"No room for egos," Minister Aupito on fight against climate change

New Zealand's Minister for Pacific Peoples, Aupito William Sio, has called for greater collaboration between Pacific nations in the fight for survival against climate change.

The call comes in the wake of a divisive Pacific Islands Forum last month. 

Minister Aupito is in Apia for the Pacific Environment Forum Ministers' Talanoa. He also represented his country at the opening of the Pacific Climate Change Centre located at Vailima.

“There is no room for individual egos in this region,” Aupito said.

“We are at a state where action is required, and if we are going to make significant action to combat climate change we have got to be prepared to work together.”

The comments come after a rift on climate change policy at last month's Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Tuvalu. 

The Forum's wealthiest member, Australia, faced backlash from Pacific leaders who demanded the country step up its action on climate change including the phasing out of coal power. 

Aupito said, as a close partner of Australia, he did offer its Prime Minister guidance during the meeting.

“As a Pacific person, I offered some guidance and counsel to them about engagement, and I have said to them that we need to be working strongly together and we will continue to do that," he said. 

“Each of those donor partners will need to make their own decisions. My view and the view of our government is we want to be able to work collaboratively.”

For the Pacific Climate Change Centre (P.C.C.C.), New Zealand is contributing US$2.3 million (T$6.14 million) and five staff towards staffing the centre for the next three years.

“We are doing that because collaboration is the key word,” Aupito said. 

Japan spent T$7.5 million on building the P.C.C.C, which is part of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (S.P.R.E.P).

Aupito said New Zealand sees its role as a platform for amplifying the voices of Pacific Islanders on climate change, and to leverage Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s international profile to help do that.

S.P.R.E.P's Director General, Leota Kosi Latu, said he has been fielding interest from other international partners keen to contribute too.

"Non-traditional" partners from Ireland and Norway, for example, have registered their interest in funding the organisations work.

“I believe the Pacific climate change centre has an important role to help inform the kinds of actions and strategies that all our island developing states will need to undertake to fight for their right to live on their lands,” Aupito said.

“And the new generation, the rising Pacific population, the people who I call six b’s: brown beautiful, brainy, bicultural and bilingual and bold, they want to know that leaders of the Pacific region are doing all they can to safeguard and protect their beloved Pacific region.”

Aupito, who also holds the Su'a matai title, is a vocal climate crisis advocate. 

The Minister said as well as helping grow a body of scientific evidence of climate change and policy initiatives, the P.C.C.C should work on traditional knowledge on climate, weather and food. 

“It needs to go hand in hand with our traditional knowledge, our Pacific indigenous knowledge,” he said.

“Between the two, we will be able to find the kinds of solutions that we need in order to fight for our right to survive, to self-determine the future of all the nations in this Pacific region.”

And to do so, “the next crop of Pacific scientists must be confident in their own languages, cultures and stories".

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