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Opening speech to the 24th SPREP Meeting - Prime Minister of Samoa

PRIME MINISTER'S SPEECH – OPENING CEREMONY
24th SPREP MEETING (2013)
16 SEPTEMBER, 2013
Ministers

Members of SPREP

Members of the Diplomatic Corps

Director General of SPREP and SPREP staff

Ladies and gentlemen

It is a great pleasure to officially open this years' SPREP Meeting.

PM1It has been 20 years since the signing of the SPREP Agreement which established SPREP as an independent regional organisation.

SPREP arrived soon after Cyclones Ofa and Val caused immense devastation to the islands of Samoa. It was a time of rebuilding and reconstruction for Samoa and a challenging time for us all.

20 years ago was also a time of building for SPREP. At that stage they were the newest and smallest regional organisation, having recently split off from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community – SPC.

There were a number of options for the location of SPREP within the region and the Government of Samoa at that time played a key role in ensuring that the decision was taken to move to Samoa.

This is a clear reflection of the importance placed by the Government of Samoa on the environment and on the importance of SPREP.

A well managed and healthy environment is a cornerstone of sustainable development and achieving the Millennium Development Goals in Samoa and for our Pacific peoples more generally.

Samoa recognizes the importance of this issue and we have developed many programmes to ensure a well managed and healthy environment, including the one million tree programme, improvement management of our waste and water, and taking practical steps to address the loss of important biodiversity.

As an example, by protecting the forests in the upper catchment area of Apia we are ensuring that people living in Apia will have a sustainable and clean supply of fresh water for now and for the future.

The last 20 years has seen environment becoming a more important issue and it has also seen a strengthening of the role and importance of SPREP.

When SPREP came here it had a small but dedicated staff. Since that time the organisation has grown to address a range of critical issues for the Pacific.

SPREP's programme now supports practical programmes in all Pacific countries, including on protecting biodiversity, reducing and better managing solid waste and hazardous material, and addressing the impacts of climate change.

SPREP is the lead agency in the Pacific region for climate change.

This is an issue of vital importance for me and for my fellow Pacific leaders. At our Forum Meeting two weeks ago we signed off on the Majuro Declaration for Climate Leadership.

This Declaration noted that climate change is the greatest threat to the livelihoods, security and well-being of the peoples of the Pacific and one of the greatest challenges for the entire world.

My Government recognizes that climate change is a reality, that it is an urgent issue and that we have to act now.

We are taking decisive action to adapt to climate change and to ensure an increasing part of our energy needs are met through renewable energy.

I applaud the decision by SPREP Members to develop the Pacific Climate Change Centre at SPREP.

This Centre will be a focus for innovation and climate leadership in this region and in the world. It has the full support of my Government and we have sent this proposal to the Government of Japan with the strong endorsement of the Government of Samoa.

Samoa and other Pacific island countries greatly appreciate commitments made under the Copenhagen Accord to provide 100 billion US dollars per annum by 2020 to support climate change efforts by developing countries. We also welcome the establishment of the Green Climate Fund.

However it is important that these commitments are matched by action.

I note the pace of disbursement has been very slow and we urge the international community to quickly and fully meet their pledges to help the nations of the Pacific – the most vulnerable countries on earth to the impacts of climate change.

SPREP has been at the forefront of efforts to address climate change in our region. The landmark PACC – Pacific Adaptation to Climate Change – project, developed jointly between SPREP and UNDP, is developing many practical programmes to address the impacts of climate change, including in sectors such as water, agriculture, and coastal zone management.

The increasing emphasis placed by SPREP and its members on protecting natural ecosystems as a key front line response to the effects of a changing climate is very positive. It must continue.

The close collaboration over recent years between SPREP and SPC to integrate regional and national efforts on climate change and disaster management is an important development for this region.

These areas cannot be considered in isolation. Better linkage between climate adaptation and disaster management is a vital step towards a more climate resilient Pacific.

I also congratulate SPREP on its many efforts to protect and better manage biodiversity – a critical issue given that our plant and animal species in the Pacific are being lost at alarming rates.

In Samoa we have partnered with SPREP on many programmes to protect and manage biodiversity including the removal of rats from the Aleipata islands and a major survey of biodiversity in the upland areas of Savaii.

Efforts to manage both solid and hazardous by SPREP and many partners, including the Japanese Government, through JICA, have also made a positive impact in our region.

Samoa has been pleased to trial the innovative Fukuoka method of solid waste management which is now being more widely applied in the region.

I note that SPREP has been undertaking an aggressive change management programme over the last few years and also that this is increasing the level of practical programmes and support provided to Pacific island countries.
We are seeing the benefits of this approach in Samoa.

I commend these activities and urge that they continue.

The Government of Samoa has been pleased to partner with SPREP on many programmes over the last 20 years.

But we must not rest on our laurels as the challenges ahead for our Pacific environment are many and varied.
I see from the papers for this meeting that you will have a very busy time ahead of you over the next 3 days.
I wish you all the best for a successful Meeting and for an enjoyable stay in Samoa.

It is now my pleasure to declare the Twenty Fourth SPREP Meeting officially open.

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