At the Just Transition Summit on 9 and 10 May, the McGuinness Institute team were fortunate enough to be able to speak with Hon. Henry Puna – Prime Minister of the Cook Islands, and Hon. Fiame Mata’afa – Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa. Henry and Fiame shared with us some key insights into how the Cook Islands and Samoa are taking on the challenge of climate change mitigation and adaptation, and gave advice for how other nations can commit to taking further action.

Our conversations with these two Pacific leaders gave the Institute some food for thought about how New Zealand can make significant advancements within the climate change mitigation and adaptation space, and how we can work with our Pacific neighbours to encourage robust, longterm solutions. Below are some key learnings that we received from speaking with Henry and Fiame.


Hon. Henry Puna – Prime Minister of the Cook Islands

“Encourage buy-in from the community… make sure young people are involved and made to feel that their input matters. Everything we are doing for climate change is for young people and for the generations of tomorrow.”

“My people are environmentalists at heart because they live so close to nature… they can identify with the environment, [so] they took a really great interest in [protecting] it.”

“Have patience… not everyone will come on board immediately – there will be opposition and a divergence of views… but dialogue is very important and nothing is impossible if you sit down and just talk to people.”



Hon. Fiame Mata’afa – Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa

We asked Fiame for any advice she would give to the young people participating in the KiMuaNZ workshop.


“They need to speak about climate change in the context that they understand it – find common ground within a group.”

They need to ask themselves: “how can they be change actors?”

“Use strong leadership ideas… and like minds… [people can] push a lot more in a group than as just one.”




To hear more about the McGuinness Institute’s experiences at the Just Transition Summit, see our summary blog post here.