OPINION: Taking the lead on climate change

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Minister of the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment Fiame Naomi Mata'afa. Fiame is also the Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa.

(WAIPAHU--FRIDAY, APRIL 1, 2016)--I'd like to thank the Samoa Observer for the story on the newly installed leader of Samoa's Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (M.N.R.E), Minister, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa. It's refreshing to see that Fiame has placed climate change at the top of the ministry's agenda noting "it's an issue not only in the Pacific but everywhere around the world."

Due to the all-encompassing nature of climate change, my hope is that Fiame's example will motivate other countries to not only keep this discussion alive but to take real action as promised in the Paris Agreement reached December 2015.

In a January 31 article by the United Nations Development Programme, the gravity of this issue is reiterated. A commitment to effecting climate change, says the UNDP, is part of global efforts to "create a more equal, sustainable and just world."

The UNDP then points out: "what will have a greater impact on the Pacific region is the outcomes of the Paris Agreement which arose out of COP21 - held in Paris in December 2015."

"A key example is the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals - the Global Goals - which, as of 1 January 2016, was officially adopted and promoted throughout the international development community."

"This is siginificant to the Pacific because Small Island Developing States (SIDS) have gained specific mention within a number of the goals set-out, specifically Goal 4: Education, Goal 13: Climate Change and Goal 14: Sustainable use of Ocean Resources."

The UNDP says: "this is representative of the increased awareness by the international community of the uniqueness of conditions and issues that SIDS face. However, of key importance are the two main challenges for SIDS, climate change and sustainable use of oceans, which are being addressed within the SDG’s. This portrays the influence that SIDS have been able to generate through increasing awareness of the specific issues that they face."

"The Paris Agreement places the issue of climate change at the forefront of the global consciousness, and its outcomes have proven the seriousness of the issue."

"There is no doubt that climate change is real in the Pacific, and finally, a global agreement has been made that recognised this. The Agreement highlights a path into the future which promises hope for sustainability and equality, where all countries are...being called upon to take responsibility for their actions and have agreed that climate change is of national concern and can only be challenged through a unified and sustainable approach."

Looking after the environment for our future generations is on top of Fiame's priority list, we are told.

“I know and I believe that as an environmental ministry we need to place a lot of focus into the management of both our land and environment,” Fiame said. “This way we can continue maintaining our natural resources for our future generations.”

In addition, Fiame's ministry will continue to look into ways to reduce the impact of climate change which affects the whole world.

“I can’t really say much because I am about to embark on this journey but all I know is that the main priorities is climate change and ways we can eliminate it through ministry projects.”

Now that we know the Samoa Government has prioritized climate change under Fiame's Ministry, it's a good time to find out what's happening in other parts of the world, in terms of priorities and policy relating to climate change.

The UNDP notes that the Paris Agreement contains "very important positive implications for the Pacific."

The Agreement, according to the UN report, means "the Pacific is no longer working alone to address impacts of climate change, because now the global community is finally working...in unison to reduce their environmental footprint."

Other than the Paris Agreement as evidence of the global community working together, what real changes have we seen since COP-21?

The Agreement postively impacts the Pacific region; "and yet, most importantly, it shows a commitment to a future that is stable, more equal and sustainable for the next generation," says the UNDP.

"A commitment by the international community that recognises climate change as a global issue and as such, a universal, unified effort is paramount to stabilise the environment and save the planet from the throes of climate change into which mankind have cornered itself," says the UNDP.

"This is positive for the Pacific because it shows their efforts as climate leaders is not going unnoticed at the global level and that through continued positive action and intent, SIDS can further their influence and begin to create the sustainable world that has been strived for over the past decades."

Pacific islanders are adamant in taking the lead on climate change because we know very well what's at stake: our beloved island homelands and our future.

One Samoan resident in Hawai'i believes that "climate change is very real."

"We could have no Samoa! No Pacific islands! They just don't care," said the woman.

While agreements have been discussed, signed and publicized, what regular ordinary island people want to see are visible results from all parties who've committed to working in unison with the Pacific on climate change.

Thankfully, there is hope in Samoa from Fiame. We can also hope that leaders around the world will follow her example in treating this issue with the immediate attention it warrants.

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