GCF Perspectives - Ambassador Aliioaiga Feturi Elisaia of Samoa
Small island developing States have been and continue to be a powerful voice and force in the climate change space. Why is this so?
Ambassador Feturi: When the survival of some of your island states is at stake, you have to go out of your way to change course because no one will readily and willingly advocate on your behalf. Small island developing States (SIDS) are the moral voice when it comes to climate change, and we have been effective in linking the issue to the existential threat it poses to the survivability of some SIDS low-lying islands, both as sovereign states and as a people.
However, given the gravity of climate change and the many competing priorities countries are facing, we have to continue our mobilization efforts and reach out to like-minded countries in other regions of the world. With the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the 2030 development agenda in place, it is also important to communicate the simple truth, that climate change is an interrelated and cross-cutting issue that has affected and will continue to affect the realization of other SDGs, including food and water security, health, infrastructure, energy and many other issues that are central to a sustainable future.
What are the Pacific Islands’ ambitions for the Green Climate Fund?
Feturi: Ask any person in the Pacific and they will tell you that the Green Climate Fund is a timely saviour and a genuine partner — it is here to deliver to mitigate and limit the impact of climate change. Notwithstanding some initial challenges, the Fund is an ideal mechanism to get resources on the ground to respond to the real threats faced by island nations.
For SIDS, we hold the Green Climate Fund in very high regard, and the Pacific region has been fortunate to already access resources for projects in the Cook Islands, Fiji, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. Our ambition is to continue being a torchbearer in demonstrating how the Fund can help developing countries bring their climate action priorities and “nationally determined contributions” agendas to fruition.
The Paris Agreement was ratified much quicker than many observers anticipated. From your perspective, what are the next milestones for the agreement and how to keep the momentum?
Feturi: I believe there was a good level of comfort with the agreement because it was inclusive, so there was no finger pointing and trying to apportion blame or responsibilities. At COP 21, everybody recognized that this is a global problem beyond any one country or group of countries ability and capacity to address alone.
By implication, our priority preoccupation should not be on what happened “yesterday”, but on what we can do together “today” and “tomorrow”, or we lose valuable time to take collective action. We are all part of this effort and no contribution is subservient or insignificant to make an impact. We all have to contribute because collectively we can make a difference and have an impact. This definitely facilitated the earlier-than-expected signing and ratification of the Paris Agreement.
Going forward, if the momentum doesn’t continue, it would be a big let-down for developing countries – especially those in my GCF constituency who are at the frontlines of climate change bearing the brunt of its impact, yet contributed negligibly to its causes and least able to shoulder the adaptation consequences of its effects.
The Paris Agreement is a good start. People talk about 2020 when the agreement comes into effect, but implementation begins now. There is no time to lose. That is why the Green Climate Fund is a necessary partner to kick-start the ambitions that countries spelled out in the Paris Agreement.
“To me, ambassador is synonymous with advocate. In the GCF Board, I am an advocate for my constituents first and foremost, and the strength of my advocacy depends on the inspiration and guidance I get from the people I serve.” - Permanent Representative of Samoa to the United Nations, H.E. Feturi Elisaia.