Never too late for action on Climate Change: SPREP
Pacific countries leading the way for global climate change action.
The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme says it is never too late to act on Climate Change.
The regional environmental organisation has just completed its annual general council meeting in the Marshall Islands which was attended by 150 delegates from 23 South Pacific countries.
Its Director General David Sheppard spoke with Koroi Hawkins about some of the challenges facing countries in the region.
DAVID SHEPPARD: The major challenge is outlined in the ITCC report, that is the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change where they predict, if we continue with business as usual that the sea level will rise by a metre in 2100. So in the Marshall Islands where we host, where we chose to host the meeting I think the highest point above sea level there is about 2.8 metres. So a sea level rise of up to that amount is a catastrophe for Marshalls but also for the other low lying countries in the Pacific. So we all agreed on the need for action and the need for trying to convince all countries to reduce emissions in view of the issues faced by small island states. It is interesting to note that we are calling on action from the Pacific but many of the Pacific countries are taking tangible and clear action as well. Such as Tokelau which is now 100 percent renewable energy, many countries also moving towards that. As well as countries like Kiribati, Cook Islands which are establishing, very large very significant marine protected areas which are quite considerable commitments, if you like, to the global community. So the Pacific countries were calling for action but in fact they are also taking action themselves.
KOROI HAWKINS: Increasingly as populations in Pacific islands grow there is more and more pressure on resources and in the way that the communities use these resources. What is SPREP seeing in terms of balancing communities developing their resources and getting financial revenue from their resources and also preserving them?
DS: Yeah what, what we see is the need for a good balance between protection of the environment and sustainable use. In fact by protecting for example the upper, forested catchment area of Apia, you are in fact delivering clean water to the city of Apia so there is often a clear and direct benefit from protection but obviously communities need to be able to use their resources so what is also important in terms of protection of those areas which are most is sustainable management so what that means is, appropriate and good policies and programs for agriculture, fisheries and forestry linked with protection of important areas of biodiversity. And what is important in our region is, as you are well aware is the importance for working with and through communities as most of the land in the Pacific is held under customary tenure. So the work of SPREP is very much based on working with communities, with governments to look at, if you like, win win outcomes for both development and the environment.
KH: An extreme case of this, of what we have talked about is places like Nauru, who have used up all their mining resources and are now in a situation where they are struggling for income. What is SPREP's view of this kind of development by governments?
DS: Yes, certainly in terms of mining, industry decisions relating to mining and all resources is entirely a matter for each country in turn with the, in terms of the sovereign rights of states. But certainly for mining and other resource uses we urge that the environment considerations be factored in, in terms of minimising environmental damage. We also think it is important in the context of mining to learn from past experience in our region. So our experience with mining has obviously been mixed in this region and importantly as well as factoring the environment into consideration, to ensure that there are mechanisms where the communities can benefit from the revenue that is derived from resource activity whether it be mining forestry or fisheries.
KH: And finally from me, going back to climate change, talk about, mitigation, adaptation, is it too late for some of our smaller countries? Will they have to relocate?
DS: Basically we take the decision at SPREP that it is never too late, we encourage practical adaptation programs we work with donors with partners to support countries on measures to better protect their water resources, develop more resilient agriculture so it is always important to not give up, in our opinion. If countries should wish to make migration an element of their strategy that is entirely a matter for the governments themselves. SPREP does not take a position on that. It is a matter that is up to each country and we hope that taking the optimistic front that we can reach an agreement at the Paris Climate Convention next year which will put us on a track to reducing emissions and that coupled with adaptation strategies will hopefully go a certain way towards addressing these big challenges that island countries and territories face.
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