Manu Samoa could play role on climate: environmentalists

Rugby alone may not be the answer, but Manu Samoa players could be part of a push to move polluting countries on climate change, a leader of the environmental advocacy group 350 Samoa says.

Malama Simi Sesega is the leader of 350 Samoa, the local branch of an international climate action movement 350.org.

She said a report by Christian Aid, reported on in the Saturday edition of the Samoa Observer and which compared the climate crisis with the inequity Pacific Island rugby players face on the playing field, doesn’t necessarily help the cause.

Ms. Sesega said there is danger in blaming rugby, because of how much the international game has done for Pacific Islanders and their families.

“Yes, climate change is everyone's fault and resilience is everyone's responsibility and yes, we must take action now, but we cannot blame the sport and jeopardise everything they've done for communities and countries especially for a lot of Pacific Island families," she said. 

If rugby is to be a site of climate change action, Manu Samoa players could advocate the struggles of the Pacific to the world, Ms. Sesega said.

“I want them to tell other rugby nations that there is a future for rugby in Samoa, and there is potential growth of young boys and girls in rugby developing in the Pacific Islands, but if their nations continue to release, increase and lie about cutting carbon emissions, then there is no growth, or hope for generations to come," she said. 

“They must voice out the changes our Pacific Islands and our country is enduring due to climate change.”

But she agrees the countries named and shamed in the report need to act faster on the climate crisis.

Christian Aid’s report - “A World in Disunion” - was released the day before the Rugby World Cup began, and claims the competition “clearly captures” the injustice of climate change. Manu Samoa will play their first match on Tuesday.

“The main culprits for causing the climate crisis are European nations as well as major coal burners like Australia, the USA and Japan,” report author Dr. Katherine Kramer said.

“Not only have they caused the current dire situation, but they are dragging their feet on making the needed transition to a zero-carbon economy.”

Ms. Sesega said it is “no secret” that the climate crisis is building, and that carbon emissions have to shrink, fast.

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“But how to get that message out is more puzzling, seeing how the leading countries in such chaotic actions are not cooperating in taking corrective actions,” she said.

She said countries like America, Japan and Australia who are among the leading carbon emitters are prioritising economic growth over mitigating the effects of climate change like the rising sea level and extreme weather events:

“These big countries are fully aware of the consequences of their actions and the results of the increase in carbon emissions they continue to release, but unfortunately economy is more important than the health of the planet and their own lives. 

“I think this is a very poor way of thinking and they need to work around a new perspective, more sustainable innovations to build their economies.”

As well as the eve of the Rugby World Cup, the report was released the day before Friday's international climate strikes, led by Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg. She began striking on her own last year and yesterday led millions of people to their parliaments demanding climate justice.

Ms. Thunberg has mobilised youth to protest their Governments by leaving school, taking to the streets and lobbying for change. On Friday’s strike, she estimates over four million people in 163 countries participated.

Speaking to the United States Congress ahead of the United Nations Climate Summit on Wednesday, Ms. Thunberg told leaders their efforts are wanting.

“Wake up,” she said.

The United States is in the unique position of being one of the largest carbon emitting countries while preparing to leave the Paris Agreement, the international pledge to reduce emissions in order to save the planet.

In New York, addressing as many as 300,000 people attending the climate strike, Ms. Thunberg said the world is in a state of emergency, and politicians are not doing enough.

“We will do everything in our power to stop this crisis from getting worse,” she said.

“Everywhere I have been the situation is more or less same. The people in power, their beautiful words are the same,” she said. “The number of politicians and celebrities who want to take selfies with us are the same. The empty promises are the same. The lies are the same, and the inaction is the same.”

Ms. Sesega said polluting countries in the developed world are also leaders in innovation and technology, so should be leading in climate change action rather than lagging behind. 

“To continue to fund fossil fuel infrastructure is like an indirect way of saying “take my life,” she said. 

“With all the power these big countries have, they must put it to good use.”

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