6 Ensure environmental sustainability

Where we are?


Measurement of overall progress towards MDG 7 is hindered by the lack of comprehensive data. On the basis of the limited data four countries are deemed to be seriously off-track in progress towards environmental sustainability with four others deemed slightly off-track.

The impacts of climate change, natural disasters and badly managed resources are highlighted as being an urgent and important challenge in the PICs. The events of 2009 demonstrated how vulnerable the region is to natural disasters; tsunamis associated with earthquakes hit Samoa, American Samoa, Tonga and parts of Solomon Islands. Several other earthquakes were also felt across the region, as well as cyclones and serious floods. Abnormal weather conditions in many parts of the region caused droughts and flooding, particularly damaging in the Solomon Islands. In addition, there have been volcanic eruptions in both Vanuatu and Tonga. In 2010 Fiji and the Solomon Islands were moreover hit with numerous of cyclones.

For many PICs with limited natural resources, losses of biodiversity are also critical, particularly within agriculture, fisheries and forestry. The global economic slowdown had an indirect benefit in reducing the rate of logging in Solomon Islands and PNG during 2008 and 2009, but the economic recovery now underway will quickly reverse these short term benefits as the demand for natural resources picks-up.

Pacific Island countries face serious challenges, including: the conversion of natural forest land for agriculture; land tenure conflicts that hamper long-term sustainably oriented management; over exploitation and degradation of forest areas by unregulated commercial logging, lack of effective enforcement of environmental standards.

More than 80% of Pacific islanders (excluding PNG) live in or near coastal areas and draw from the coral reef for their livelihoods. They also play a vital role as natural breakwaters, minimizing wave impacts during storms, cyclones and tsunamis. Coastal fisheries (commercial and subsistence) in the Pacific Island countries contributed with over US$200 million to GDP in 2007.

Changes in coastal population density combined with new fishing technology and changing development priorities have had a significant impact on coastal environments in the last decade. Uses of the coastal zone and activities taking place within it, such as coastal construction, port development, sewage and waste disposal, exacerbate the threat of coastal erosion, eutrophication, soil erosion, sedimentation, degradation and bleaching of coral reefs and mangroves.

Overall on Goal 7, the region’s prospects for achieving environmental sustainability are unclear, with seven countries, mostly Polynesian, on track to achieve it. Despite the substantial amount of resources invested in this area, monitoring mechanisms do not exist or are weak. The pressing issue of climate change has exacerbated the vulnerability of most Pacific Island countries to sea level rise. While some are looking at relocation as a viable option, other countries are looking to more immediate adaptation and mitigation measures to reduce risks and strengthen resilience, particularly among communities and drawing upon traditional and indigenous knowledge.

Source: 2010 and 2012 MDGs Pacific Regional Tracking Report.


UNDP's work in Region

  • In Kiribati, many homes are located near the sea or lagoon making them vulnerable to disasters. Photo: Sheryl Ho/UNDP

    The rising sea, the changing tides in Kiribati

    Boobu Tioram has dismantled and moved his house three times in the past nine years. It was either this, or watch his home get washed awaymore

Targets for MDG7
  1. Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes; reverse loss of environmental resources
  2. Reduce biodiversity loss, achieving, by 2010, a significant reduction in the rate of loss
    • Proportion of land area covered by forest and proportion of species threatened with extinction
    • CO2 emissions, total, per capita and per $1 GDP (PPP)
    • Consumption of ozone-depleting substances
    • Proportion of fish stocks within safe biological limits
    • Proportion of total water resources used
    • Proportion of terrestrial and marine areas protected
  3. Reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation
    • Proportion of population using an improved drinking water source
    • Proportion of population using an improved sanitation facility
  4. Achieve significant improvement in lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers, by 2020
    • Proportion of urban population living in slums