Submitted by admin on Wed, 08/22/2012 - 01:55
August 22, 2012 by admin
CEO of the Ministry for Natural Resources and the Environment,
Delegates, good morning

It is a pleasure for me to give some opening remarks to this workshop on the GIZ/SPC/SPREP Program on Coping with Climate Change in the Pacific Region.

I am delighted to also welcome you to the SPREP Campus – you are most welcome to visit any time. I call this a campus because this is the location for SPREP staff – now more than 70 staff - but also increasingly for our partners. We are delighted to host members of the JICA Waste Management Team, the Australian Climate Adaptation Team and the German Government GIZ Climate programme, through Rachel Dempsey - who will be leading today's workshop

This year has been a great year for birthdays – particularly with the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Samoa's independence. SPREP also celebrated a few birthdays this year – 40 years of work in this region and 20 years of arriving in Samoa as an independent regional organisation.

Overall that's a lot of birthday cakes and a lot of candles.

SPREP arrived in Samoa in 1992 soon after cyclones Val and Ofa. We first set up shop in Samoa's industrial zone of Vaitele in the old office for the Samoa Copra and Cocoa Boards. The large building at the back was used for drying copra and still had the drying kilns when we took over. The whole compound smelled of copra when we first moved in, and so did we after a few weeks.

In 2000, SPREP, with financial assistance of some members and other donors, constructed and moved into these excellent offices. The Prime Minister opened the building at a celebration here on 8 August, 2000 and we were delighted he came back to SPREP in June this year to celebrate our 20 years in Samoa.
Over the last 40 years both SPREP and our programme have grown considerably.

SPREP has been implementing an aggressive change management process over the last few years.

This has been sharply focused on increasing and improving the level of support from SPREP to all Pacific countries and territories.

I am pleased SPREP has more than doubled our direct financial and technical support to our Pacific Members over the last 3 years.

Our direct support to Samoa has substantially increased over this time particularly for biodiversity conservation, climate change, and waste management.

SPREP will continue and accelerate these efforts.

Our change management process has also resulted in better partnerships with donors, partners and other stakeholders, as well as having our programme better based on science and good information.

Over the last 40 years many things have changed in this region.

One thing that hasn't changed at SPREP is our focus on helping Pacific countries to address the major environmental challenges.

And there is no bigger challenge than climate change.

Pacific leaders, including the Prime Minister of Samoa, have stated many times that Climate Change is the biggest challenge facing Pacific Island Countries.

In the words of the President of Kiribati, in the Pacific climate change is a matter of national security – it is a matter of survival.

It is difficult for us in the Pacific region to understand that there are still climate sceptics in many countries around the world. I was in Australia recently and watched a television show on climate change which indicates a relatively high level of scepticism still exists in that country, although I did note one good sound-bite from Australia's Chief Scientist who noted that: "he believes in human induced climate change because he can read English"

For us in the Pacific we don't need to read English – we know climate change is a reality, that it is an urgent issue and that we must act now.

Even though the Pacific contributes 0.03% of the world's total greenhouse gas emissions we are the ones who are in the front line and will be most affected by increasing emissions, irrespective of whether they come from developed or from developing countries.

Our scientists tell us that temperatures in the Pacific by the end of this century are likely to be 2.5 degrees higher than now and that a mean sea level rise of up to half a metre is projected along the coastlines of Pacific island countries.

We also know from our scientists that convergence zones – the zones where flows of weather meet and interact - will shift northwards, resulting in less rainfall and more unpredictable rainfall patterns in our part of the Pacific.

I travel around the Pacific a lot and have seen the practical impacts at first hand.

We can see them in Samoa, such as through the drought conditions Samoa, Tokelau, and Tuvalu experienced last year and through the loss and erosion of coastal zones.

We need practical policies and programs to help Pacific countries adapt to climate change.

This is why this project supported by GIZ on Coping with Climate Change is so important.

I understand that today's workshop will discuss strategies and measures for adapting to climate change and how climate change actions can be mainstreamed into different sectors.

I would like to make three suggestions – for you to consider - as you go about your work today.

First, develop synergies between relevant initiatives and programmes. It is important that you don't "reinvent the wheel" in Samoa

There are important links and synergies and links between this GIZ project and the SPREP PACC – or Pacific Adaptation to Climate Change - Project.

PACC helps Samoa to address coastal management through a combination of hard and soft solutions, such as reducing coastal erosion and stabilizing land at Tafitoala and Lalomalava. It also supports policy development and education programmes. PACC encourages community ownership of project initiatives so that they will continue beyond the life of the project, and has established a national Steering Committee. It is important that this GIZ Coping with Climate Change Programme links with and builds on the work of PACC to ensure that efforts to adapt to climate change are optimized for the benefit of the people of Samoa. By working together these programmes can help make a real difference in responding to climate change in Samoa.

It is also important to link climate change adaptation and disaster risk management.

A number of Pacific countries have now prepared and adopted Joint National Action Plans which integrate policies and programmes for climate adaptation and disaster risk management. At the regional level Pacific leaders have agreed that the policy framework for climate change – the PIFFAC – the Pacific Islands Framework for Climate Change - and the policy framework for Disaster Risk Management will be merged after 2015, when these policy documents come to an end.

The Roundtables for these 2 important regional frameworks will meet together for the first time ever - in FSM in July next year.

These are important regional initiatives which should be replicated in Samoa.
I believe the GIZ project on Coping with Climate Change could play an important role in supporting and encouraging the integration of climate adaptation and disaster risk management in Samoa. I am pleased to note that GIZ and SPREP staff are working very closely together to support climate change adaptation measures within relevant agencies in Samoa. We will continue to strengthen these efforts. I am also pleased that SPREP has greatly strengthened its work with SPC on climate change, including through this project. We will continue to build strong and effective linkages with SPC - wherever we can - to help Pacific countries adapt to climate change.

A second suggestion for adapting to climate change is to strengthen administrative and governance systems within relevant agencies. Funding for climate change is flowing into the region and the current trickle is likely to turn into a flood. The Copenhagen Accord – from the 2009 Climate Convention Meeting - has committed developed countries to a "goal" of mobilizing US$100 billion a year by 2020 to support climate change efforts in developing countries, with particular attention to the most vulnerable countries.

How much of this funding will come to the Pacific region and specifically to Samoa remains to be seen.

What is clear however is that there will be a quantum leap in funding for climate change and that donors will continue their trend towards direct budgetary support to Pacific countries. But this is only where Pacific countries have strong and effective institutions which can receive and account for funds, which can demonstrate results for funds received, and which have strong systems for monitoring and evaluation.

Thus a recommendation for climate change adaptation in Samoa is to build and invest in stronger, more effective and sustainable governance structures, both for government agencies and for villages and local communities.

This investment will pay off in both the short and the long term. I believe the GIZ Coping with Climate Change project and SPREP can provide important support in this area. These actions should be coupled with country efforts to build and maintain strong relations with key donor agencies and partners such as GIZ.
A third suggestion is to look for Pacific solutions to Pacific problems
On Friday last week I filled up SPREP vehicles with biodiesel produced from coconuts. This makes sense for the environment and also for the economic bottom line, given the high costs of imported diesel in Samoa.
And yes, my car is still going strong.

This is an example of an approach we at SPREP are calling Pacific solutions to Pacific problems.

For climate change this implies that we should tailor climate change adaptation to the unique needs and circumstances in Samoa – we need to assess and implement Samoan solutions to Samoan problems.
This includes approaches such as nature or ecosystem based adaptation.

We saw in Samoa that the protection of coastal mangroves and vegetation was one of the most effective ways to protect coastal communities from the impacts of the tragic Tsunami in October 2009. Protection of coastal vegetation provides an important buffer against the effects of climate change and sea level rise.
Protecting the forests in the upper catchment area of Apia is a key way of ensuring that people living in Apia will have a sustainable and clean supply of fresh water in the face of increasing drought conditions resulting from climate change.

Approaches such as these - and also adaptation programmes which build on traditional practices and customary land ownership - should be encouraged.

In closing I would like to say how much SPREP appreciates working with GIZ in support of climate change adaptation, both in the region and here in Samoa. We are looking forward to greatly expanding our partnership in the future to better support your efforts in Samoa.

I would also like to recall what I heard at a workshop in Okinawa in Japan earlier this year. One of the Japanese presenters noted an old Japanese proverb that says, in Japanese "Ichi wo kiite jū wo shiru"- which translates roughly into "A wise man hears one word and understands ten". Therefore I urge all the participants at today's workshop to take an active part in the discussions, think about what you hear, understand what is said, and what might not be said, and share this experience with your colleagues when you return to work.

I wish you all the best for a successful workshop and look forward to seeing the outcomes in due course.

Thank you,
Fa'afetai Lava