l'Environnement), financial contribution by the Government of the Russian Federation and the Government of Australia.
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