Samoa initiates a cross-sectoral response to climate change adaptation


07 November 2014

Samoa is set to adopt a whole-of-government approach to climate change adaptation through a US$12.3 m initiative the Pacific island state launched on Friday, in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme.

The initiative sees two key ministries – the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and the Ministry of Finance – collaborating to ensure that comprehensive approaches to climate change risk management are strengthened and effective. The project is the largest national project ever funded by the Least Developed Countries Fund of the Global Environment Facility (GEF); this is considered a strategic move for Samoa as it shifts out of its least developed countries (LDC) status.

Climate change in Samoa is expected to lead to more frequent and extreme rainfall events; more frequent and longer drought events; increased air and water temperatures; and sea level rise, over the long term. About 70 percent of Samoa’s population and infrastructure are located in low-lying coastal areas, and climate change is already affecting all economic sectors.

With financing from the Least Developed Country Fund (LDCF), the Government will take critical steps to incorporate medium- and long-term climate change and disaster-risk management priorities into the planning and budgeting processes of key economic sectors. It is expected that this will enable Samoa to better manage fast changing climate conditions that are eroding development gains achieved in the past decade.

Further, LDCF financing will support on-the-ground infrastructure investments in the greater Apia area (Faleata West, East and Vaimauga West) aimed to protect communities against climate-induced floods and impacts of other extreme weather events. Planning of interventions will involve an integrated or 'ridge to reef' watershed management planning approach, whereby downstream and upstream impacts in communities’ socio-economic assets as well as natural resource base, including key ecosystem services, are accounted for. The Government of Samoa will also partner with NGOs on the ground to develop business incubators supported by sustainable and climate-resilient value chains for agriculture-dependent communities, involving handicraft development. These programmes will target women, youth and other vulnerable population, who incur the greatest costs in the face of unfolding climate change impacts.

“We can no longer grow or develop as a nation unless we ensure that every investment, whether it is in infrastructure, food security, watershed management, health improvement, even tourism, is informed by the most up-to-date information on climate change projections and expected impacts, particularly related to extreme weather events and resultant disasters.” – said Suluimalo Amataga Penaia, CEO of Samoa’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment.

“For every tala invested in climate change adaptation and mitigation today, there will be savings of thousands of tala tomorrow,” said Tupa’imatuna Iulai Lavea, CEO of the Ministry of Finance. 

“The United Nations Development Programme is cooperating with the Government of Samoa to reduce vulnerability to climate change while focusing on women and youth. Small businesses supported with LDCF financing can thrive despite climate change, providing opportunities and employment for the future”, said Lizbeth Cullity, UNDP Resident Representative in Samoa.

“Through the project, women, youth and other vulnerable population groups will have a chance to express their views on how this can be done. Their participation in decision-making will be a priority,” she added.

The Least Developed Countries Fund of the Global Environment Facility focuses on reducing the vulnerability to climate change of those sectors and resources that are central to development and livelihoods.

Financing from the Fund will serve to advance Samoa’s National Adaptation Plan (NAP) process, as established under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which integrates climate change adaptation into national development plans, budgets, and strategies.

Samoa is among the vulnerable Pacific nations exposed to climate change. The most recent catastrophic event, cyclone Evan hit Samoa in 2012, affecting 7,500 people and destroying about 2,000 houses.