The Prime Minister of Samoa has urged the world to step back from the brink of climate disaster to save the people of the Pacific Ocean from extinction.
On the eve of a landmark report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change expected to deliver a scientific “final warning” on the climate emergency, Samoan Prime Minister Fiam Naomi Matafa issued a desperate plea for action.
“We are all affected, but the degree of impact is in the specific circumstances of the countries. So our lower atoll countries, it’s there, we live with it,” Matafa said.
“There are examples of communities in the Pacific, entire communities, that have moved to different countries,” she said. “They have to address issues of sovereignty by losing land.”
Matafa warned that all countries would face mounting losses if they did not act now. “This is a collective issue, no one is exempt from the effects of climate change,” she said in an interview with the Guardian. “That’s why it’s so important for the global family to be determined [to cut greenhouse gas emissions] which has already been made. It seems more immediate to us [in the Pacific] But it’s still affecting us all.”
On Monday, the IPCC will produce Final summary of its latest assessment of global climate science. Known as the “synthesis report”, it is expected to warn that the world has only a few years left to achieve a deep shift to a global low-carbon economy or face the consequences of rising sea levels, extreme weather, including intense heat waves. and a cascade of devastating droughts, heavy floods and other impacts.
The report will also set out ways to achieve this low-carbon economy and keep global warming to a critical threshold of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, beyond which the IPCC warns of impacts that would be acutely catastrophic and irreversible. .
Mata’afa said: “With the work of the IPCC, there is a glimmer of hope that there is a body of evidence that can support the decisions that need to be made. [People in Samoa are] Believe that [this message] will endure.”
The IPCC is the world’s leading body of climate scientists, with hundreds of lead authors drawing on the peer-reviewed work of thousands of scientists to produce comprehensive reports thousands of pages long, which summarize global knowledge of the crisis.
In the last two years, the IPCC has released its sixth such assessment in three parts, from 1988 to August 2021 to March 2022. This final report, called the Synthesis Report, will summarize previous warnings and present them to governments worldwide.
IPCC reports take six to eight years to compile, so this will be the last before 2030, when the world may have breached the 1.5C threshold, if greenhouse gas emissions do not fall rapidly over the next few years.
Emily Shuckberg, director of Cambridge Zero at the University of Cambridge, said: “The science is clearer than ever, and scientists around the world remind us how little time we have left to limit warming to 1.5°C. Even now, at 1.1°C, the climate impacts are deadly.
Alok Sharma, chairman of the Cop26 UN Climate Summit in 2021, said the government must respond. “The IPCC reports continue to urge world leaders to act very quickly if they are to have any hope of surviving 1.5°C. While we are seeing some progress, clearly, we are moving very slowly to decarbonise our economy and adapt to a changing climate,” he told the Guardian.
He asked for more investment. “Finance is critical, and providing trillions of dollars for climate action, which many leaders have talked about, is critical now,” he said.
The islands of the Pacific represent some of the most vulnerable nations, and were instrumental in calling for other countries to accept the 1.5°C limit, Matafa said.
Samoa, made up of nine small islands in the mid-Pacific, halfway between New Zealand and Hawaii, contains some higher land than many of its atoll neighbors. But the country still faces rising seas and more destructive storms.