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Pacific Islands

American Samoa bans four-wheel drives

Apia, Samoa

Visitors to American Samoa for the 2008 Pacific Festival of Arts should not expect to be able to hire or use four-wheel drives or pick-up trucks. with the American Samoa Government putting a tight leash on the importation of vehicles that emit ozone-depleting substances that contribute to global warming and climate change.

American Samoa's Governor-General, Togiola Tulafono, told the 5th Pacific Community Conference that simply talking about climate change will not make any difference to the fight.

'In declaring American Samoa's realisation of the seriousness of this issue …– a modern equivalent to Samoa's coming of age …– I have issued an executive order that will result in a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions,' Governor Tulafono said. 'The American Samoa Government will no longer purchase four-wheel drive vehicles, except in circumstances where a definite need can be justified.'

Furthermore, beginning with the model year 2008, all new passenger and light-duty vehicles purchased must have a minimum fuel efficiency rating of 20 miles per gallon.

'What we are doing will not solve climate change, but it is an expression of our willingness to do what it takes to help in the solution. After all, if we are going to ask others to do something about the problem we must demonstrate our willingness as Pacific Islanders to contribute to the solution,' Governor Tulafono said.

The Government of American Samoa will add hybrid vehicles to its fleet, and vehicles over 10 years old will be banned. This ban will be based on the model year of vehicles and will continue until only fuel-efficient and low-emission vehicles are being used in the island state.

In addition, said Governor Tulafono, 'All fuel stations in the territory …– private, commercial and governmental …– will be required to install and maintain auto shut-off and vapour recovery nozzles on all fuel pumps by January 1, 2008.

Furthermore, he said, 'American Samoa will replace all incandescent light bulbs in government facilities with compact fluorescent bulbs, which utilise about 75 per cent less electricity to produce the same light. All new appliances and electronic purchases will be required to have energy star approval. These devices use 30…–75 per cent less energy than their conventional counterparts.'

In order to combat the destruction of coral reefs by increased algae blooms, American Samoa will also ban the importation of high-phosphorous detergent. 'We want to motivate local venders to bring hybrid and higher fuel efficiency vehicles as well as other efficient products to our island. We will stimulate this conversation with appropriate tax incentives so that such vehicles and products will be more attractive and readily available to the buying public.'

Governor Tulafono said that in its efforts to reduce traffic and greenhouse gases, American Samoa will promote public transportation, which means encouraging the use of 'our colourful aiga buses'.

'We Islanders must put more emphasis on addressing the daunting threat of global change,' Governor Tulafono urged his Conference colleagues. 'American Samoa comes to the table to learn from your approaches to climate change adaptation. We also openly ask you to make a difference together on this most critical of issues.'

Small island states, which include Kiribati, Palau, Tokelau, Northern Mariana Islands and Marshall Islands, reiterated these sentiments, saying that while climate change is not their fault, its impact is already taking its toll on them.

The Internal Affairs Minister of Kiribati, Tom Murdoch, told the Conference that relocation is an option for low-lying islands and atolls and a solution is vital to ensure that human lives are protected and human security is strengthened before some islands disappear in the next 50…–100 years.

The Director of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), Asterio Takesa, said that Pacific Island leaders should honour the pledges made by donor agencies and missions at the Post Forum Dialogue in Tonga to enhance work on climate change. These pledges included:

EU …– 200 million euros for adaptation and 150 million euros for national action plans on climate change;

India …– $100,000 per Forum island country on energy and climate change; and

Global Environment Facility (GEF) under the Pacific Alliance for Sustainability (PAS) programme …– $100 million for climate change, biodiversity and other environment-related initiatives.

Japan is yet to announce what funds it will commit to the Pacific under its Cool Earth 2050 initiative. SPC, 13/11/07.