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Treading Gently: Building on Positive Environmental Practice in the Tonga Volcano Response

This practice paper explores the response to the Tonga volcanic eruption and tsunami through a ‘green response’ lens. It provides a rapid analysis of emerging evidence to generate conversations for response and recovery planning, and to inform decision-making and review processes for humanitarian stakeholders in Tonga and the Pacific more widely.

The response faced the challenges of multiple needs and practical constraints, but it was also tested by another factor of great importance in the Pacific region and globally: the need to consider the environmental impacts of humanitarian action. Globally, humanitarian actors are increasing their focus and recognition towards the importance of environmental considerations as part of effective, principled aid and the accountability to affected populations – a ‘green’ way of responding. This ambition is supported by many within the sector, yet collectively the sector requires a shift to ensure this ambition is matched with action.


This paper explores three questions:

  • What is the relationship between effective humanitarian aid and green practices in the Tonga response?
  • What are the barriers to effective green humanitarian action?
  • What opportunities to are there to build momentum towards a greener humanitarian system during the recovery in Tonga and more broadly across the Pacific?