To address climate change, our work must be collaborative, inclusive and responsive to the needs of the Pacific

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Leota Kosi Latu

It is my pleasure to welcome you all to the 28th S.P.R.E.P Meeting. 

This meeting is symbolic as we progress the new governance arrangements laid out by our Members in 2015 with the approval of biennial arrangements for the S.P.R.E.P Meeting and in 2016 the approval of an Executive Board to convene in the alternate years of our governing council. The next S.P.R.E.P Meeting, the 29th Meeting will convene here in Samoa in 2019.

These measures as guided and adopted by our Members ensures that S.P.R.E.P remains a robust, agile and responsive organisation focused on efficient and effective service delivery with impact on the ground in our 21 Pacific island country and territory Members – ensuring we deliver on our mandate, our purpose - ‘To promote cooperation in the Pacific region, provide assistance in order to protect and improve its environment, and to ensure sustainable development for present and future generations’.

To achieve this - we must focus our efforts in strengthening the work we do, to ensure S.P.R.E.P is able to mobilise, allocate and direct technical and financial resources to make a difference where it is relevant and has greatest impact.

Our new Strategic Plan 2017-2026 approved by our Members in Niue last year, articulates a vision that ensures ‘A resilient Pacific environment sustaining our livelihoods and natural heritage in harmony with our cultures’.

Our mandate, our vision and our values as the premier regional organisation for the environment - ensures that S.P.R.E.P works in partnership with all of our Members and development partners – to address the pressing challenges in our region. 

Our strategic priorities of Climate Change Resilience; Ecosystem and Biodiversity Protection; Waste Management and Pollution Control; and Environmental Monitoring and Governance are all environmental challenges for our Pacific region which have a direct impact on our ability to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals for present and future generations.

Our new Strategic Plan recognises these challenges as articulated on the global and regional stage by our Pacific Leaders, where climate change is our principal concern and oceans a cross cutting theme across all of the work we do. 

S.P.R.E.P serves ‘Large Ocean Island States’ where our Pacific region is 98% ocean and the very real impacts of climate change which we are already experiencing, challenges our collective stewardship of our Blue Continent. Our message to COP23 is one of survival, for our Pacific people, and because of the immense role the Pacific Ocean plays in global climate, for all peoples.

The Government of Fiji will take up the COP23 Presidency role in Bonn this year, an important and prestigious role which places our Pacific region at the centre of the global stage, once more -- building upon the successes earlier this year where the Government of Fiji jointly hosted with the Government of Sweden the UN Ocean Conference on implementation of SDG14 in New York. 

The important leadership role of Fiji in both of these critical regional and global meetings further strengthens the ‘ocean-climate change nexus’ and raises the voice of the Pacific to the highest levels. S.P.R.E.P will continue its lead coordinating role for supporting the Pacific at COP23, working with the Council of Regional Organisations of the Pacific and other international agencies in the region, including through a preparatory meeting scheduled for 12-14 October in Nadi for officials and ministers.

To complement the work of our Pacific Leaders on the global, regional and national stages, the role of S.P.R.E.P is to work with Pacific members and help address our collective big ocean challenges. 

Our role as an R.I.E (Regional Implementing Entity) for the Adaptation Fund and Green Climate Fund has ensured that S.P.R.E.P provides tangible and practical support to Members through our respective technical staff and newly established PCU (Project Coordination Unit). 

To date we have two full sized projects that have been approved: the G.C.F funded ‘Climate Information Services for Resilient Development for Vanuatu’; and the ‘Climate Change Resilience of Vulnerable Island Communities in the Federated States of Micronesia’ project funded by the Adaptation Fund.

Our critical role as an R.I.E is to help Member’s access climate change finance, working with members and partners, to develop projects that address national and regional priorities. Other pipeline initiatives include the development of a ‘Coastal and Marine Ecosystem Resilience Programme’ with seven Pacific island countries in partnership with I.U.C.N for submission to the G.C.F and G.C.F Readiness Proposals to support Members capacity to access and manage G.C.F resources for adaptation projects on the ground. 

The challenges of climate change are vast and growing in our Pacific region, as are the demands on the work and role of S.P.R.E.P. At the same time, it is important to remember that in addressing climate change and building resilience we must deal with ongoing non-climate change issues, and ensure that we protect and manage the ecosystem services that support national development and community livelihoods.

The work we do with Members in countries and in partnership with other agencies ensures a resilient Pacific as espoused in the Framework for Pacific Regionalism. We acknowledge our role as a family member of the C.R.O.P. and the stewardship provided by our Pacific Leaders, who only two weeks ago were here in Apia hosted by the Government of Samoa for the 48th Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Meeting.

With the high level discussions focused on the ‘Blue Pacific’ and the Pacific ‘Blue Continent’ the Leaders Communiqué notes there is much more work for S.P.R.E.P to do with our C.R.O.P partner agencies on the preparation for COP23; the Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific and its further elaboration in light of the Paris Agreement; supporting the Pacific in the negotiations for the UNFCCC COP23 and the new Implementing Agreement on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biodiversity in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction; the 2030 Pacific Roadmap for Sustainable Development; support to the implementation of MEAs; and the commitment to action on marine pollution and marine debris; to name but a few key issues that fall within the domain and technical expertise of S.P.R.E.P.

Our new Strategic Plan recognises the voyage of S.P.R.E.P and ensures like our members we are resilient and adept to the changing world we are part of, as a growing, agile and dynamic organisation. 

We have strengthened our internal processes through the G.E.F funded ‘Enhancing Capacity to Develop Global and Regional Environmental Projects in the Pacific’ project. This ensures we are compliant with the many donor requirements of the G.E.F, the G.C.F and the EU and able to leverage additional funding for the benefit of our members. 

As part of this institutional strengthening we acknowledge the importance of partnerships and the growth in our project portfolio that enables us to support our Members. S.P.R.E.P is particularly appreciative of the multi-year funding from the Governments of Australia and New Zealand who have consistently supported the environmental aspirations of our region with direct support to our core budget and we welcome other Members and development partners to follow the precedence that Australia and New Zealand have set.

We also acknowledge with sincere appreciation the European Union as an important development partner for S.P.R.E.P and our region, as well as the Governments of Sweden, Germany, People’s Republic of China, and Finland and the multilateral agencies of the GEF, UN Environment and U.N.D.P and all other partners who have contributed to the work of S.P.R.E.P that has benefitted our Members.

The Government of Japan and the Government of Samoa as the host of S.P.R.E.P, have generously laid the foundations for the Pacific Climate Change Centre which will commence construction in 2018 with the proposed hand over to S.P.R.E.P in 2019. 

The P.C.C.C is a journey led by our Members that was first discussed at the 21st S.P.R.E.P Meeting in 2011. The P.C.C.C. will be a regional resource and a Centre of Excellence for climate action and a tool for implementation of the Framework for Resilient Development in the Pacific. It will also be a focal point for the Pacific Meteorological Services in support of the recently approved Pacific Roadmap for Strengthened Climate Services (P.R.S.C) 2017-2026 and the revised Pacific Island Meteorological Strategy (P.I.M.S) 2017-2026.

As we move our focus to the 29th S.P.R.E.P Meeting in 2019, we look forward to celebrating the collective commitment of our Members and partners and to welcoming you all to our Pacific Climate Change Centre.

 The foundation of partnerships laid down by the governments of Japan and Samoa will be the very essence of the P.C.C.C. - in that addressing the many challenges of climate change and the environment, cannot be done alone and must be collaborative, inclusive and responsive to the needs of our Pacific Members.

© Samoa Observer 2016

Developed by Samoa Observer in Apia