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Climate Resilience Amid Economic Reform in Tonga

  • Project Name: Climate Resilience Sector Project
  • Region/Country: Pacific/Tonga
  • Sector and Themes: Multisector
  • Year: 2017
  • Project Leaders: Ranishka Wimalasena
Climate Resilience Amid Economic Reform in Tonga
The project will mainstream climate resilience into development planning and address country priorities focusing on the most vulnerable sectors and communities.

The relocation of Ha’apai’s Niu’ui Hospital is a living, breathing example of the multiple benefits that may be gained from building public infrastructure back better.

—Amelia Afuha’amango Tu’ipulotu, minister of health, Tonga

Development challenge

Tonga ranks second in the world for disaster risks. It is susceptible to cyclones, floods, and droughts. Increased ocean temperatures have caused coral bleaching and destruction of habitats for reef species. All these factors have caused significant economic losses to Tonga’s economy, including destruction of infrastructure and habitat.


In partnership with Australia and the World Bank, ADB provided more than $30 million in budget support in 2009, 2013, and 2016 to Tonga to improve its climate resilience and undertake an ambitious economic reform program. This program was supported under the Climate Resilience Sector Project by a wide range of capacity building activities and the piloting of resilient infrastructure investments to be replicated elsewhere in the country.

Knowledge products and services delivered

Besides providing for infrastructure investments in renewable energy, climate resilience, and water and sanitation, ADB worked closely with government to improve its financial management capacity, spurring economic growth to create jobs and reduce poverty. It worked closely with the government to incorporate climate resilience within their planning and budgeting processes. It also comprised project finance through a Climate Change Trust Fund launched in 2013 that finances a range of low-cost and locally appropriate solutions for climate resilience, with suitable investments identified and implemented by civil society organizations and local communities.

Climate Resiliense Sector Project
The project provided information, tools, and legislative frameworks needed to introduce climate change considerations into government and sector planning and budgeting processes.

More than 1,200 people from relevant public and private sectors have participated in climate change-related short courses. Twenty undergraduates completed university degrees and 19 government staff graduated with relevant certifications. The project also improved meteorological monitoring systems for better forecasting and early warning.

Impact and results

On 11 January 2014, Cyclone Ian, the most powerful storm ever recorded in Tonga’s waters, passed directly over the Ha’apai group in the northeast of Tonga. Niu’ui Hospital was heavily damaged. The project helped to relocate the hospital to the highest point of the island and built back better with new features including a 500,000-liter rainwater storage tank. The hospital now also functions as a community evacuation center in times of disaster. Other benefits of the project included enhanced climate resilience for a some schools; construction of four evacuation roads in Eua and Tongatapu, Tonga’s main island; enhanced coastal protection for 2 kilometers of continuous coastline; establishment of seven special management marine areas; and the introduction of a sustainable financing mechanism to ensure that vulnerable communities have access to climate-responsive community investments vital to livelihoods.

The project helped provide access to resources to address the climate change risk priorities of the government, as well as those of vulnerable communities through a combination of "soft" and "hard" measures.

Lessons for Replication

This project provides replicable solutions on aspects of improved performance, safety, and better public health outcomes through reliable services for public usage and for natural disasters. Mainstreaming resilience into corporate planning and day-to-day activities are critical in this context to ensure both financial and human resources accompany necessary policy reform. The project systematically built capacity in legislation, improved monitoring of climate data and information, increased ecosystem resilience in infrastructure investments and established a sustainable financing mechanism for community-based adaption investments.