Samoa’s Prime Minister, Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, has officially opened the fourth iteration of the Pacific Ocean Pacific Climate Change Conference (POPCCC), reminding that Pacific communities are already amongst the worst affected by the escalating climate change crisis.

“For Pacific countries, this is already their lived reality,” she said.

Prime Minister Fiame delivered the keynote address at the National University of Samoa (NUS) on Tuesday, where the POPCCC is being convened from 20 – 23 May 2024.

Jointly organised by the National University of Samoa (NUS), the Pacific Climate Change Centre (PCCC) hosted at the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and Te Herenga Waka – Victoria University of Wellington (VUW), the conference is guided by the theme: ‘Our Ocean, Our Home: Climate Resilience for a Blue Pacific.’

According Samoa’s Prime Minister, Pacific Leaders have already declared that Pacific communities are facing a Climate Emergency threatening livelihoods, security and the wellbeing of people and ecosystems.

“Many of them already experience higher temperatures, shifts in rainfall patterns, rising sea levels and altered frequency and intensity of extreme climate events. Strong traditions, cultures, and adaptability to the unique characteristics of their environment and geography have fostered resilient communities over centuries. However, climate change poses a considerable threat to their future,” said PM Mata’afa.

“Small Island Developing States (SIDS) face a unique set of vulnerabilities which impede their ability to achieve sustainable development. Most SIDS including Samoa face high indebtedness which is compounded every time there is rebuilding after a natural disaster. And we know that natural disasters will increase in frequency and severity as long as climate change remains unaddressed.”

Prime Minister Mata’afa’s concerns are well supported by science. The latest IPCC report shows that based on our current trajectory, the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events, rising sea levels, global warming, and ocean acidification will increase. The IPCC Regional Factsheet for Small Islands also shows that changes in the environment are already and will continue to be the single greatest threat to the security and well-being of Pacific people.

This is why meetings like the POPCCC are crucial for the survival of Pacific communities.

“We, the leaders of the Pacific, have been collectively calling to amplify ambitious global action to limit global warming below 1.5C in order for us to secure the future of our blue Pacific. We as Leaders, approved “The 2050 Strategy of the Blue Pacific Continent” as our “North Star” articulating our 30 Year strategy that responds to the Pacific region’s important challenges in environment and sustainable development,” PM Mata’afa said.

“The overall theme of the Fourth Pacific Climate Change Conference underlines the central role of the Pacific Ocean in the life of the communities in the region. It recognises that protection of the ocean is crucial to enable Pacific nations that depend on it to continue to thrive in their home environment.”

The POPCCC, a multi-disciplinary conference, is bringing together experts from the private, public, and civil society, and a variety of participants from the arts, faith communities, industry, and other backgrounds to look at ways where, together, we can all play our part to address climate change.

SPREP’s Director General, Sefanaia Nawadra, said the POPCCC is a platform to discuss and formulate concrete actions for the Pacific region to tackle climate change, as well as for SPREP to assist in building the resilience of our Pacific communities.

“The theme and the meeting this week speak volumes of the need for commitment and a dedicated space through this conference to share the science that we are doing and discuss what science is needed to better manage our Pacific Islands region to allow our Pacific Island communities to thrive and prosper,” he said.

“Climate and Disasters and Ocean and Environment are two of the thematic areas under the 2050 Blue Pacific Strategy our Leaders have put in place. SPREP and SPC lead both these themes. A week ago, SPREP successfully re-convened after a hiatus of seven years the Pacific Climate Change Roundtable. We also now have the mandate to convene a Ministerial for Climate Change Ministers. This conference can be part of the regional architecture to implement these two themes of the 2050 Strategy to ensure the scientific voice is engaged in implementation and the strategies continual improvement and revision.

VUW’s Assistant Vice Chancellor Pasifika, Associate ProfessorLuamanuvao Dame Winnie Laban, said the POPCCC provides a platform to promote sustainable solutions and innovations for mitigating and adapting to climate change in the Pacific region, as well as to advocate for global climate action and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

“Responding to climate change is all about cooperation. We need to work together to help each other, this is especially true across the Pacific, including our Ocean, the biggest ocean in the world,” she said.

“Marrying traditional knowledge and western science is key to a broader understanding of the issues and the human response to them. This conference aims to foster the weaving of knowledge and we can each play a vital role in capacity building through our partnerships across the blue Pacific, our home.”

The Vice Chancellor and President of NUS, Professor Tuifuisa’a Patila Malua Amosa said: “I’m pleased that the National University of Samoa is playing a key role in organising this conference in collaboration with our partners and as we work together to build climate resilience in our Pacific communities. We must also recognise the importance of education and research in driving innovation and solutions. I am confident that the discussions and outcomes of this conference will have a lasting impact on our region’s ability to adapt to the challenges posed by climate change.”

The fourth Pacific Ocean Pacific Climate Change Conference (4POPCCC) from 20-24 May 2024 is held in Apia, Samoa.

It is organised by the National University of Samoa (NUS) in partnership with the Pacific Climate Change Centre (PCCC) hosted at the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. The theme of the conference is “Our Ocean, Our Home: Climate Resilience for a Blue Pacific.”