MANILA, PHILIPPINES – Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) economy is likely to suffer the biggest losses in the Pacific from climate change, says a new Asian Development Bank (ADB) study.

“It is critical that countries contributing to the problem of climate change step up to assist Pacific friends and neighbors in the fight to protect their countries against natural disasters, crop losses, and forced migration,” said Xianbin Yao, Director General of ADB’s Pacific Department. “Our findings show that if not adequately addressed, climate change could overturn the region’s development achievements.”

Economics of Climate Change in the Pacific uses models to predict the economic impact of climate change for specific sectors and economies under various emissions scenarios. It found that losses suffered by the Pacific region could range from 2.9% to as high as 12.7% of annual GDP by 2100.

The report projects that the most significant losses would be felt in Papua New Guinea (PNG), where severe failures in sweet potato crops and other agricultural products and the increased economic burdens of cooling, mortality and land depletion, could trigger a loss of up to 15.2% of its GDP by 2100. Timor-Leste’s GDP is predicted to drop by up to 10%, followed by Vanuatu at 6.2%, Solomon Islands at 4.7%, Fiji at 4.0% and Samoa at 3.8%.

Under a medium emissions scenario, Fiji, PNG, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste and Vanuatu could see temperatures rise by 2-3oC by 2070, which could lead to significant decreases in rain-fed agriculture, reduced fish catches, widespread coral bleaching, and falling tourism numbers.

The largest crop losses are predicted to be in sweet potato in PNG, with losses in excess of 50% of yield by 2050, and the Solomon Islands. For sugarcane, losses would be relatively small in 2050, but they rise in Fiji by 2070 to a more substantial 7% to 21%. Maize would have moderate losses of 6% to 14% in Timor-Leste and Vanuatu by 2050. Considering various scenarios, climate change would reduce tourism revenues by 27% to 34% for the Pacific region as a whole.

Along with a temperature spike of nearly 3°C, PNG is likely to see more frequent and heavy rains, with the sea level potentially rising by up to 1.45 meters by 2100.

The report notes that Pacific countries would require $447 million on average until 2050, and up to $775 million or 2.5% of GDP per year to prepare for the worst scenario. The cost of adaptation would be significantly less under lower emissions scenarios.

The report recommends policy leaders take urgent action to mainstream climate change mitigation into development planning and develop forward-looking adaptation strategies. The report also recommends climate-proofing infrastructure to improve long-term sustainability and boosting capacity of Pacific countries to deal with climate change on their own. Pacific countries will also need dramatically improved access to global and regional climate change funds.

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