Tuila’epa to open high-powered Pacific climate conference


Trailer for the controversial climate change documentary Anote’s Ark – former Kiribati President Anote Tong opened the previous Pacific Climate Change Conference in Wellington in 2016.

Pacific Media Centre Newsdesk

Samoan Prime Minister and climate change action advocate Tuila’epa Dr Sa’ilele Malielegaoi is among the high-profile experts presenting at the Pacific Climate Change Conference this week at Te Papa National Museum.

Tuila’epa will give the opening keynote address at the conference on Wednesday morning.

The three-day event, February 21-23, co-hosted by Victoria University of Wellington and Apia-based Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), has more than 160 invited speakers from backgrounds including science, government, business, indigenous rights, law, activism, media and the arts.

Among the line-up of speakers are renewable energy expert Professor Daniel Nocera from Harvard University, Professor D. Kapua’ala Sproat from the Native Hawai’ian Law Center, environmental scientist Dr Patila Malua-Amosa from the National University of Samoa, climate scientist Professor Michael Mann from Pennsylvania State University, indigenous bio-cultural heritage expert Aroha Mead and graduate lawyer Sarah Thomson, who filed a legal case against the New Zealand government over its emission targets.

It is the second time Victoria University has hosted the Pacific Climate Change Conference.

Climate change scientist and conference co-organiser Professor James Renwick says Victoria’s inaugural conference in 2016 highlighted the deep and long-lasting effects climate change was having on Pacific communities.

“In 2016, we heard from people whose daily lives are impacted by climate change-whether it’s more frequent extreme storms demolishing sea walls and destroying food crops, or warmer seas affecting fisheries and damaging corals,” he said.

“We heard then President Anote Tong of Kiribati express very real concerns that his people may no longer have land to stand on if sea levels continue to rise.

‘Better understanding’
“But we also heard from people who are dedicating their work to better understanding the science, legal, political, economic and human aspects.

“This second conference is a chance to get the very latest information, exchange knowledge and ideas, and reignite connections that can bring positive change.”

Victoria’s Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Pasifika) Luamanuvao Winnie Laban says the conference is a vital chance for the voices of the Pacific to be heard.

“We have representatives from at least 11 Pacific island nations attending this conference so it’s an invaluable opportunity to share expertise and experience, and come together to find solutions.

“At the last conference, we asked representatives from Pacific nations, including New Zealand, to find out how their governments are reducing greenhouse gas emissions, in accordance with the Paris Agreement, and report back. We look forward to hearing their progress.”

The Pacific Media Centre’s director Professor David Robie and postdoctoral researcher Dr Sylvia Frain are presenting papers at the conference.

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