Adaptation planning in Tuvalu: Developing national ownership and building resilience

Tuvalu is a tiny least developed country (LDC) atoll of 26 kilometres square, with a total population of 11,000 living just two meters above sea level. Enhancing climate change resilience here is complex and multi-faceted; but it starts with building national capacity and ownership.

Tuvalu seen from above

The country faces countless development challenges; from its remote geographical location in the vast ocean of the South Pacific, to its lack of natural resources and limited human capacity. Tuvalu is vulnerable to climate change impacts, including flash floods, droughts, cyclones, saltwater inundation and above all else - sea level rise.

Considering these extreme climate challenges, how can Tuvalu adapt and survive?

Sea wall construction on Tuvalu's coast is one important adaptation measure currently being used to build resilence


Save Tuvalu, Save the World!- Prime Minister of Tuvalu, Enele Sopoaga

Prime Minister of Tuvalu, Enele Sopoaga believes alignment of adaptation planning with existing national and subnational strategies, policies and budgets is key to the island nation’s resilience.

For Tuvalu, resilience has a very clear definition; it means increasing ownership of the process by the stakeholders and enhancing human security. This requires a coordinated approach by government, vulnerable sectors and key stakeholders.

‘Resilience is the security of whoever is being affected… and those who are at the forefront. Security is multi -dimensional, all sectors contribute to ensuring the security of mankind.’ Enele Sopoaga, Prime Minister of Tuvalu

Watch the full interview here:


Tuvalu already has made significant progress in developing strong institutional arrangements to coordinate climate change actions. These institutional arrangements involve government ministries, the private sector and local communities.

The National Advisory Council on Climate Change was created to provide advice and make recommendations to the National Designated Authority (NDA) and to the cabinet on priority climate change issues. Climate change has also been integrated into all areas of Tuvalu’s National Strategy for Sustainable Development.


The Global Environment Facility (GEF)-funded joint UNDP and UN Environment National Adaptation Plan Global Support Programme (NAP-GSP) are empowering climate change decision-making here, to enhance resilience. Recently, Government representatives from least developed countries (LDCs) in the Pacific, including Tuvalu, met for a NAP-GSP Regional Workshop on how to appraise climate change adaptation options and access climate finance.

NAP-GSP spoke to Pepetua Latasi, Director of Climate Change Policy and Disaster Coordination Unit in Tuvalu about the requirement to build national capacity in Tuvalu.

She underscored the importance of incorporating socio-economic uncertainty and disaster risk reduction into adaptation planning, and building national capacity at all levels.

Resilience-building requires strengthening long-term national technical capacity – in coastal engineering, marine biology, geology, oceanography, meteorolology etc. The Government of Tuvalu’s recent co-development proposal with UNDP and GCF is focusing on a coastal adaptation project funding up to six students to study a discipline relevant for coastal resilience aboard at specific universities to address this challenge.

South-to- south cooperation initiatives can also highlight lessons learnt, which can build a sense of ownership. Tuvalu is calling for the development of a 'Centre of Excellence on Coral Atoll Adaptation' in Tuvalu, where coral atoll nations will be invited to create opportunities for scientists, engineers, community adaptation experts to study and share experiences on best practices in adaptation planning and implementation.


‘You can only be resilient if you do it yourself’ - Pepetua Latasi, Director of Climate Change Policy and Disaster Coordination Unit

Capacity constraints in small island developing state (SIDS) like Tuvalu can restrict the ability to manage climate financing of projects and programmes, which impacts national ownership. Whilst the groundwork has been developed, through climate change policies, strategies and projects, Tuvalu struggles to access climate finance. There is a lack of capacity to meet the various conditions attached to accessing climate finance.

Previously, developing countries have worked together with multilateral development agencies to acquire and manage climate finance. For the first time, some Pacific Islands are seeking accreditation - through national implementing entities (NIEs) - to receive direct financial transfers from the Green Climate Fund (GCF), the Adaptation Fund (AF) and other funds, in order to implement adaptation projects.

The Cook Islands is the first example of a Pacific Island country which has successfully accredited their NIE. Tuvalu is quickly following suit, having already finalised and submitted their second submission for accreditation with the AF. Tuvalu is now in the process of its third and final submission and is awaiting a final decision.

Strengthening national ownership enables countries to develop expertise, build durable local institutions and systems to use climate finance effectively, and exercise leadership in implementing projects.


The NAP-GSP Regional Workshop for the Pacific LDCs on appraisal and climate finance was held from 28-30 January 2019 in Tuvalu

The workshop was funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and held in partnership with the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), UN Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) and experts from other organisations and the Pacific region.


Kuba W.

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