20 Mar 2017

Pacific leaders prepare for major oceans summit

8:28 pm on 20 March 2017

Calls by Pacific leaders for action on protecting oceans have ratcheted up a notch in recent days in Suva.

Tuvalu Blue by Devi Lockwood

Tuvalu Blue by Devi Lockwood Photo: Devi Lockwood

This came at a preparatory meeting for Pacific leaders ahead of June's major United Nations Conference on Oceans in New York, which is to be co-hosted by Fiji and Sweden.

One of the central aims of the conference was to identify ways and means to support the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14.

This goal concerns conservation and sustainable use of the oceans, seas and marine resources.

Looking out to the South Pacific Ocean from Noumea, New Caledonia.

Looking out to the South Pacific Ocean from Noumea, New Caledonia. Photo: Copyright: lisastrachan / 123RF Stock Photo

Addressing the preparatory meeting, Fiji's prime minister said that every country, whether developed or developing, had a part to play in protecting the oceans and curbing global warming.

Having recognised that developed countries with an established middle class have produced the mostcarbon emissions and waste, Frank Bainimara said the time for casting blame was over.

The Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama at Government House in Auckland

The Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama at Government House in Auckland. Photo: RNZ/ALEX PERROTTET

"So we are all responsible in some way for the warming of the planet, and the time has come to pay the bill," said Mr Bainimarama.

"We must all work together to deal with the consequences of modernity."

His PNG counterpart Peter O'Neill urged Pacific countries to continue to show global leadership about protecting the oceans.

The Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea Peter O'neil

The Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea Peter O'neil Photo: Supplied

"As we gather to prepare as a region united, for the first time ever, for the first UN Conference for the SDGs on SDG 14, I cannot help but feel the spirit and mana of our Pacific leaders and that of our ancestors who traversed the vast magnificent Pacific ocean that is our home," said Peter O'Neill.

The Pacific Forum secretary-general Dame Meg Taylor called for transformative change in the way the Pacific Ocean is managed.

"A strong enabling environment, including tracking the region's progress towards the Sustainable Development Goal on Oceans (SDG 14), improving development effectiveness, having strong public financial management for ocean financing, a strong private sector and resilient infrastructure are underpinning imperatives," Dame Meg said.

Pacific Islands Forum leaders at the UN.Front row from left: Nauru president Baron Waqa, PNG foreign minister Rimbink Pato, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, Pacific Forum sec-gen Dame Meg Taylor, Federated States of Micronesia president Peter Christian, New Zealand prime minister John Key.

Dame Meg Tayor (centre) with Pacific Islands Forum Leaders at the UN. Photo: PNG government

"Such transformative change needs to be in our attitudes and approaches for sustainable outcomes. Effective partnerships will be a vital way forward for delivery of SDG14."

She said there was a need to more clearly articulate what partnerships and what features of those partnerships were necessary for an integrated and coordinated approach to SDG14 in our region.

 Penrhyn in the Cook Islands

Penrhyn in the Cook Islands Photo: Ewan Smith

The FIji Sun reports that individual Pacific governments involved in these preparatory talks have each been assigned an issue to prepare for.

PNG will focus on fishing subsidies. Cook Islands will address protection of coastal and marine ecosystems.

Kiribati and Nauru will focus on benefits to small island developming states.