University of Hawaii

Moananuiakea: Uniting Pacific Islanders to Build Resilience Against Climate Risks

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To learn more about – or provide significant funding to – this project, please contact Lever for Change.

Project Summary

Climate change is an existential threat to islanders, who have become the world’s first climate refugees in one of the most pressing social justice challenges of the 21st century. While most at risk, islanders have globally relevant solutions that can transform the climate crisis into social innovation to change hearts and minds, and therefore, change behavior across every single sector. With the historic Moananuiakea Voyage to circumnavigate the Pacific Ocean using traditional Polynesian practices, the project will launch a regional island hub network that not only delivers critical services, but moreover invests in long-term systems that support local communities. The initiative will scale Hawai‘i’s internationally recognized model to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), comprised of a local public-private partnership, participatory open-data monitoring tool, and pipeline of resilience projects. This solution focuses on the well-being of vulnerable, historically underserved Pacific people, with a communications campaign to inspire action globally.

Problem Statement

Island communities that were once entirely self-sufficient are now most at risk to the global climate crisis, presenting a critical social justice challenge. From the densely populated urban centers of Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Hawai?i to the atolls and archipelagos of the Pacific Ocean, never before have the more than 750 million people living on islands around the world been so vulnerable. Pacific islanders are on the frontlines of climate change, already experiencing the devastating impacts of sea-level rise, chronic drought and severe weather events that have led to public health threats and the destruction of infrastructure, homes, and livelihoods. While islanders have contributed little to global emissions that put warming on track for 3°C by 2100, they have become the world’s first climate refugees – and they will not be the last. Communities across the Pacific such as Fiji’s Vunidogoloa have already been forced to relocate due to climate change, and island nations such as Tuvalu, Kiribati, and the Marshall Islands face the current and future threat of becoming climate refugees at an unprecedented scale.

Solution Overview

There is an opportunity to transform the climate crisis into social innovation that addresses the systemic threat. Inspired by the Hawaiian proverb “Plan for one year, plant taro; Plan for ten years, plant koa trees; Plan for a century, educate the children,” this solution will invest in the people most at risk - Pacific communities and the social infrastructure that can support them in solution-making for the next century. Led by islands for islands, the project will build a network of island hubs to unite the Pacific in addressing this critical challenge through the historic multi-year Moananuiakea Voyage. The solution will scale the internationally recognized model from the Hawaiian Islands to the unique context of other Pacific communities. Hawai‘i’s model to achieve the global goals includes stakeholder-driven methodology to establish local public-private partnerships, policy commitments, open-data Dashboards, and water-energy-food and infrastructure projects that increase resilience for local communities. This solution will have a broad impact across the Pacific region, while fostering deep engagement and lasting benefits with each location’s respective indigenous and local communities and leadership. The result will be an established regional network of 45 island hubs with local public-private partnerships to facilitate inclusive stakeholder processes; 45 open-data Dashboards to track local priorities; 45 Pacific policy leaders to support climate action; multi-tiered engagement with each local community; and delivery of scalable water-energy-food projects. Finally, this project will reach millions of people through a communications campaign designed to tell the story of the Pacific and inspire catalytic action globally.

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Project Funders

  • Global Island Partnership - Annual Island Member Contributions

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