Pacific making climate change gains

Pacific island nations are working closely together and making significant advances in adapting to climate change and introducing more sustainable and resilient practices, Samoan Prime Minister Tuila'epa Dr Sa'ilele Malielegaoi told the second Pacific Climate Change Conference, hosted by Victoria University of Wellington and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme.

Considerable progress Is being made moving economies toward renewable energy "despite being responsible for a very,very tiny proportion of greenhouse gas emissions", said Malielegaoi, an active and leading voice for climate change issues in the Pacific region and an instrumental figure in establishing a new Pacific Climate Change Centre scheduled to open next year.

Samoa itself is half-way toward its target of 100 percent renewable energy by 2025 - already managing 100 percent at weekends.

But Malielegaoi said: "All of our efforts will be meaningless unless there is concerted and more ambitious effort by all countries to reduce emissions and scale up financial support for adaptation in the most vulnerable countries."

With climate change "an existential threat", Pacific island nations need emission reduction targets consistent with no more than 1.5 degrees of global warming in order to "safeguard our peoples' wellbeing and livelihood", he said.

"It is extremely important that the momentum built in Paris be maintained. Keeping global temperature increases below 1.5 degrees Celsius is not a choice but an absolute necessity.

"Yet the most recent analysis suggests the collective nationally determined contributions for emissions are leading us towards a world that by 2100 will be hotter by at least three to four degrees Celsius."

Promises "are not enough", said Malielegaoi. "Now is the time for action."

As the most vulnerable nations, Pacific island voices and interests should be the basis for that action, he said.

The effects of climate change and associated extreme weather events "mean many communities are at risk of losing traditional homelands as tides wash away the shoreline, sea levels continue to rise and inland communities experience landslides, leaving communities devoid of safer and more disaster resilient land".

Food and water security is also threatened, said Malielegaoi - including by ocean acidification and marine pollution.

Less land and diminishing opportunities would create unsustainable economies and uncertainty and hardship for "thousands and thousands of these communities", he said.

"Access to international climate change and disaster risk finance is a priority if we are to adapt to and mitigate climate change."

Malielegaoi emphasised the importance of Pacific island nations having acted collectively and continuing to do so.

"The need to work together on key challenges facing the Pacific region is emphasised in the Pacific Island Forum leaders' endorsement of the Blue Pacific identity," he said.

Building on that collective identity would give their voice more impact.

To end, Malielegaoi reiterated how central Pacific island nations are to climate change action.

"After all, as the honourable Prime Minister of Tuvalu always ardently advocates, save Tuvalu and you will save the world."