Prime Minister of Samoa at EAT Stockholm Food Forum:

Small island nation at the front line of climate change effects

Published June 11, 2016

Today, 94 percent of Samoans are classified as overweight (WHO, 2015) Climate changes are responsible for the breakdown of both public health and agriculture.

Food security is one of the biggest challenges, said Tuila’epa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi. Samoa’s Prime Minister spoke at EAT Stockholm Food Forum about the severe effects of climate change on his nation’s agricultural sector. Lack of remaining arable land has resulted in local diets consisting of processed, calorie-dense, imported food. Products low in nutrition and high in salt and sugar have caused an epidemic of non-communicable diseases. In addition, the warming up of the oceans is threatening the fishing industry.

The Pacific populations are at the front lines of climate change, and face serious consequences if current international consumption continues. After being re-elected in March this year, the Samoan Prime Minister told media that the government’s biggest challenge during the next term in office is to implement climate change adaptation programmes. He described climate change as an urgent crisis that dwarfs all others.

 

«The world cannot understand the anxiety of our people in the Pacific. If the sea level rise takes effect, many nations will sink under the rising sea.» Tuila’epa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi, Prime Minister of Samoa

“The world cannot understand the anxiety of our people in the Pacific. If the sea level rise takes effect, many nations will sink under the rising sea,” he told Radio Australia earlier this year.  “It is a question of survival that we are talking about.”

The food production value chain accounts for 1/3 of all global climate emissions caused by human activity. Meat production alone is responsible for 15 percent.FAO estimates of greenhouse gas data show that emissions from agriculture, forestry and fisheries have nearly doubled over the past fifty years and could increase an additional 30 percent by 2050.

Tuila’epa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi has said in interviews that he understands the concern of industrialized countries about economic growth and greenhouse gas emissions. However, the world must act now, he says, or it will be too late for many of the small islands that are already being inundated by rising sea levels.

In a chronicle published by The Guardian Samoa’s Prime Minister argues that the international community has to understand that “in an increasingly interrelated world, critical problems recognize no borders and ride roughshod over sovereignty”.

In the same chronicle he refers to UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, who supports the need for action for small, vulnerable nations like Samoa.

“When he visited one of our neighbors, Kiribati, in 2011 he recalled meeting a young boy who told him that he was afraid to go to bed at night for fear of being inundated by sea water. That was brought home to the secretary general further by the fact that there was a life-jacket in his room.”

“We want the rest of the world to understand that our problems are shared problems,” Samoa’s Prime Minister said in the Guardian chronicle. “While we in sea-locked nations represent a small physical land mass and population, our surroundings – the oceans – cover three-quarters of the planet. Oceans are the world’s most important shared resource connecting and feeding people, while acting as a vast ecosystem regulating climate and weather. ”

 

«It is a question of survival that we are talking about» Tuila’epa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi, Prime Minister of Samoa

At the EAT Stockholm Food Forum, Samoa’s Prime Minister will also touch on his nation’s immense public health burden: over 94 percent of the population is classified as overweight (WHO, 2015). Lack of remaining arable land is resulting in local diets consisting of processed, calorie-dense, imported food.

“We want the rest of the world to understand that our problems are shared problems,” Samoa’s Prime Minister said in the Guardian chronicle. “While we in sea-locked nations represent a small physical land mass and population, our surroundings – the oceans – cover three-quarters of the planet. Oceans are the world’s most important shared resource connecting and feeding people, while acting as a vast ecosystem regulating climate and weather. ”