Samoa Women In Business Launch 1.5 Decree Campaign

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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i

Advocacy campaign pushes leaders for climate change action

By Adimalaga Tafuna‘i, Executive Director Women in Business Development Inc

APIA, Samoa (Talamua, Dec. 4, 2015) – 1.5. That’s the magic number that the Pacific island countries need to stay above water. What does it mean? 1.5 degrees is the carbon emissions limit that small island states are promoting as the only real target that will save island peoples from the effects of climate change.

While the world leaders are negotiating a climate change agreement in Paris at the COP21 meeting, islands are already feeling the blunt force of rising sea levels, ocean acidification, and harsher and more frequent extreme weather events.

The Alliance of Small Island States, consisting of 44 low-lying countries, is calling for a 1.5 degree limit. As one Pacific reporter said: the leaders of these countries are not negotiating text, they are negotiating for their survival. It’s not panic talk. Most of the Marshall Islands will disappear, Tuvalu islands will go under, and Kiribati will be no more.

Watching the Paris negotiations play out has seen little of the target of 1.5 degrees. Anything higher than 1.5 will see island nations, island peoples displaced, disconnected from their ancestral lands. When that happens, we can expect to see loss of language, loss of cultural knowledge, loss of indigenous ways of knowing and living. These are just the impacts for humans, but it is much more damaging for ocean and island biodiversity.

Samoa’s Head of State, His Highness Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Ta’isi Tupuola Tufuga Efi, in 2005, wrote that there are four key harmonies that hold the balance of peace for Samoans.

"These are: harmony with the cosmos; harmony with the environment; harmony with one’s fellow men; and harmony with one’s self. When all four harmonies come together there is peace."

This is what our social media and advocacy campaign is based upon. 1.5 for peace (#1pt5peace) is an attempt to get political and business leaders to think with their hearts. Be motivated by peace.

We ask the world’s leaders to adopt the limit of 1.5 degrees of carbon emissions. We also ask that all who agree with us to join our campaign. Take your photo with our hastag #1pt5peace and make the peace sign, then post it, Tweet it, share it and help bring peace for the earth.

This year Tui Atua expanded upon these harmonies, saying that when these harmonies are disturbed, indigenous Samoans are reminded by tapu-a-fanua or custodians, which mainly take animal forms, to restore the balance.

So we ask on their behalf because although they do not have a human language, they are not without a voice. We ask for not just peace on earth, as is often said, but peace for the earth.

Developed nations are promoting 2 degrees as a "realistic" target. Their aim is to try and reduce carbon emissions while still having economic growth. And therein lies the problem – economic-centred decision-making processes to try and fix a systemic environmental problem caused by human activities.

The focus on the growing economies in the next decade is foreshadowing the greater problem of how we, as humans, can nurture the earth we live upon for future generations of all life forms – human, animal, marine and plant. In the last 50 years, the world’s major economic powers have created such imbalance on earth that the earth is exhausted.

At Women in Business Development Inc (WIBDI), we are deeply concerned about the COP21 negotiations just as we are concerned about how Samoa, and all our island neighbours, can counter the effects of climate change. Equally we are concerned at how our human rights are being impinged by climate change.

Samoa has been listed as among the top10 most vulnerable countries in the Pacific region by the International Panel on Climate Change, with more than 20% of the population exposed to climate change risks and a projected loss of 19% of GDP.

With the predicted increase in frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events, women, children and elderly are even more at risk. It is well documented that these groups suffer more during these events.

Our view is that unless, there is consensus to curb climate change in a tangible and meaningful way, vulnerable Samoan and Pacific Island communities will suffer most – not only as the most affected but also as the least responsible and least able to change the current status quo.

WIBDI is committed to advocating for families who have the right to live on and farm their ancestral lands and this right is being impinged upon by the world’s most powerful nations’ need to develop at a rate that the earth cannot sustain.

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