1 Sep 2018

Climate change sceptics 'utterly stupid': Tuilaepa

8:40 am on 1 September 2018

Samoa's Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi has hit out at climate change sceptics and says developed countries need to reduce pollution to save Pacific island countries from disaster.

Samoa PM Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi

Samoa PM Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi Photo: RNZ Pacific /Autagavaia Tipi Autagavaia

He told the Lowy Institute in Sydney greater ambition is necessary to limit global warming to 1.5°C.

He said everyone knows the problem and solutions and all that's needed are the political guts to warn of the certainty of disaster.

"And any leader of any country who believes that there is no climate change, I think he ought to be taken to mental confinement. He is utterly stupid," Mr Tuilaepa said.

Mr Tuilaepa said Pacific island countries face the challenge of maintaining solidarity amid the intense engagement of an ever growing number of partners in the region.

"Under the flagship of our Blue Pacific identity, we are building a collective voice amidst the geopolitical din on the existential threat of climate change that looms for all of our Pacific family," he said.

The Pacific was increasingly empowered but beset with dilemmas, Mr Tuilaepa said.

"As we seek to develop: do we give up our sovereignty, our uniqueness? An upgraded port, for example, may bring greater connectivity and opportunities for growth in some ways, but could it represent a ceding of sovereignty in other ways?"

In an increasingly contested space, the Samoan prime minister said regional and national stability had never been more critical.

'Media misrepresenting China threat'

Tuilaepa also said the media had got it wrong when it came to Pacific nations and their debts to China.

He told the Lowy Institute that most of Samoa's loans were soft loans from the Asia Development Bank and World Bank.

Tuilaepa said media had misrepresented the threat China posed through its government loans, including speculation they would result in land seizures and military posts in the Pacific.

"I do not really think that is a true perception of what is happening in the Pacific," he said.

"There have been many wrong assumptions that have been published in the papers.

"We of course have a very careful policy on our debt service capacity, and we have a very strong debt payment capacity every year," said Tuilaepa.

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