Pacific Biodiversity and Climate Change
Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) Press Release (reprinted with permission)
Opening remarks from David Sheppard Director of SPREP at the Pacific Biodiversity and Climate Change workshop at SPREP in Samoa, 6 and 7 May.
“This is an important workshop and an important topic. Climate Change is the current hot topic throughout the Pacific
We are all aware of the serious and immediate threats facing the low lying atolls and islands of the Pacific. In all of our Pacific countries climate change is not just an environmental issue – it is also an issue with major social, economic and moral dimensions.
As the President of Kiribati put it in his speech at Copenhagen, “climate change is overarching and it is a matter of national security”
Many of us from the Pacific travelled to Copenhagen to participate in the Climate Change Meeting in Copenhagen in December last year. Not only was it very cold but the outcome was far less than expected.
It is interesting to note that the organisers of the next UNFCCC meeting in Mexico are lowering expectations – perhaps they have learnt the lesson of Copenhagen.
The key outcome from the Copenhagen Conference was the Copenhagen Accord.
In the Pacific this Accord has had a mixed reception. Some countries have signed, some have not, and some are undecided.
It is understood that the Government of Japan, as a key donor in the region, has noted that future funding for climate change may be linked to whether or not countries have signed the Accord.
Whatever happens with the Accord, it is clear is that there will be a quantum increase in the amount of future funding for the Pacific.
A major slice of this funding will be for adaptation to climate change. What is obvious to us but is perhaps less obvious to others, including those providing the money, is that nature based adaptation offers one of the most cost effective and efficient ways to positively address climate change.
We saw in Samoa that the protection of coastal mangroves and vegetation was one of the most effective ways to protect coastal communities from the impacts of the tragic Tsunami in October last year. The protection of the catchment area surrounding Pohnpei in FSM is one of the most effective ways to ensure water quality and supply in the face of climate change.
There are many other examples, but we as professionals in biodiversity must better make the case that an investment in biodiversity is an investment in climate change adaptation. This message is not getting through at the moment, particularly to donors.
Many proposals and suggestions from donors on climate change have crossed my desk in recent times. Very few appear to have made the link between climate change and ecosystem based adaptation. This concerns me.
This workshop is thus very important – both in terms of developing a framework for moving forward in this area but also in terms of developing the case and arguments for Ecosystem Based Adaptation as a key tool for addressing climate change in the Pacific.
It is particularly important to make the case and linkages at national levels – you as professionals in environmental and natural resource management agencies need to be convincing other Ministries, particularly Ministries of Finance – which will be directly involved in decisions regarding the allocation of climate funds – as to why an investment in environmental protection is an investment in climate change.
We all need to make the economic case of the importance of biodiversity for protecting fundamental requirements for life in the Pacific, such as the provision of clean water, the protection of fisheries, as well as the protection of basic attractions and assets for the tourism sector.
Linkages also need to be made with donors and also within our own organisations.
Within SPREP, for example, I think there are opportunities for building strong and effective links between this project and the PACC – Pacific Adaptation to Climate Change – Project. I understand a number of you will be attending the PACC meeting next week, and also that a number of you are PACC national coordinators. Please consider how we can develop these projects in a mutually reinforcing way.
A key outcome of this workshop is to agree the scope of this current project and to discuss options for a future, larger project.
In doing this I would urge you to consider the practical issues of implementation – in particular how we can build ownership of the project at the country level, and also which donors may be interested in funding a larger project.
In this context the coming GEF 5 may provide a useful opportunity and a potential funding source for this project. However national ownership and buy in will be essential.
I would urge you to consider opportunities for partnership in moving forward on this project. The challenges relating to biodiversity conservation and climate change in the Pacific are too big for any one organisation to tackle – we can and we must work better together.
It is good to see CI, UNEP, UNDP and USP represented here – let’s look at how we can develop this as a joint and cooperative project.
I would also urge you to be opportunistic in the development of this project.
This year is the international Year of Biodiversity, celebrated in the Pacific under the theme “Value Island Biodiversity – It’s Our Life”.
SPREP, working with partners, has developed an Action Strategy for the Year of Biodiversity, which has been widely circulated.
We are also strengthening our capacity to help Pacific countries on biodiversity matters and we are delighted to have recently welcomed Easter Galuvao to our team. Additional biodiversity related staff will be starting at SPREP over the next few months, including a Terrestrial Ecosystems Management Officer and a Biodiversity Intern – an exciting opportunity for a young Pacific professional.
We heard about many exciting national level IYB activities in Pacific countries at the recent CBD workshop held here last month: TV documentaries in Tonga, holding a Lagoon Day in the Cook Islands, the development of a biodiversity phone book in Palau, and many others.
There are also a number of key events coming up, including the Pacific Nature Conservation Roundtable, to be hosted by SPREP in Apia in July, and the CBD COP 10 in Japan in October.
I would urge this workshop to look at how we can use these events and activities as opportunities to move forward the development and implementation of this project on biodiversity and climate change in the Pacific.