Every dollar counts in fight against climate change

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 16 December 2016, 12:00AM

And so all is well that ends well. Yesterday evening, the largest climate finance meeting to be held in the Pacific, the 15th Global Climate Fund Board meeting, ended with joyous celebration at the T.A.T.T.E Building on Beach Road.

Today, the delegates from all over the world who have spent the past few days in rainy Samoa are making their way back home, hopefully with plenty of wonderful memories to share with families, friends and colleagues.

By the way, it doesn’t normally rain that much in beautiful Samoa. Our slice of heaven is usually associated with beautiful sunny days and tropical weather others can only dream of. 

But then perhaps Mother Nature knew the officials here for the meeting really needed to see what could happen to the Vaisigano River after a few days of rain and so it poured and poured. 

Whether that helped Samoa’s US$58million (T$131m) proposal to enhance climate resilience of the Vaisigano River catchment or not, the outcome is nonetheless worthy of a celebration.

Last night, we were told that the proposal has been given the green light by the Green Climate Fund (G.C.F). It was apparently one of eight proposals approved by the Board, worth millions of dollars. 

For Samoa, of three proposals approved related to the Pacific, we are also involved a US$22million (T$50.6m) grant for a multi-country renewable energy programme with the Asian Development Bank. 

What it means is that the meeting in as far as Samoa is concerned has been a very positive one. 

Not only has it helped stimulate the economy by bringing all these visitors to Samoa filling up our hotel rooms and drinking our local beers, the best part is our fight against climate change has received financial injection. 

Indeed, this is the most pressing need for Pacific countries. We need millions and millions to help us confront climate change.

No wonder Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, was pleased.

“What a fitting finale for the Board meeting that four out of eight proposals approved today are from S.I.D.S,” she said. “Our S.I.D.S colleagues I am sure will join me in thanking the Board for the recognition given to the vulnerable small islands developing states.”

We couldn’t agree more.  Climate change is as real as it gets when one lives on these isolated islands in the middle of the biggest ocean in the world. 

And for G.C.F officials to be able to come out here and see what it’s like, it will no doubt give them a new sense of appreciation, understanding and a totally different perspective about the realities we face. 

It’s one thing to read and see videos about something, it’s another thing to see it for yourself. In the case of this meeting this week, seeing is definitely believing.

We’d like to think though that this is only the beginning. 

You see there are more Pacific islands who are worse off than Samoa. Some of these islands are disappearing underneath rising oceans as we speak. Their lot is literally a matter of sinking or swimming. 

Which is why is encouraging to note that of eight projects approved yesterday, four are related to Small Island Developing States. These states are carrying the weight of the reckless actions of the bigger nations largely responsible for global warming.

Today on the pages of the newspaper you are reading, the Director General of the Vailima-based Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (S.P.R.E.P), Leota Kosi Latu, has hailed the outcome of the meeting.

He has reason to. With three multi-million projects proposed by Pacific countries being approved – including two involving Samoa – who wouldn’t be pleased.

“This is a great achievement for the Pacific islands as a whole,” Leota said.

“Resourcing to help our Pacific islands cope with the impacts of climate change and transition away from dirty and expensive fossil fuels is needed. 

“Having these three projects approved will make a real difference. I congratulate all parties involved in making this happen with the G.C.F and look forward to seeing more projects like this in the future.”

We couldn’t agree more. 

We reiterate that our hope is this is only the beginning.

Earlier this week, Samoa’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations who serves as the Representative of Small Island Developing States on the Board of the Green Climate Fund, Aliioaiga Feturi Elisaia, wrote an excellent piece about the meeting. 

Reprinted under the headline “Seeing is believing,” he made a couple of excellent points worth reflecting upon.

“The underlying reason for bringing the Board to Samoa is to provide the G.C.F Board members and stakeholders with an opportunity to see and experience first-hand the realities that the Pacific region and island communities are already facing on a daily basis…” he wrote. 

“In trying to define what constitutes a ‘paradigm shift’ on the ground, and what projects will deliver ‘transformational impact’ in our collective action to address climate change, we must never lose sight of the simple truth that even projects by islands states, small as they may seem when compared to other larger and more expensive projects, in absolute term, they can still be impactful, effective, and bring about life-changing results in their own right. 

“After all, everything in life is relative and ‘small’ can also be beautiful.”

Well said, Ali’ioaiga!

If we may add, in matters of life and death, as is the case with climate change on these shores, every little step and every dollar we can get counts. 

Congratulations to everyone involved and have a safe journey home. Have a pleasant Friday Samoa, God bless! 

By Mata'afa Keni Lesa 16 December 2016, 12:00AM
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