Climate Change Vulnerability and Adaptation Options for Coastal Communities in Timor-Leste

Climate Change Vulnerability and Adaptation Options for Coastal Communities in Timor-Leste

Fri, 02/09/2011 - 09:30

Abilio da Fonseca (BSc Hons) MTEM Research Background Abilio da Fonseca has an extensive background in coastal fisheries and environmental policy.  Abilio has worked in fisheries and aquaculture (marine and freshwater) research for more than 10 years on a range of  projects in Timor-Leste and Darwin, including  tiger prawn, sea cucumber, milk fish, gold fish and tilapia and seaweed marine culture.

Following completion of his undergraduate training in fisheries aquaculture at Hasanuddin University (Indonesia) in 1994 (and an Honours degree in 1997), Abilio completed a Masters of Tropical Environmental Management (MTEM) at Charles Darwin University in 2004, on the environmental impacts of prawn aquaculture.

In addition to his fisheries expertise, as a senior policy analyst with the Government of Timor-Leste, Abilio has also worked extensively on international environmental policies (particularly climate change policies). His policy experience includes working closely with international agencies (eg. UNDP) and specifically, advising on the implementation of a range of multi-lateral environment agreements for the Government of Timor-Leste (eg. CBD, UNCCD, UNFCCC, Kyoto Protocol, Montreal Protocol, CITES, UNCLOS).


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Climate change is a major global challenge, particularly for world’s coastal communities in low-lying, Small Island Development States (SIDS) and Least Developed Countries (LDCs) (Pernetta 1992, Someshwar 2008, Kelman & West 2009, Veitayaki 2010).  Within these regions, climate change impacts are already manifested through coastal flooding, erosion, saltwater intrusion, damaged water resources, and increased storm damage (Burns & William 2009, Mortreaux & Barnett 2009, Veitayaki 2010).  In addition SIDS/LDCs face major challenges from their rapidly increasing populations (driving demands for settlements, services and facilities), and also, their limited size and resources (human, financial) and weak governance (administrative, regulatory), that confines adaptation and mitigation options. 

 As a recognised SIDS and LDC, Timor-Leste is classified as ‘extremely vulnerable’ to climate change (Barnett 2003, Barnett et al. 2007, Park et al. 2009, McCleod et al. 2010).  Further, global climate models downscaled to Timor-Leste show that climate change impacts are likely to significantly affect the both the natural resources and also, communities and rural livelihoods, in the coastal areas of Timor-Leste (Barnett et al. 2007, Park et al. 2009).  As such, increased temperatures, changes in rainfall patterns with increase risk of floods, erosion and inundation particularly in low-lying areas are likely to significantly threaten human settlements, infrastructure, biological diversity, agriculture and fisheries (Barnett, et al. 2007, Park et al. 2009). These impacts are exacerbated by the current high levels of population growth, food insecurity and dependency on coastal resources, and also, limited human resources and capacity and weak institutional frameworks and coastal governance (Barnett et al. 2007). As a signatory country to the United Nations Framework Conventions to Climate Change (UNFCCC), Timor-Leste has an obligation to meet the commitments under Article 4 paragraph 1 (e) of the United Nations Convention, which calls on parties to cooperate in adapting to climate change, and develop appropriate and integrated plans for coastal zone management (Barbosa 2007).

The current research project will identify and assess the impacts of coastal climate change on selected coastal ecosystems and communities of Timor Leste and also, explore potential options for effective climate change adaptation strategies, actions and implementation.  To this end, the following three principal questions will be addressed in this research:

  1. What are the major environments (biophysical) and socio-economic impacts of climate change and variability on the coastal ecosystems and communities of Timor-Leste?
  2. What are the most appropriate and effective potential local and national-scale adaptation and mitigation strategies and actions to address coastal climate change impacts in Timor-Leste?
  3. How can coastal climate change responses and adaptation best be ‘mainstreamed’ into local and national-scale coastal policies, planning and governance frameworks?

The project will include desktop reviews, analyses and focussed field studies (targeting selected coastal communities) and will be undertaken in close collaboration with relevant government agencies in Timor Leste (ie. NDES, MAF) and also, in synergy with current relevant local, national and regional climate change assessment and adaptation programs in Timor Leste (eg. AusAID, ADB, CTI). 

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