Environmental Policy News

Outgoing Chair of Pacific Islands Forum Endorses Regional Approach to Climate Threats

On 9 September 2015, at the 46th Pacific Islands Forum, held in Papua, New Guinea, outgoing chair H.E. Tommy E. Remengesau Jr said that “damaging effects of a strong El Nino, as well as the increasing vulnerabilities of our countries to a range of natural hazards, which often lead to disasters, provide us with added impetus and urgency to address one of the factors of this devastating drought - climate change.

He emphasized the role that regionalism has to play for Smaller Island States (SIS), saying that they , “face clear and present and existential threats with regards to climate change.” and that they have the most to gain from a regional approach.

He added, “Last year, Leaders unanimously endorsed the Palau Declaration, The Ocean: Life and Future, Charting a Course to Sustainability. The Declaration called for action to address, amongst other matters: fisheries conservation and management, including illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing; maritime boundaries delimitation; potential environmental impacts of extractive industries; unequal distribution of the costs of ocean management; biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction and reporting and knowledge sharing.”

“Many of our countries have already made great strides towards preventing illegal fishing through the creation of large scale marine protected areas and the enhancement of maritime surveillance and enforcement capacities. Kiribati launched the Phoenix Island Protected Area back in 2006, the Cook Islands initiated Marine Spatial Planning through the Cook Island Marine Park, and Palau is in the process of expanding the existing Micronesia Challenge area with the declaration of the Palau National Marine Sanctuary. All of these MPA’s are innovative responses rooted in tradition, and in line with the global community’s call to protect at least 10% of our total Ocean by 2020. These bold steps complement our own Forum Fisheries Agency’s progressive efforts to combat IUU activity. Other countries in our region are choosing to take a stand on Illegal Unreported Unregulated fishing with stricter fisheries management to achieve similar goals.”

“Our Pacific Ocean Commissioner, Leaders and communities, with the support of our regional organizations, have advocated and are implementing many significant initiatives across all aspects of sustainable ocean management. Creation of marine protected areas and sanctuaries; measures to enforce fishing limits; increasing the rate of return from fishing activities; formalizing maritime boundaries; reducing pollution and tackling climate change have all been key components of the region’s efforts. I am proud to say our unified and concerted efforts to protect and promote our ocean have been recognized, and the ocean is now set to be a stand-alone goal in the Post 2015 Development Agenda that will come before the United Nations in the next few weeks.”

Remengesau will be succeeded by incoming Forum Chair and Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Peter O’Neill.

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