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October 25, 2012 12:00:00 AM
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Fiji is better placed than developed countries in terms of adapting to the effects of climate change, says Professor Elisabeth Holland, a climate change scientist whose research earned her a Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.

Professor Holland who was a keynote speaker at Fiji’s first national climate change summit in Labasa yesterday said
there is tremendous resilience already present in Fiji and we have the power in our communities.

She was a member of the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that shared the Nobel Peace Prize with former US Vice-President Al Gore for their “efforts to build up and disseminate knowledge about man-made climate change”.

She joined the University of the South Pacific in February under the EU-Global Climate Change Alliance project, which is based at the university’s Pacific Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development (PACE-SD).

The Nobel laureate says recent surveys have found that many in the rural communities rely on traditional knowledge that is sustainable, and these include ways on how to preserve food and safeguard root crops in the event of an impending severe weather event.

“These are the facilities we need to build on,” said Holland.

She rejects the perception that the affected communities are victims of climate change with little hope.

“We actually do have power over our destiny."

“We have to be weaving that local knowledge, together with that scientific knowledge, to make the sail that will take us into the future.”

According to her, locals understand climate change in a way that climate scientists cannot know.

“That’s why we need to build a bridge between what the climate science is saying and what the Fiji people know."

“Because so many times they know that things are different, that things have changed but they may not have the larger context to put it in."

“By working together they can understand the larger context that this is a permanent shift in climate and that this is something that we need to plan for and that this will be beyond their experience of their lifetime."

“If they just depend on what their ancestors have known, the planning will not be sufficient.”

She added that community engagement must start from the beginning stages of discussions and policy action plans.

By Vilisite Tamani of Wansolwara

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