State of the Pacific 2021– Domestic politics of climate change

Ursula Rakova, Fremden Yanhambath, Frances Namoumou and Elise Howard

Event details

SSGM Event

Date & time

Wednesday 01 December 2021




Ursula Rakova, Fremden Yanhambath, Frances Namoumou and Elise Howard



Pacific activists across a broad range of sectors have worked hard to capture the attention of a global audience on the risks and challenges that climate change presents to the Pacific Islands region. These voices have been effective in calling for greater climate action from major carbon emitting economies, and innovative in their demands for recognition of the loss and damages incurred as a result of climate change. While this global story of the Pacific Islands region is well known, less visible is the domestic politics related to climate change.

This session will explore the political and social implications of climate change within Pacific states and societies. As climate change impacts on environmental and biophysical systems accelerate, we can expect existing political, economic and social systems to come under increasing pressure. How communities manage these challenges raises very significant questions about processes of political and social change in the region. How do understandings of climate change shape community expectations of national adaptation responses? Will climate change pressures lead to new forms of leadership and community action? What does the resilience agenda mean for communities? Will adaptation occur in inclusive or exclusive ways? And are the groups likely to experience the most devastating impacts able to amplify their voice to shape climate responses at not only local but national levels? The three speakers on this panel will share first hand experiences with these questions and challenges.


Frances Namoumou is the Ecumenical Animator for the Ecological Stewardship and Climate Justice Program, Pacific Conference of Churches. Since 2016, most of her work has been around the accompaniment the churches provide to communities relocated due to climate change. Prior to this Frances was involved in projects with the Adventist Development and Relief Agency Fiji in Disaster Management. Frances has a keen interest in Climate Justice and Disaster Management in the context of Pacific resilience.

Ursula Rakova is the Executive Director of Tulele Peisa, an organisation established to manage the relocation program for the 1,700 Carteret Islanders who have been affected by rising sea levels and climate change. Under Ursula’s leadership, women have played critical roles in the relocation program which will see Carterets Islanders relocated to four sites on mainland Bougainville. Ursula also plays an important role in sharing lessons on the social and political implications of relocation for other sites across Bougainville that may experience displacement in the future.

Fremden Yanhambath is the Director of the Vanuatu Skills Partnership, a locally-led initiative supported by the Australian Government that is influencing service delivery reform across Vanuatu. The Partnership explicitly places good governance and environmental sustainability at the heart of its work, and has been successful in building a political constituency and local coalitions to drive positive change. In the wake of Cyclone Harold, the VSP was called on heavily by government to assist in recovery efforts, providing an example of the effectiveness of local-level state building that emphasises trust building and relationships.


Elise Howard is a Senior Research Officer at Department of Pacific Affairs at Australian National University. Elise’s research specialises in gender and leadership with a particular focus on climate change and the future challenges to be faced by societies across the Pacific Islands region.

The Department of Pacific Affairs at the Australian National University presents the 2021 State of the Pacific, a series of online expert panels posing the questions which will shape the agenda for the future of state, society and governance in the Pacific. Each online panel will bring together experts from government, policy practitioners, the not for profit sector and academia. Panels will be recorded and publicly available on the DPA YouTube channel. Held biennially, the State of the Pacific is a flagship event of the Pacific Research Program, funded by the Australian Government.

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