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DG Sheppard's Opening Statement to the Joint Meeting of the 2013 Pacific Platform for Disaster Risk Management and Pacific Climate Change Roundtable, Nadi, Fiji

8 July, 2013, Nadi Fiji

The Honourable Acting Prime Minister of Fiji,
the Honourable Deputy Prime Minister of Tonga,
Honourable Ministers ,
the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Disaster Risk Reduction,
Excellencies,
the Director General of SPC,
distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen.

David Sheppard1It gives me great pleasure to provide some comments on behalf of SPREP on this memorable occasion, the opening of the first Joint Meeting of the Pacific Climate Change Roundtable and the Pacific Platform for Disaster Risk Management.

However before I start I would be amiss if I did not acknowledge and thank the Government and people of Fiji for their generous and warm hosting of this critically important meeting, as well as the associated lead up meetings last week.

I know that you are also hosting the Pacific Small Island Developing States Preparatory Meeting later in the week and it is an impressive testament of your capacity and willingness to be such gracious hosts.

I would also like to thank the Steering Committee for this Joint Platform Meeting for putting together an excellent and ambitious programme.

The number of participants at this meeting underlines how important the topics of this meeting are for our region.

Although Pacific countries only contribute 0.03% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions, our countries are the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change and sea level rise.

We are the first impacted and will be the first to go under.

I attended a conference in Japan last week which was addressed by the Chair of the IPCC, Professor Pachauri, who noted the best estimates of IPCC are that continued emissions would lead to temperature increases between 1.8 and 4 degrees by 2100 and sea level rise will continue and accelerate.

This is bad news for our Pacific region - the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

The presentation by the IPCC Chair noted the urgent need for action at all levels, particularly from the global community, to reduce climate change.

I can only say Amen to that statement.

In our region our leaders have continually reminded us of the urgency of climate change and that it is in fact an issue of national security.

Natural disasters such as Cyclone Evan which battered Samoa and Fiji late last year and the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Solomon Islands earlier this year remind us again of the power of nature and the vulnerability the high levels of risk to Pacific nations of both climate change impacts and natural disasters.

These issues make it critical that we combine our resources and expertise as responsible individual, institutional and corporate citizens of the Pacific islands region. The objectives of this meeting are not only very timely but also very crucial.

The series of meetings in Fiji over these two weeks is historic in that it is the first time not only for the region but globally that we bring together the climate roundtable and the disaster platform and also to further integrate the Pacific Meteorological Council. It again demonstrates as we have many times in the past that the Pacific is a region that is not afraid to lead and innovate.

This approach reflects the Pacific Way - of working together, of being innovative in the face of challenges, and developing "Pacific Solutions to Pacific Problems".

I was pleased to hear the comments from the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction that our discussions at this meeting will set a precedent, and will be an example to other communities and regions around the world.

Clearly, the world is watching and our series of meetings sends a clear message that we must integrate our responses if we are to effectively address the challenges of climate change and natural disasters in this century.

Why should we integrate our efforts ?

Firstly, Pacific leaders have directed that an integrated approach be applied at the regional level once the existing and separate policy frameworks for climate change and disaster risk management end in 2015.

In fact most of Pacific island countries have taken the lead at the national level. We have seen the positive benefits on the ground through the innovative Joint National Action Plan Process - JNAPs - which integrate climate and disaster functions at national levels in many Pacific countries.

These national actions have clearly demonstrated the many synergies between responses to climate change and responses to natural disasters, and also the many benefits from better linkage and coordination, including cost efficiencies and contribution to sustainable development.

One of the key benefits of this approach is that it encourages us all to move away from a silo mentality and work together in real partnerships towards shared objectives.

Secondly, there is much experience and knowledge that must and can be shared through an integrated approach.

One thing that struck me from last week was the benefits of sharing experience between different communities of practitioners
We were all inspired from the wealth of experience from our region and in particular from the joint sessions last week of the PMC and the PCCR, and also the joint session of the PMC and the Disaster Reduction Roundtable.

As Ambassador Fetturi of Samoa once mentioned "No-one has a monopoly on new ideas" - the more we can get together, share experience, develop synergies, the better the outcomes will be for the countries and territories of the Pacific.

All meetings last week emphasized the importance of good science, while ensuring it builds on and reinforces traditional knowledge, and is made available to those that need it most, particularly managers on the ground.

They also underlined the critical role of the National Meteorological Services as a key provider and custodian of data and information on weather and as well as a range of climate services.

Third, a unified and effective strategy will support a stronger, more integrated and hopefully more effective case to be made by our Pacific representatives at international forums. This makes it imperative that we strengthen the links and conduits between those that represent us at the global level and those who work on the ground to implement climate and disaster related programmes.

We need actions at all levels, from international to national. International commitments on financing need to be met and delivered to countries now, and not just talked about. Our region should continue to argue for the strongest possible targets for limiting future temperature increases and we should get behind and support PSIDS and AOSIS efforts.

In developing an integrated strategy it is important to clarify both the similarities and also the differences between climate change and disaster risk reduction. We need to focus on the areas of overlap and synergy.

Our process should build on and learn from existing approaches such as the JNAP process and the lessons learnt - both good and bad - from the existing regional policy frameworks for climate change and disaster risk reduction.

Better and more effective partnerships are essential.

I commit SPREP to continuing to work as a good partner with member states, our sister regional agencies and all partners to ensure our efforts are sharply focused on assisting Pacific countries and territories to address climate change and natural disasters, and achieve their sustainable development objectives.

By working together, CROP agencies, governments and civil society can do so much more with our limited resources to support the priorities of the Pacific.

We have a busy and full programme ahead of us over the next four days.

Bringing these key forums together is a big experiment for our region.

We will need to "learn as we go" but at the same time use our best judgement and exercise our collective wisdom.

We are all partners and we need to all be actively involved and work positively and constructively towards our integrated strategy for climate change and disaster risk management.

We must be forward looking. I urge all the presenters and those making interventions to heed this call, for us to not dwell too much on what we have done, well or otherwise, but to apply ourselves to discussing what needs to be doing to secure our future – as stated at Rio+20 –THE FUTURE WE ALL WANT.

The Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States, be held in Apia in August next year is a landmark event not only for Samoa but for our whole region. It will be remembered as our Conference. Samoa as hosts has put forward partnerships as the theme for the conference. Let us ensure that this joint platform is a partnership that will make us all proud and lets use this as a platform to further develop our joint strategy.

I wish you all the best for a very successful Platform Meeting. I look forward to a productive week.

Thank you, Merci Beaucoup, Faafetai Lava, Vinaka Vaka Levu.

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