Project to address environmental data gaps

A project spearheaded by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (S.P.R.E.P.) is aiming to address a lack of historical and current environmental data in Pacific island countries.

The problems with the lack of available data were highlighted in a statement issued by S.P.R.E.P. this week.

The project, "Building National and Regional Capacity to Implement Multilateral Environmental Agreements by Strengthening Planning and the State of Environmental Assessment and Reporting in the Pacific" - referred to as the Inform project - recognises the need for data-driven decision making. 

It will establish a Pacific island network of national and regional data repositories and reporting tools to support the monitoring, evaluation, and analysis of environmental information, which supports environmental planning, forecasting, and reporting requirements.

The Inform project will help Pacific islands have reliable access to their own national datasets for environmental information, as well as a process and guide for information use standards. 

Over a four-year period from 2017–2021, Inform will work in the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu.

According to the statement, it states that the Inform project has played a key role in promoting environmental data availability, management, and access in the region.

This is by supporting the development of the Pacific Environment Portal, 14 national environment data portals, and the Indicator Reporting Tool. 

The Indicator Reporting Tool was developed on the basis of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Indicator Reporting Information System.

“There are significant challenges associated with the lack of historical and current environmental data, and inadequate information management and access for decision making and reporting in Pacific island countries,” read the statement. 

The Pacific Environment Portal and the Indicator Reporting Tool help address these challenges. 

The Pacific Environment Portal enables users to find, access, and reuse regional and national data. The Portal aims to provide easy access and safe storage for environmental datasets to be used for monitoring, evaluating, and analyzing environmental conditions and trends to support environmental planning, forecasting, and reporting requirements at all levels. 

Furthermore, the National Environment Data Portals have also been developed for the 14 Pacific island S.P.R.E.P. members. The data from this network of portals are used to inform reporting on national, regional, and international frameworks using the Indicator Reporting Tool.

The Indicator Reporting Tool aims to simplify reporting processes and reduce the reporting burden by facilitating reuse of indicator definitions across multiple reporting obligations. 

The tool can be used for multilateral reporting obligations under Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) as well as national and state-based indicator reporting. It is targeted towards government officials responsible for compiling and producing indicator-based reports.

In recent years, the 14 Pacific island countries including Samoa have developed State of the Environment (S.o.E.) reports, many of which are already approved and published. These S.o.E. reports are developed using indicator assessments, and the Indicator Reporting Tool has facilitated “reusing environmental indicators” from one report to another. 

For instance, the Marshall Islands used its 2016 SoE as the main input for the country’s fifth national report to the Convention on Biological Diversity (C.B.D.), and Niue is using its SoE for its sixth national report to the CBD. 

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