Samoa PM issues climate warning ahead of UN talks

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Apia, Samoa

The world must take urgent action on climate change at upcoming UN talks in Glasgow or low-lying Pacific nations will face a “dire” future, Samoa’s new leader has told AFP in an interview.

Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, who took office as Samoa’s first female prime minister in late July, gave a stark assessment of the Pacific’s prospects if efforts to tackle global warming continue to stall.

Mata’afa said rising seas were already swamping the region’s tiny atoll states — which include nations such as Tokelau, Tuvalu and Ki-ribati.

“With them, it’s a real and present cir-cumstance — the water is gaining ground on them,” she said Monday, adding that violent cyclones were becoming more common across the South Pacific.

Major storms “used to be every 50 to 60 years, now it’s becoming every two to three years”, she said. “For us, we’ve noticed the impact on our coastal areas, and about 70 percent of our country is settled on the coast.”

In a wide-ranging interview, Mata’afa also discussed the geopolitical rivalry between China and the United States in the Pacific, her dis-appointment at neighbouring Australia’s climate stance and the implications of her ground-breaking election victory.

But front of mind was the 26th edition of the UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties — COP26 — scheduled to start in the Scottish city of Glasgow in November.

The summit will involve negotiators from 196 countries in the biggest climate conference since landmark talks in Paris in 2015.

Mata’afa said it was crucial that partici-pants honour the ambitious goal set in Paris to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared with pre-industrial levels.To do that, she said caron-emitting countries needed to prioritise saving the planet over economic growth, adding: “It’s not rocket science.”.—AFP

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