Lessons from South Pacific Regional Environment Programme

Lessons from South Pacific Regional Environment Programme

SmartEarth Consultant Stephen Flood writes about the experience of the South Pacific Regional Environmental Programme and some useful lessons for others on the valuable role of intergovernmental organisations in accessing climate finance.



In earlier blog postings, the SmartEarth team has referred to how the lessons and experience from innovative partnership models involving government, civil society and research/academia can drive capacity building and access to climate finance.  The South Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) is one such example.  SPREP was established in 1982 by a decision at the Conference on the Human Environment held in the South Pacific island of Rarotonga. In 1993 it was established as an autonomous body through intergovernmental agreement. However, if one digs a little deeper SPREP’s origins can be traced back to 1974 when Arthur Dahl began efforts at mapping and developing management strategies for coral reefs in Pacific countries. It is also credited by some as being the one of the world’s first regional environmental programmes.

SPREP has grown from a small programme attached to the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) in the 1980s into the region’s major intergovernmental organisation tasked with protecting and managing the environment and natural resources. SPREP’s members comprise of 21 Pacific island countries and territories, and five developed countries with direct interests in the region (Table 1). Its headquarters is located in Apia, Samoa.

Table 1: SPREP Countries and Territories. Developed countries with direct interests in the region denoted with *

SPREP Countries and Territories

 American Samoa  Marshall Islands  Solomon Islands
 Australia* Nauru  Tokelau
 Cook Islands  New Caledonia  Tonga
 Federated States of Micronesia  New Zealand*  Tuvalu
 Fiji Niue  United Kingdom*
 France* Northern Mariana Islands  United States of America*
French Polynesia Palua Vanuatu
Guam Papua New Guinea Wallis and Futuna
 Kiribati  Samoa  


Its work falls under the four main areas of biodiversity and ecosystems management, environmental monitoring and governance, climate change and waste management and pollution control. There are a range of ambitious aims and goals for capacity development associated with each of these four themes. However, in this instance we shall focus on climate change. The main goal under the Climate Change Strategic Priority is that by 2015, all members will have strengthened capacity to respond to climate change through policy improvement, implementation of practical adaptation measures, enhancing ecosystem resilience to the impacts of climate change, and implementing initiatives aimed at achieving low-carbon development.

SPREP’s story can provide some useful lessons for others on the valuable role of intergovernmental organisations in accessing climate finance.

On November 1st 2013 SPREP gained accreditation as the Regional Implementing Entity by the Adaptation Fund Board (ABF) [1] under the Kyoto Protocol.  With the accreditation in place SPREP is now better able to support Pacific Island Countries in accessing finance through the Adaptation Fund Board for projects and programmes aimed at increasing the adaptive capacity to the adverse impacts of climate change.

“The process in achieving this status at SPREP was difficult and required many improvements to our governance and financial systems; it came after a lot of work so we’re pleased it has all paid off as it will benefit our Pacific Island members,” said Mr. David Sheppard, Director-General of SPREP in response to the news of formal accreditation status.


Mr. Sheppard and his colleagues were assisted by experts from the AFB accreditation panel who helped guide the application process. In order to meet the stringent requirements a significant number of policy, procedure and regulatory changes were necessary, including the establishment of an independent internal audit function along with a rigorous analysis of SPREP procurement and financial management procedures.


In many of the smaller Pacific islands with limited national capacity the standard model for developing AFB projects to access funding is with the assistance of multilateral implementing entities such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The issue is that currently only 50% of the total AFB funds budget is accessible via multilateral and regional implementing entities. The other 50% must be accessed directly by the countries. However, the catch is that in order to have direct access the countries in question first need to become accredited as National Implementation Entities under the AFB. The possibility of removing this 50% cap is an issue that may be raised in the future with the AFB.

In the interim, as countries work towards the goal of obtaining National Implementation Entity (NIE) accreditation SPREP may be called in to develop adaptation proposals on their behalf. SPREP is also in the position to be able to provide valuable assistance to national efforts to obtain the NIE accreditation that will allow them to access financial resources directly from the Adaptation fund on their own.

There are a number of lessons to be learned from the experience of SPREP and its Pacific island state member’s journey through this accreditation process. Their experience provides a rich learning opportunity for other nations striving to obtain easier access to climate finance. A few key points gleaned from a number of sources are outlined below:

  • Accreditation processes can take a significant amount of time to complete. It took three years for SPREP to achieve the Regional Implementation status.
  • The accreditation process demanded substantial institutional changes within SPREP.  Extensive documentation was provided by SPREP showing that policies and procedures were amended.
  • Institutional changes were also assessed on the ground. In addition to extensive documentation SPREP had to display how the changes to policies and procedures operate in practice. Several new Pacific climate change projects were carried out using the new systems to show the effectiveness of new procedures.
  • SPREP benefitted from the support of other agencies and initiatives in achieving its accreditation. Global Climate Change Alliance (GCCA) [2] partners as well others including the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Frankfurt School UNEP Collaborating Centre [3] provided support in carrying out the process.
  • The human resource requirement to carry out the process is significant. Additional team members and outside assistance may be required as new processes are included in the existing systems. In the case of SPREP a new internal audit function was established.

In summary, access to climate change financing requires transparent and sound national systems, clear plans and policies, strong institutional systems, adequate resourcing and staffing of departments, regular reporting processes, and sound public financial management systems. The success of SPREP in acquiring accreditation as the Regional Implementing Entity and providing the capacity to its Pacific island states and territory members to access the finance necessary to implement climate change priorities is an inspiring story. It hopefully can provide some practical guidance to others that wish to access climate finance opportunities.

Further Resources

The Pacific Climate Change Portal (http://www.pacificclimatechange.net/) is a collaborative online resource facilitated and coordinated by SPREP to provide a one-stop-shop clearing house for where a range of climate change related information including climate finance is made available.  The site hosts a library of relevant documentation and reports, a donor directory, and country profiles.



[1] The Adaptation Fund Board (AFB) manages the Adaptation Fund. The secretariat of the AFB is based in Washington, DC and provides research, advisory, administrative, and other services to the board. The AFB is composed of 16 members and 16 alternates representing Annex I countries, Non-Annex I countries, Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Small Island Developing States (SIDs), and regional constituencies.


[2] The Global Climate Change Alliance (GCCA) The Global Climate Change Alliance (GCCA) is an initiative of the European Union (EU), launched in 2007 and coordinated by the European Commission (EC), aimed at strengthening dialogue and cooperation on climate change with developing countries most vulnerable to climate change and supporting their efforts to develop and implement adaptation and mitigation responses. It focuses on the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and the Small Island Developing States (SIDS).


[3] The Frankfurt School – UNEP Collaborating Centre for Climate & Sustainable Energy Finance aims to advance transformation to resilient low-carbon and resource-efficient economies by attracting new types of investors, in particular catalysing the financing of clean energy by the private sector, which has a pivotal role to play. The Centre’s work is designed to encourage and assist the finance community to scale-up current investment, or to take the first steps into new markets.

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Noel Casserly

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