Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 20:55 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 06 Oct 2021 | 20:55 | SYDNEY

The cost of Fiji floods

19 October 2009 07:59

Nic Maclellan works as a journalist and researcher in the Pacific islands.

As political parties in Australia debate the content of our Emissions Trading Scheme, an important new report analyses the damage caused to Fiji's sugar industry by flooding in January 2009. The floods, the worst in Fiji's recent history, affected over 150,000 people in the Western and Central divisions and caused major damage to infrastructure and crops.

The IUCN report, by Padma Narsey Lal, Rashmi Rita and Neehal Khatri, is a salutary reminder that extreme weather events will have serious economic and social effects on our island neighbours – and our humanitarian aid budget.

Using economic cost analysis and detailed field survey data, the report finds major impacts on poverty after the floods: 77 per cent of flood-affected sugarcane families will fall below Fiji's poverty line and 'about 42 per cent of flood-affected farms are expected to struggle to provide even their families basic food needs.' The authors calculate damage to the Fiji sugar industry amounting to an estimated F$24 million, with additional humanitarian costs of F$5 million.
The floods in Fiji were part of a broader pattern across the Pacific region in December 2008-January 2009. Flooding and torrential rains caused widespread damage in Queensland, affected tens of thousands of people in Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands, and led to states of emergency in Marshall Islands and Federated States of Micronesia.

To strike a deal in climate negotiations, industrialised nations are going to have to commit greater resources to adaptation as well as mitigation programs. 'Assessing the costs of adaptation to climate change', a study from the Imperial College in London, provides a sharp critique of past estimates of adaptation costs made by UNFCCC, Oxfam, the Stern Report and others. In a detailed analysis of each sector, the report shows that adaptation costs will be at least two to three times previous estimates.

As we head towards Copenhagen, the paltry level of Australia's current funding for climate adaptation in the Pacific — $150 million over three years spread across all the Forum island countries – becomes more apparent.

Photo by Flickr user enggul, used under a Creative Comons license.