American Samoa steps up to build climate resilience
Photo: L – R – Fa'amau Asalele Director of American Samoa Environmental Protection Agency, Mr Kosi Latu Director General of SPREP, Va’amua Henry Sesepasara Director of American Samoa Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources, Aufa’i Areta Director of the Agriculture, Community and Natural Resources Division of the American Samoan Community College.
A three-day “Enhancing Climate Resilience through Community Awareness” summit to help build the resilience of people and communities in American Samoa opened yesterday.
Organised in partnership by the American Samoa Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources (DMWR) and the Environment Protection Agency (EPA), the summit aims to help people to learn more about climate resilience.
Science confirms that we are becoming more and more affected by a changing climate which has already contributed to worsening food security, reduced the predictable availability of fresh water, and exacerbated the spread of disease and other threats to human health.
“Of the six lowest nations in the world, we have four of these in the Pacific. Low-lying atolls no more than two metres high,” said Leota Kosi Latu, Director General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), the keynote speaker of the event in American Samoa.
“When you talk about the most vulnerable, we in the Pacific are definitely within that category.
“Being able to prevent, withstand and recover from the negative impacts of a changing climate is important for us. We all want to be able to ‘build back better’ so that our communities become stronger.
“A resilient community is likely to be wealthier and healthier, it is likely to be safer, better educated, uses its traditional knowledge effectively and is able to create more opportunities for its young people. We want American Samoa to be resilient to change.”
The summit draws together a wide range of people from school students to local and national government official, opening its doors to the general public.
“All of this is for the future generation,” presented Va’amua Henry Sesepasara the Director of DMWR at the opening today in American Samoa.
“It is you, our young people that will take the helm to help us alleviate these problems. Building our climate resilience will help us when we face the problems that come with change, issues that impact us direction here in American Samoa.”
Over the course of three days a wide range of short workshops will be held allowing the 150 participants to spend time in different discussion groups. These will help participants learn more of the different climate resilience activities happening in American Samoa and across the Pacific islands region.
It is hoped these conversations will allow for sharing of ideas and experiences broadening Pacific knowledge.
“I think it’s important that we come together this week, mindful that we are not just one single Pacific island. We are part of many, many islands dotted around the Pacific. When we start to have a bigger sense and appreciation of where we come from, we appreciate that we are part of a wider Pacific, that what we do here will impact our neighbouring countries and vice versa,” said Leota.
“What communities are experiencing and doing to address their challenges in one part of the Pacific, may be something that others can apply in their part of the Pacific. We are all going through so many changes and the science tell us it’s not going to get any easier, it’s important we look at this together collectively, and look at it through a lens of urgency.”
SPREP is helping to lay the foundation for an understanding of climate sciences and work undertaken in the Pacific islands region to build climate resilience.
These are followed by a series of workshops which covers food security, disaster preparedness, health, as well as energy and infrastructure.
Day three will include field trips to LEED certified buildings in American Samoa. LEED is a rating system developed by the US Green Building Council for buildings homes and communities that are designed, constructed, maintained and operated for improved environmental and human health performance.
The Enhancing Climate Resilience through Community Awareness Summit is being held at the Malaeimi Church LDS Stake Center from 5 – 7 February, 2019. It is coordinated in partnership by the American Samoa Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources (DMWR) and Environment Protection Agency (EPA) with support from the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).