The Economics of Climate Change in the Pacific

Photo credit: Luis Ascui.
Photo credit: Luis Ascui.

Pacific island countries need to include climate action in national development plans to lessen the economic costs of climate change.


The 14 developing member countries (DMCs) of the Asian Development Bank in the Pacific constitute a diverse array of 7,500 islands scattered across an area of 30 million square kilometers (km2). As of 2013, 10.7 million people inhabited these countries.

The Pacific has varying topographies, cultures, and economies. Many islands are small and geographically remote, with fragile biodiversity and a limited natural resource base. These features make the region particularly vulnerable to global warming, with increasing and more intense cyclones, floods, and drought.

Climate change affects food production and uses of land, coastal, and marine resources; damages infrastructure and water resources; and adds risk to human health. All in all, economic costs of climate change have been large and are expected only to increase. In the 1990s, extreme weather cost the Pacific region more than $1 billion. In 1990 and 1991, cyclones Ofa and Val alone cost Samoa $440 million—more than the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). Cyclone Heta in Niue wrought $27 million in damages (25% of its GDP). And in early 2005, the Cook Islands faced five cyclones within 5 weeks—four of which were Category 5. In February 2008, Fiji lost $32 million to Cyclone Gene, forcing the government to provide $1.2 million in food rations.

Clearly, the prosperity, stability, and security of the Pacific will depend on how the development challenges associated with climate change are tackled.

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Meet the experts

  • Robert Guild    
    Director, Asian Development Bank

    Robert Guild is director of the transport and communications division at the East Asia Department. Prior to his current position, he was with the Pacific Department as director for transport, energy, and natural resources. He holds a doctorate in Planning and two master's degrees: one in Urban Planning and the other in Public Administration, both from the University of Southern California, United States. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from California State University, United States.

  • Cyn-Young Park    
    Director, Asian Development Bank

    Cyn-Young Park is director of the Regional Cooperation and Integration Division of the Economic Research and Regional Cooperation Department. During her progressive career within ADB, she has been a main author and contributor to the Asian Development Outlook, and participated in various global and regional forums including the G20 Development Working Group, as well as written and lectured extensively about the Asian economy and financial markets. She managed a team of economists to assess the socioeconomic benefits of ADB programs and projects and provide country diagnostic studies for effective ADB support to its developing member countries.Prior to joining ADB, she was an OECD economist.

   Papua New Guinea, Timor-Leste, Climate change, Economics
   Last updated: November 2013



The views expressed in these articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Asian Development Bank, its management, its Board of Directors, or its members.

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