(Photo credit: SPC/WTYSL)
Can you tell us about yourself and your work at the Pacific Community (SPC)?
My name is Dirk Snyman, I am the Climate Finance Coordinator, which means that I manage SPC’s Climate Finance Unit within the Climate Change and Environmental Sustainability (CCES) programme. For the past ten years, I have worked on climate change finance – especially how to use global funding mechanisms such as the Global Environment Facility, the Adaptation Fund and the Green Climate Fund to help countries achieve their climate adaptation and mitigation objectives.
My work within SPC’s Climate Finance Unit comprises identifying climate change associated impacts and threats in the Pacific, then working with SPC’s Member countries and territories to design projects that respond to these threats and of course to get these projects funded.
How does the Climate Finance Unit help SPC’s member countries and territories face climate change?
Navigating global sources of climate finance is not easy. The donors have very strict criteria, policies and procedures – and it is often challenging to abide by these rules in the Pacific context. The main challenge SPC’s member countries and territories face is capacity constraints, particularly in terms of human resources. It is quite complex and takes a long time to develop a mitigation or adaptation project for submission to one of the funding bodies I mentioned earlier, and at the end of the day, many countries just don’t have enough personnel meet all of these heavy requirements from the donors.
Another important challenge is the very dispersed geography of the Pacific. Donors expect proposals to contain detailed climate change and socio-economic data, but it is difficult and expensive to travel to remote islands to collect such data. The remoteness and expense of travel also means that projects in the Pacific end up being more expensive for the same benefits compared to countries in continental settings like Africa or Asia. And of course, COVID-19 travel restrictions have added another layer of complexity to the situation.
Therefore, the role of the Climate Finance Unit is to help SPC’s member countries and territories access global climate finance through a wide range of support activities, from technical assistance to global outreach with donors, grant writing and scientific work. We often have to sit down (virtually) with countries to invent new, innovative solutions to the challenges they face. The fight against climate change is constantly evolving and we have to be flexible to adapt to any current or upcoming developments.
What are your expectations in terms of climate finance in the Pacific?
My hope is that the need for more flexibility and understanding from donors about the unique challenges in the Pacific turns into concrete action by funding bodies, so that the priorities of Pacific communities – rather than the priorities and policies of the donors – are driving the portfolio of climate change projects financed. Every year, we notice that the sea levels are rising by another few centimetres, or that another group of people have been driven from their land because of encroaching seas or disasters.
My concern is that the pace at which climate finance currently operates is much slower than the pace at which climate change affects people. So I hope to see all partners working together to make these mechanisms faster, more efficient, and more in tune with the specific contexts of the Pacific region so that the delivery of climate finance matches and addresses the climate change risks we are experiencing.
Interview conducted by Lilian Laroche