Ingram Colloquium on International Law and Development
“Climate Proofing Development in Samoa”
Summary of Presentation by
The Climate Institute
‐ The aim of this presentation is to provide some insights into how Samoa – as a
Pacific island, developing country – is responding the challenge of climate
‐ Contrary to the usual media story, Pacific island countries are not simply waiting
for the international community to solve the climate crisis, or calling for refugee
‐ While Pacific islands have consistently called for stronger action from the world’s
big polluters, they are also tackling climate change at home.
‐ Samoa, along with its Pacific Island neighbours, is working hard to improve its
resilience and adaptive capacity in the face of intensifying climate risks.
‐ Indeed, with the impacts of climate change already being felt, and likely to
intensify over the coming decades, Samoa has little choice but to begin adapting.
‐ In the past the concept of adaptation has been viewed by some in Australia as
defeatist; distracting attention from the need to make deep cuts in greenhouse
‐ Without discounting the need for deep cuts to emissions, the reality is that
adaptation is now a practical necessity for all countries. For particularly
vulnerable countries in the Pacific, it is especially important.
‐ As part of the Alliance of Small Island States, Pacific island countries have also
played an instrumental role in raising the profile of adaptation internationally.
‐ Yet to date, there has been precious little real action at this level and adaptation
is the Pacific remains severely underfunded.
Climate Change in Samoa
‐ Samoa has one of the oldest climate observation stations in our region,
established by the Germans in the late 1800s.
‐ Analysis of this data, along with other regional climate data, confirms that
Samoa’s climate is changing:
o Over the period 1890‐2000, the average mean temperature increased by
o While there is no significant observed long‐term trend in annual rainfall,
extreme rainfall events have become more intense and frequent
For example: Daily rainfall above 250mm, which is very likely to
cause significant flooding, used to be a 1‐in‐60 year event, but
now occurs on average every 6 years.
o Between 1993‐2005 sea level rise occurred at a rate of 3.8mm/yr,
confirming widespread anecdotal evidence of receding coastlines.
o Significantly, maximum hourly sea level is increasing by approximately 8
mm/yr – as a result of bigger storm surges.
o Regional data also suggests that storms and cyclones are becoming more
intense, and possibly more frequent.
‐ These climate trends translate into a wide range of impacts. Some examples
o Impacts for health, including physical injuries and health impacts from
extreme weather; sanitation problems associated with flooding; and
increased occurrence of vector‐borne diseases.
o Impacts for water, including supply and quality issues associated with
heavy rainfall events; and damage to freshwater springs due to sea level
rise – these freshwater springs are a key source of water for many
Samoan villages, particularly during periods of low rainfall.
o Impacts for infrastructure, ‐ most of Samoa’s infrastructure is located
along the coastline and thus exposed to sea level rise, storm surge and
o Impacts on biodiversity, especially coastal ecosystems, marine habitats
and mountain ecosystems most at risk.
Samoa’s Adaptation Strategy
‐ Samoa is implementing adaptation measures at three levels:
o National level,
o Village/ community level and
o Individual/household level
‐ At the national level, the Government has adopted a National Adaptation
Programme of Action (NAPA), which identifies Samoa’s urgent and immediate
‐ However, despite being adopted by Cabinet in 2005, it has taken close to three
years to secure international funding from the Global Environment Facility to
begin implementing actions in the NAPA. I will come back to this point, but it is
crucial to note that Samoa does not have sufficient resources of its own to fund
adaptation and will inevitably rely on international support.
‐ At the national level, there is also a strong focus on “climate proofing” national
and sectoral development strategies. Essentially this means ensuring the
planning and decision making takes into account current and future climate risks.
o To date, most of the focus has been on water, health and urban planning,
with each of these sectors taking steps to integrate climate change risks
into their operations.
‐ It is important to note that at the national level one of the most important goals
is to avoid “maladaptation”. This means avoid decisions, policies and projects
that will exacerbate the country’s vulnerability to climate change.
o Two common examples that continue to arise in Samoa include the
approval development in flood zones and the removing mangroves, both
of which can increase the exposure of local communities and
infrastructure to climate risks.
‐ At the community level, adaptation is occurring with support from the
government and through community‐led activities. Key activities include:
o Mangrove restoration to protect against storm surge
o Reforestation in water catchments to secure water resources and
mitigate flood risks
‐ It is important to note that Samoa has very high levels of adaptive capacity at the
community level. High levels of community interconnectedness, strong village
governance and self sufficiency allows communities to adapt to the changing
climatic conditions. Thousands of years on small, remote islands makes you
‐ However, adaptive capacity is being eroded by changing lifestyles, greater
dependence on imported foods and degradation of the natural environment,
which has traditionally supported Samoan livelihoods.
‐ At the individual and household level, Samoans have little choice but to adapt. In
most cases this is occurring in response to a climate risk. This includes using
mosquito nets during dengue outbreaks, improving house design after floods,
building further inland after cyclones.
‐ The challenge for the government is raise awareness and encourage behaviour
change that will promote proactive adaptation, rather than reactive adaptation.
Mitigation is Essential
‐ Samoa’s focus on adaptation is based on necessity, but this does not mean that
mitigation is not also necessary
‐ Samoa, along with other Pacific island countries, and other members of the
Alliance of Small Islands States, advocates for a strong global response to climate
‐ Unless atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations are returned to safe levels,
through strong international mitigation efforts, the long‐term risks for Samoa
and other Pacific islands will be catastrophic.
‐ Adapting to the impacts of climate change is only a viable strategy if the impacts
are within certain limits. If climate change is allowed to continue unmitigated,
the impacts are likely to exceed our known adaptive capacity.
‐ In short, while adaptation is essential, its long‐term effectiveness depends on
‐ For its own part Samoa is also implementing a national mitigation strategy to
limit the growth in GHG emissions. This includes expanding renewable energy,
improving energy efficiency and protecting native forests.
What is needed at the international level to support Samoa’s adaptation efforts?
‐ Samoa, along with its Pacific island neighbours, has set forth its own strategy for
climate proofing development. Despite the threat of climate change, Samoa is
planning for the future, with aim of improving living standards, strengthening its
economy and protecting the environment.
‐ However, the effectiveness of Samoa’s efforts to adapt will depend on the
efforts of the international community in two key regards:
‐ First and foremost, the international community must take strong action on
o Developed countries as a group must reduce emissions by at least 25‐
40% by 2020.
o Emissions from developing countries, particularly the largest polluters,
will also need to peak in the same period and decline rapidly thereafter.
o Strong action to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest
degradation is also essential.
o Without these strong mitigation efforts, the impacts of climate change
will be far more severe and the capacity of countries to adapt will be
‐ Secondly, the post‐2012 agreement on climate change must include mechanisms
to secure sufficient funding for adaptation
o According to Oxfam International, approximately US$50 billion will be
needed annually to pay for adaptation in developing countries.
o Based on the NAPAs prepared for Pacific island countries I have
estimated that about $290‐530 million is needed for urgent and
immediate adaptation actions in the Pacific region.
o To date, about US$5 million of multilateral funding has been spent or on
adaptation activities in the Pacific, and most of this has been spent on
assessments, with a smaller portion spent on implementation of actual
o A further US25 million of multilateral funding has been earmarked for the
Pacific in the short‐term, but no long‐term funding has been secured.
o Without access to adequate, predictable and steady flows of funding,
Samoa and other Pacific island countries cannot be effectively plan for
and implement adaptation opportunities.
What can Australia do?
‐ Australia can do 5 key things:
o Adopt its own domestic mitigation target to reduce emissions by at least
25% below 1990 levels by 2020
o Show strong leadership to deliver an effective global response, including:
Strong mitigation commitments
Adequate funding and support for adaptation
o Deliver on its promise to provide $150 million in adaptation funding,
ensuring this money goes to real adaptation efforts and does not detract
from other development priorities.
o Commit to longer‐term funding to provide for the ongoing costs of
adaptation. For example, The Climate Institute has called on the
government to allocate 10% of revenue raised through the auction of
permits under the emissions trading scheme to mitigation and adaptation
in developing countries. This could raise up to $11 billion over the period
o Climate proof its aid program for the Pacific – ensure all its investments
contribute to, rather than undermine, adaptive capacity and resilience to
‐ Adaptation is essential, but also relies on strong global mitigation efforts.
‐ Samoa, along with most other Pacific island countries, is taking steps to adapt to
‐ The international community, particularly high polluting developed countries,
have an obligation to fund adaptation measures (i.e. polluter pays).
‐ Without funding, it will be impossible for Samoa and other Pacific island
countries to adapt to climate change, while at the same time fulfilling other
social and economic development priorities. The more that Samoa has to fund
adaptation, the less money that is available for education, health and
‐ The post‐2012 climate deal has the potential to provide for strong mitigation and
up‐scaling of funding for adaptation
‐ Australia can play a leadership role has a key development partner in the region
and in the broader international negotiations.