The COP27 Loss and Damage agreement was a start, but where is the urgency? In Solomon Islands we are already experiencing the most severe consequences of climate change.

Nerol Vaekesa | LinkedIn

Like many other vulnerable regions, Solomon Islands grapples with the devastating impacts of climate change. Rising global temperatures have already led to rising sea levels, extreme weather events, and the loss of precious cultural and natural heritage. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has recently made its most dire sea level projections yet, with global sea levels expected to rise between 0.29m and 1.1m by the end of this century. The impacts of climate change are now evident worldwide, with grave consequences for island communities like those in the Solomon Islands.

One significant effect of climate change in Solomon Islands, and in many regions, is the loss of protective mangrove trees, leaving communities exposed to destructive storm surges and waves that damage homes and claim lives. Once-pristine shorelines have vanished underwater, causing immense disruption to livelihoods. In the Western Solomon Islands is an island that was once a picnic spot rich in flower species and home to a diverse natural ecosystem. In less than three years, the sea level rise invaded the island and left only reef debris. The looming sea-level rise threatens to engulf more land and vital freshwater sources, leaving the islanders facing an uncertain and perilous future.

Kwai Island in Malaita Province is facing sea level riseKwai Island in Malaita province is facing adverse sea level rise. Credit Ernest Ta’asi

Climate change is not an abstract concept to the people of the Solomon Islands; it is now their daily reality. They bear witness to the alarming impacts, experiencing abnormal temperature fluctuations, irregular rains, prolonged droughts, and devastating cyclones. There are two seasons in Solomon Islands, wet season from November to April and dry season from May to October. Today, the seasons do not fall as expected, increased heavy rains are ongoing throughout the months, causing flooding in some islands. These stories are not mere narratives shared through media but lived experiences etched in the hearts of islanders.

Despite these harsh realities, the Solomon Islands efforts to tackle climate change are hampered by the geographical setting of the Islands. Accessing climate finance is challenging, hindering the reach of essential initiatives to all 992 islands. With numerous islands and communities already grappling with severe losses, there is an urgent need for increased support to address this global crisis. One of the country’s recent achievements is the launch of the Green Climate Fund project through Save the Children Australia. In July 2023, the Solomon Islands Knowledge Action Sustainability for Resilient Villages was launched. The project will reach approximately 170 communities in six provinces in the Solomon Islands, 26% of the country’s population.

A positive step taken by the international community is the Loss and Damage Fund agreement approved at COP27 in Egypt. This agreement holds promise for frontline communities like those in the Solomon Islands, but time is of the essence. The availability and accessibility of these funds are critical to its success.

However, at the village level, there is little awareness of international efforts and funding commitments. Islanders have limited knowledge of ongoing initiatives, leaving them to face the consequences of climate change without the necessary support. Their firsthand experience serves as the testament to the urgency of this issue.

Loss and damage in the Solomon Islands demands immediate and robust action. The impacts of climate change are already taking a severe toll on communities, threatening homes, livelihoods, and way of life. International efforts and funding commitments, like the Loss and Damage Fund agreement, offer hope, but their effective implementation and reach to the most vulnerable must be prioritised. We call on the global community to collectively stand in solidarity with those at the frontline of this climate crisis and ensure they receive the support they need to navigate the uncertain road ahead.

Marau Market Guadalcanal Province, Solomon Islands. Credit Ernest Ta’asi

All image credits Ernest Ta’asi