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June 20, 2021
International Pacific

Fiji spending soars to battle climate risks

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Image: Fiji Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama addresses the 72nd United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., September 20, 2017. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

(Reuters) – Fiji warned on Friday it faces soaring costs to protect itself from climate change and called on the world to do more to curb carbon emissions to protect poor island nations from the increasing threat of floods and cyclones.

In a report done with the World Bank, the South Pacific nation said it is spending almost 10 percent of its gross domestic product to guard against natural disasters, more than quadruple the level of five years ago.

The report assessing the country’s vulnerability to climate risks was released to coincide with Fiji chairing the COP23 global climate summit taking place in Bonn.

“As the President of the COP23 and on behalf of the small island nations … Fiji is asking the world for drastic action … so that climate change does not impose a limit to our development,” Fijian Prime minister Voreque Bainimarama said in the report.

Fiji is set to spend more than 350 million Fiji dollars ($168 million) this year on relocating villages, building improved bridges and roads and on responding to natural disasters, expected to become more frequent and severe due to climate change.

This is up from just over 50 million Fiji dollars, just over 2 percent of GDP, in 2013, the report said.

“With increasing risks to the people and economy of Fiji due to climate change, finding the capacity to respond will only become more challenging,” it said.

The risks include rising sea-levels, more floods and landslides, destruction of crops and farm equipment and increases in diseases such as Dengue fever, leptospirosis, and typhoid.

The effects of climate change already cost the nation around 5 percent of its GDP every year, with the heaviest impact on the farm sector.

Fiji is still reeling from Tropical Cyclone Winston in March 2016, the most powerful storm to make landfall in the southern hemisphere. The storm killed more than 40 people and caused 2 billion Fiji dollars in damage.

($1 = 2.0794 Fiji dollars)

(Reporting by Alana Schetzer; Editing by Sonali Paul and Richard Pullin)


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