Samoan Minister pleads for political will

by Cherelle Jackson in Poznan, Poland

POZNAN: 11 Dec 2008: The Samoan Minister of Environment today drew international attention to the need for a common political will in the fight against climate change.

In his address to the United Nations Climate Change Ministerial meeting today, Faumuina Liuga Tiatia said global political will from developed nations is needed for the negotiations to have a positive effect on the state of Pacific islands.

“The distinguished gathering is well familiar with customary international law, where States have the responsibility to ensure that activities within their control do not cause damage to the environment of other States. It follows therefore that those responsible for causing damage to the environment must bear the responsibility for rectifying that damage,” Faumuina said.

Samoa signed the Kyoto Protocol on 16 March 1998 and ratified on the 27 November 2000.

Faumuina said: “The dilemma facing the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) is that while we have contributed very little to the causes of climate change we are among the most vulnerable to its negative impacts. And worse, we have little ability to control the actions of others. So without global response, it is extremely difficult for us to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change.”

Samoa was identified as a “high risk area” to the impacts of climate change in the most recent assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2007, due to the country’s strong dependence on economic sectors that are highly sensitive to climate change effects.

Faumuina today drew attention to the vulnerability of not just Samoa but also other small islands.

“Indeed, Samoa, like other Small Island Developing States, faces numerous challenges as a result of the current global financial crisis. This situation will worsen for us due to the impacts of climate change, with many of our low lying islands and coastal areas most likely to disappear into the ocean from sea level rise.”

According to the 2007 Human Development Report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), with 0.0% of the world’s population, Samoa accounts for 0.0% of global emissions – an average of 0.8 tonnes of CO2 per person.

A report by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) attributes the vulnerability of SIDS to several factors.

“It must be emphasized, however, that the sensitivity of small islands to the projected effects of climate change cannot be attributed to any single factor such as size, elevation, remoteness, or to a select group of factors. Rather, the level of vulnerability of these islands is determined by the increasing and collective result of these and related biophysical attributes combined with the islands’ economic and socio cultural characters,” the report states.

The Samoan Minister of Environment today called on industrialised nations and those responsible for the bulk of emissions to face up to their global responsibilities.

“We have not come to Poznan to point fingers or cast blame; but to raise our concerns, reiterate our fears and highlight the uncertainties that we feel as Small Island Developing States. We should focus our attention on the enormity of the challenge we face with climate change, sharing our experiences and lessons learned, and assisting the most vulnerable countries to implement the necessary actions.”

Faumuina reminded the meeting that scientific findings have proven the severity of the situation and that now it was time to act.

“With the documentary evidence of the causes and the solutions to combat climate change, what is needed now is global political will to take action.”