Australia is committed to help Samoa and the Pacific region to fight climate change.
So assured Australia’s Ambassador for the Environment, Patrick Suckling, who was in the country to see first-hand some of the challenges faced by the Pacific region.
“This is a special region for Australia,” he told the Samoa Observer.
“As the Ambassador for the Environment, I thought it was very important to come and see firsthand some of the challenges, threats and priorities of the Samoan people, the communities, businesses and government in terms of one of the greatest threats the whole world is facing.”
Having visited Tuvalu and Fiji prior to Samoa, Mr. Suckling believes different countries encounter unique challenges.
“For instance, when I visited Tuvalu last week, their Prime Minister told me that they might not exist into the future. And that not is not the same for Samoa and Fiji. Still there are some particular sharp threats from climate change in this region.”
But the good news is that Australia is committed to help. This is what the Australian Prime Minister made very clear at the Pacific Island Forum last year.
“The message he delivered last year was that Australia is strongly committed to continue their support for this region through actions against climate change,” said Mr. Suckling.
“As you aware, we also co-funded the Green Climate Fund meeting with Samoa last year, so Australia is also making sure that funds are coming into this region including Samoa.”
Mr. Suckling said part of his visit is to discuss the priorities of the governments and where Australia can help.
“There are implications of climate change that affect communities and the government in Samoa has been a great leader. The Prime Minister has been an international leader in raising awareness and driving commitment to address climate change.
“So I thought it was very important to come here and see for myself some of the threats and challenges faced by the people of Samoa.”
Mr. Suckling met with a number of senior government officials during his time here. Among them was Acting Prime Minister, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, who is also the Minister for Natural Resources and Environment and the Minister of Finance, Sili Epa Tuioti.
“We talked about the priorities and challenges of climate change in the region,” he said. “She underlined the appreciation of the government of Samoa for the support that Australia provides in addressing all sorts of issues especially climate change.
“And we discussed a range of priorities that we have in terms of further work on climate change.
“For example, climate proofing infrastructures, whether it is roads, schools, hospitals and electricity, that sort of infrastructure is not destroyed by natural disasters.
“We talked about water security because of the increasing problem of water security as it is associated with climate change. And that’s where the G.C.F. will be going.
“We also talked about the importance of regional actions, where countries of this region can come together and think in the strategic string lines, and coordinated ways about how can we as countries can work together to make sure that countries are following what we agreed upon in Paris.
“So that we can make a difference and fight against climate change, both in terms of mitigation reducing emissions, but also in terms of adaptation, and building resilience economy and community.
“We talked about how we can work together on implementation of what sorts of issues can we have, and Samoa has been a great leader on regional initiative and I know it is the host of the Pacific Island Forums this year.
“So the Minister was underlying to me that they are continuing to support and carry on the leadership role in the region.”
Mr. Suckling said funding assistance for the Pacific region is key.
“At the moment, we are working in conjunction with the World Bank on the projects of having better roads for Samoa, climate proofing the roads, to make sure that the roads are not going to get washed away and destroyed during rainy seasons or natural disasters.
“We do a lot of capacity building in terms of bilateral aid programme. We’re working on regional initiative on water, on climate data meteorological services that can predict weather patterns and that can fit in to adaptation plans.
“So we are open-minded and really want to be guided by the priorities of the Samoan government in terms of where to next.”
Finally, how committed is Australia to the Paris Agreement?
“From our perspective, we are not sure where the policy will go, because they are still doing it,” he said.
He was referring to the shift in policy with the new administration at the White House in the United States and the threat from President Trump to abolish the E.P.A (Environmental Protection Agency).
“But we understand that at this stage, nothing’s changing in terms of U.S.A’s commitment to the Paris Agreement.
“We have an open-mind in terms of where the U.S goes on its policies, because they haven’t pulled out of the Paris Agreement, so let’s see what will happen.”
But the Ambassador is sure about one thing. Australia is very committed to the Paris Agreement.
“That was a very significant historic agreement in Paris, 2015. 196 countries agreed for the first time ever, all collectively to take action against climate change.
“Then around 170 countries turned up in New York to sign it in April, so within months, we had a huge amount of countries turning up to sign. And then within a year, which has never happened for an international Treaty before, that treaty came into force.
“I think it reflects the fact that sings of climate change are getting stronger and stronger and more and more consensus that there is a real threat. So that’s a global consensus.
“The other thing is, all countries have come together in agreement to take actions now, and to increase ambition over time to address climate change.
“Moreover, many more people are seeing this as an opportunity not a cost.”
For examples, in Australia, they have reduced emissions but their economy has grown by nearly 50 percent, said Mr. Suckling.
“What the Paris Agreement says, is the world has to transition to a lower emissions global economy, so every sector has to change.
“This effectively means it’s an economic issue; trillions of dollars have to be spent changing energy sectors, transport sectors, agricultural sectors, just anything that you care to think about will have to be changed.
“That’s literally trillions of dollars worth of opportunities. Australia does sometimes get criticized for our commitment to climate change.”
However, he reiterated that Australia is rock solid when it comes to supporting their neighbours on the Pacific.