American Samoa perspective at Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force meeting in Honolulu
July 9, 2010
Excerpts from the presentation:
Governor Togiola Tulafono stated "Make no mistake about it, as a small island country, especially one that is associated with the United States, we feel grateful and are most appreciative to see this happening and with our nation taking this leadership approach. Our nation has come under criticism for not signing the Kyoto Protocol, and as far as many small island nations in the Pacific, it is a sore point in our relations. Why? Because while the debate is going on as to (1) the exactness of the science, (2) who is really responsible, and (3) who will cast the first stone as to forging any solutions, our Pacific Islands are suffering the devastating effect of global warming and climate change.
Sea level rise now threatens the very existence of low-lying islands in our region. With the loss of land and drinking water due to rising sea levels and more severe storm events, low-lying islands will become uninhabitable and their people must abandon their homelands. In American Samoa, warm ocean temperatures have killed parts of our coral reefs several times over the last 15 years. Most of these reefs have recovered for the time being, but more sea level rise coupled with warm temperatures will surely destroy more of these resources. The warnings are loud and clear for us â€“ climate change is real and it is happening to us right now.
None of the things we do in small island countries like ours will impact the efforts that much. There is no doubt that having adapted to living like the rest of the world we have had to contribute to the effects of global warming and sea level rise, in a very, very small way. Yet, we bear the worst consequences of global warming and climate change. We lose our food sources; we lose our livelihood; and we lost our land. Some of them are disappearing for good. So, as you can appreciate, â€œadaptationâ€ and â€œmitigationâ€ are not options that are available to us as a people.
For American Samoa specifically, our major climate change concerns are:
1. Sea level rise, which threatens to flood our shoreline roads and houses and increase coastal erosion rates.
2. Potential changes in rainfall may affect our agriculture production and drinking water supply.
3. Serious degradation of our coral reefs due to ocean warming and acidification, which in turn, will reduce our marine food supply and expose our shoreline roads and houses to the direct force of storm waves.
4. Increasing air temperatures will may alter our rainforest ecosystems and create conditions for alien species to replace our native plants and animals.
5. All of these factors will impact all our communities in multiple ways, culturally, socially and economically.
We need to adapt to the new future climate change will bring us. This is especially true in American Samoa where we have a large carbon footprint (on a per capita basis) because we import oil to generate all of our electricity and we import just about everything we eat, wear or use during the conduct of our daily lives. Our economic vulnerability will increase as oil prices increase in the future. Our adaptation options must include increased economic as well as environmental sustainability.
On August 21, 2007, I issued an Executive Order declaring the recognition by the American Samoa Government of the importance of taking the lead in making people aware of the existing global climate changes and its effect on or people.
In that action I have banned the importation of cars older than 2000 makes; we have limited the purchase of large vehicles only where it is absolutely necessary for governmental functions; I have declared as a policy the purchase of hybrid vehicles (I now use a Toyota Prius for 90% of my transportation on island); the requirement for auto shut-offs for gas stations and vapor recovery capabilities; importation only of USEPA â€œEnergy Starâ€ rated appliances, etc.
I will direct my territorial Department of Commerce and my Coral Reef Advisory Group to produce a report on territorial climate change impacts and adaptation options by January 31, 2011 ... and within 90 days implement appropriate actions by Executive Order, followed by legislation.
I will renew my commitment to restore local coral reef fish populations through the 20% no-take Marine Protected Areas and the Community Based Marine Protected Areas, as previously directed by former Governor Tauese.
I will direct relevant resource agencies to identify key terrestrial areas that we need to protect our island's biodiversity and the critical habitats required by our birds, fruit bats, plants and associated biological communities.
To accomplish these ambitious plans, I would like to make a request to the Interagency Climate Change Task Force to assist the Pacific islands by providing expertise for "smart" adaptations, including tax incentives to promote more fuel efficient vehicles, solid waste reduction strategies, alternative (renewable) energy production, recycling stimulation, coastal adaptation planning, and other progressive ideas that other islands or communities have developed."