On 11th December 2020, representatives of ACoM, researchers of the Solomon Islands National University, government officials and “Green Apostles” from the ACoM Environment Observatory test sites came together at Red Beach, Honiara, to celebrate the 1st anniversary of the establishment of the first ACoM Environment Observatories.
Honourable guests who followed ACoM’s invitation to the event included His Excellency Dr Brian Jones, British High Commissioner to the Solomon Islands, Mr Hudson Kauhiona, Director of the Climate Change Office at the Ministry of Environment, Climate Change, Disaster Management and Meteorology (MECDM) in Honiara, Mr Barnabas Tahoo, Director of the Meteorology Department at MECDM, and Dr Michael Ha’apio, Director of the Solomon Islands National University.
The festivities around the 1st anniversary of the ACoM Environment Observatories provided an ideal forum to reflect upon the origins and implementation of the observatory project. Voices from the test sites at Fanalei, Walande, Selwyn College and Red Beach were heard. The “Green Apostles”, who conduct and document measurements of temperature, rainfall, water levels and shoreline positions for the observatories, shared their thoughts on past experiences, challenges and future opportunities.
Population growth and sea level rise resulting in a lack of land for gardening were concerns highlighted by the representatives from the test sites in South Malaita. Both communities currently face challenges of relocation and are in need of support to obtain land for settlement and gardening. Representatives of Sikaiana community at Red Beach reiterated the concerns about sea level rise and mentioned the additional challenge of changing weather patterns, which impact crop harvests across the country.
Speeches by government officials and the observatory project staff confirmed: For Melanesians, climate change is not a challenge of the future, but one that is already being lived in the here and now.
The observatory project aims to address the climate emergency by taking a two-way approach, combining knowledge transfer and local awareness raising with the creation of scientific evidence of climate change and political engagement. Clergy and community members in Solomon Islands are equipped with the necessary skills to create trusted, scientific evidence of environmental change, which will be shared with policy makers and other stakeholders. At the same time, the observatories positively affect local adaptation in Anglican communities as knowledge about climate change and strategies for sustainable and environment-friendly livelihoods are shared amongst the community members.
The reflections by the “Green Apostles” during the festivities for the project’s 1st anniversary confirmed that the concept is working. The community representatives expressed their great appreciation for the project and highlighted that the engagement with the observatories has sparked discussions about possibilities for community-led adaptation at the test sites. For the future, the “Green Apostles” expressed their interest for greater engagement with policy makers to bring about positive change in their communities, especially with respect to relocation.