On September 8, the Government of Tonga received professional video equipment from the British High Commission in Tonga to support the country’s efforts in communicating its climate change impacts and adaptation planning to the public. This equipment was provided as part of ongoing support from the National Adaptation Plan (NAP) Global Network for outreach and awareness-raising efforts, with financial support from the United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office.
Tonga’s national adaptation planning process is being undertaken by the Department of Climate Change (DCC) within the Ministry of Meteorology, Energy, Information, Disaster Management, Environment, Climate Change, and Communications (MEIDECC). According to the country’s second Joint National Action Plan on Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Management (JNAP 2), which acts as the country’s NAP, its mission is to develop a resilient Tonga by 2035 through an inclusive approach with good governance that builds knowledge, encourages proactive communities, and supports sustainable development.
Mainstreaming information about climate change and ongoing national adaptation efforts for Tonga’s citizens is one of the six main objectives indicated in the JNAP 2, making this announcement directly relevant to the country’s efforts toward building national resilience.
Improving public engagement on climate change
The MEIDECC hosted an event at the Fa’onelua Convention Center, inviting members of the Tonga Media Association (TMA) and other relevant media outlets to attend this announcement and participate in a workshop to better understand climate change in Tonga so they can help promote coverage of climate change-related issues. This workshop occurred ahead of Tonga’s annual National Climate Change Awareness week, which starts on September 18, 2022.
The Director of Climate Change, Lu’isa Tu’iafitu Malolo, opened the session by welcoming the guests and noting the benefits of having higher-quality images and footage available for the government’s climate change communications. Malolo also made a point to show appreciation for the TMA, identifying the association as a voice for communicating climate change.
Paul Lawrence, Deputy High Commissioner to Tonga, praised the country’s efforts to engage on the important issue of climate change. He also highlighted Tonga’s commitment to the Paris Agreement, as exemplified through the country’s submission of its nationally determined contributions in 2015 and its second adaptation plan to the UNFCCC in 2021.
Paula Ma’u, CEO of the MEIDECC, said the ministry will be using these new communication tools to raise awareness of Tonga’s vulnerabilities to climate change.
Strategic communications: An ongoing national priority
The country’s efforts to mainstream climate change impacts and adaptation plans have been recently ongoing with the support of the NAP Global Network Secretariat, hosted by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD).
In 2021, the MEIDECC held a half-day briefing with journalists from the Tonga Media Association to cover the climate change adaptation activities being undertaken by the department. This was the first time that the Government of Tonga engaged the media as an official stakeholder of the JNAP—and it was soon followed by other events and engagement opportunities.
Drawing on the lessons and experiences shared during these workshops, the MEIDECC and NAP Global Network Secretariat co-published a brief resource document on the key recommendations for communicating climate change in Tonga. These 2021 climate communications activities took place with the support of the NDC Partnership Climate Action Enhancement Package (CAEP).
In addition to engaging the media in national adaptation planning processes, the Tongan government is also building the capacities of its staff and partners to communicate about climate action. Government representatives, local partners, non-governmental organizations, and members of the private sector attended a workshop in April 2021 to refine their messaging on climate change. This event also marked the official launch of the Department of Climate Change’s online portal, which continues to make climate change news, events, and government resources easily accessible.