Mike Waiwai is Mitigating Climate Change for a Better Nation

Mike Waiwai

Mike Waiwai is an Australia Awards alumnus who graduated in 2010 from the University of the South Pacific, Fiji, with a Bachelor of Environmental Studies. He is now the Director for the Department of Climate Change in Vanuatu. Mike is responsible for overseeing the management and institutional performance as aligned with the department’s activities; focused on increasing the resilience of communities to issues affecting them because of climate change and natural disasters.

One of the core strategies deployed by the Department of Climate Change is through education, with the priority areas being adaptation and mitigation. Awareness campaigns play a significant role in educating those in a region affected by a particular climate threat. Vanuatu is particularly vulnerable to cyclones and volcanic eruptions which has led to some islanders being forced to relocate and becoming climate refugees. Mike states ‘the passing of information about climate change is approached to fit Vanuatu’s specific context. We use scientific research that is delivered in Bislama to ensure it is accessible for everyone. There has been great focus on education, particularly in schools, to build a solid foundation of understanding for generations to come’.

Cyclones happen, on average, about 5 times a year within Vanuatu. The most notable cyclone occurred in 2015, called Cyclone Pam. This severe tropical cyclone was the second most intense tropical cyclone of the South Pacific Ocean in terms of sustained winds and is regarded as one of the worst natural disasters in the history of Vanuatu.

Mike and his department have implemented outreach projects throughout the 83 islands of Vanuatu, linking strategies derived from traditional and western knowledge to strengthen the nation’s resilience in the face of natural disasters. These projects include the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF), Vanuatu Coastal Adaptation Project (VCAP), Technical Needs Assessment for Climate Change Project and the Increasing Resilience to Climate Change and Natural Hazards (IRCCNH) Project 2013-2018.

Mike is extremely pleased to see climate change as a priority field of study for Australia Awards Vanuatu and hopes one day to further his own studies.

Mike further explains

‘my vision is to have a collective of Ni-Vanuatu climate scientists who can drive further change. Having our own climate scientists would bring much benefit from a contextual standpoint, both in their knowledge of Vanuatu specifically, and in their approaches towards the delivery of information and resources’.