Paddling a Straight Path Positive Actions to Raise Awareness of Climate Change

Nov 28, 2015

Alo Paopao Racers in Apia Harbour Photo Credit: UNDP/2015/F.Mondello

Often times we reflect on the things that matter most to us. Usually we answer such a question with important notions such as family, friends, and happiness. But should we not be answering the ‘world we live in?’ Because its viability is being challenged and more specifically, it is being challenged through climate change.

“Climate Change is probably the biggest issue that our generation will face,” expresses Dr Daniel Price the founder of the climate change awareness NGO Pole to Paris.

This is no understatement. The decisions that we make today will have a lasting and definitive impact on the future shape of our planet. This is why we need positive action in Paris at COP21, because this is only the start of the fight to curb climate change, but if we do not start, then come next time it may be to late.

Dr Price and the Pole to Paris initiative are utilising these messages to portray the seriousness of the situation. However the goal, as Dr Price points out, is to tell the story in a new manner so as to engage the largest possible audience. The different manner that is being spoken of here, is to try and look for the positive stories that are also current within the climate change story. 

It is this positivity that Small Island Developing States such as Samoa are portraying through their actions. This is because even though Samoa is one of the countries that is most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, they have created very ambitious and positive goals that will ensure a sustainable future for their country.

This has taken shape in the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). Here countries are able to describe the targets that they will set nationally or internationally to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Samoa is focussing on the Electricity sub sector where it will look to reduce greenhouse gas emissions “through the adoption of a 100% Renewable energy target for electricity generation through to the year 2025.” This shows the positive attitude that is needed in order to overcome the biggest issue that our generation faces. If we continue to allow the current mind-sets to prevail then the valiant efforts of countries such as Samoa will not have the same impact as they could potentially otherwise. 

However, it is not only at the policy level where changes can happen and this is one of the key aspects of trying to raise awareness of climate change and the positive actions that are being taken. UNDP MCO Samoa has been heavily engaged in various events which have involved the general public in order to highlight this message.

During the months of September and October UNDP has collaborated with Pole to Paris on a number of events which have assisted in raising awareness of climate change. These events have involved people from all strata of society and have been based on enjoyment and positive actions for change.

“It is important that these positives steps towards mitigating climate change are expressed to the wider audience so as to portray the fact that we can overcome this issue and create a brighter and sustainable future,” highlights Dr Price.

Initially both UNDP and Pole to Paris participated in the annual Samoa Perimeter Run. This is a relay event where teams run around the perimeter of the island of Upolu in Samoa. This gave participants the opportunity to put their best foot forward in the fight against climate change.

To follow on from this a Climate March was organised through the streets of Apia. This march involved approximately 300 school students, government officials and UNDP staff. This march signified the importance of the climate change issue for the population of Samoa. UNDP also organised an outrigger competition involving local celebrities and CEO’s of various organisations called the ‘Race Against Time.’ The goal of this race was to portray the importance of fossil fuel free travel. Yet it could also be seen as a stance against the way in which developed countries continue to generate emissions. Through this it becomes obvious that there is a need for a change of attitude and the noise that events such as the ‘Race Against Time’ in Samoa can potentially act as a catalyst for such a change. Furthermore, outrigger canoeing is based on teamwork. Everyone in the outrigger must work together in order to achieve the end goal whether this be simply finishing or winning the race, it does not matter as all members must work together. We could all, as a global society, learn from this team ethos. If we don’t push the paddle as hard as our team mates, we are letting them down and we don’t want to do this. To broaden this idea, we share this world and in order to be a part of the race to sustainability we must all work together as a team in order to achieve common goals. Developing countries such as Samoa are pushing hard for the team through pledging to reduce greenhouse emission and become fossil fuel free, but other members of our global team are not responding with the same vigour. If this continues we will not be able to paddle a straight path and will continue to waste energy on a wearying journey. COP21 is an excellent place to start the coordination and world leaders have the opportunity to synchronise us as a team that can achieve a sustainable future together. 

For Dr Price, it is the people’s voices that need to be heard and it is these voices that need to be heard in Paris come COP21 in order to portray to world leaders that this issue is something that we all care about and that our future is in their hands. While UNDP is doing its utmost to continue its work to positively mitigate climate change, it is also up to us as individuals to ensure that our leaders are doing their utmost to ensure our futures.

The people of Samoa have done this, Pole to Paris is doing this and so can we. We have the ability to make changes to the way in which we live. So next time someone asks what is most important to you, think about your answer, because yes family and friends are of key importance to our existence, but we need a planet that is sustainable to live on in order to enjoy these relationships.

It is our generation that can make a change and COP21 is an excellent opportunity to start this process. So let us all put on our running shoes and take these steps, let us all put to use our combined power within the outrigger to push our future in the direction that we want. The people of Samoa, Pole to Paris and UNDP have shown us a beginning, let us not let this example slip. 

UNDP Around the world

You are at UNDP Samoa (Multi-country Office) 
Go to UNDP Global