17 December 2022, Montreal, Canada - Much of the talk these past two weeks at the CBD COP15 has centred around developing states concerned that there will be an unfair burden placed upon them to maintain their biodiversity. But the Pacific side event showed that the small islands are more than willing to do their fair share and are in fact leading the world in ocean conservation efforts, despite their small economies and limited capacity.
The Pacific Ocean Conservation and Governance side event at CBD COP15 hosted by the Pacific Islands was facilitated by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) with support from the Government of Australia.
The popular event, saw the Pacific Islands amplify their voice on ocean conservation and governance to a full room, sharing stories of Pacific leadership in ocean governance.
“We, in the Pacific, have been caring for our ocean for a long time. We are custodians of the ocean and we do it not just for our people but for the whole of the planet,” stated Mr Sefanaia Nawadra the Director General of SPREP during his opening remarks.
“We need help from the world to do this, as it’s so much more than financial support facilitating conservation. For us, our ocean is our culture and heritage. We must all play a part in caring for our ocean.”
It was clear from the following presentations that the Pacific region is doing more than its fair share, implementing Marine Spatial Planning and establishing Marine Protected Areas on a large scale.
The importance of this to our Pacific islands region was exemplified by the presence of Premier of Niue, Hon Dalton Tagelagi, one of the only Heads of State to attend the CBD COP15. One of the smallest island states on the planet, Niue is home to a nominated Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas. In recognition of the value of its ocean area, Niue has established Niue Moana Mahu over their Exclusive Economic Zone. Through consultative planning, Niue has designated 40% of the EEZ as a Marine protected area.
“Caring for our future generations of Niue guides our planning as we work to ensure our resources are sustained for the people of Niue and the world. As such, Niue has established the Niue Ocean Wide trust” “which will raise the funds necessary to continue to manage our EEZ for future conservation,” presented Premier Tagelagi.
“This will help build our sustainable future for us all.”
Samoa also shared the work undertaken for ocean conservation as the Hon. Toeolosulusulu Cedric Schuster, the Minister of Natural Resources and Environment of Samoa spoke of the deep commitment of Samoa to manage their EEZ in a cooperative way. This is done through the development of their Samoa Ocean Strategy.
“Samoa is committed to protecting 30% through working across sectors and with local communities,” said the Hon Minister.
“We are focusing on the management of pollution and protection of areas of particular importance for biodiversity.”
Australia’s Minister for the Environment, Hon Tanya Plibersek was welcomed by Director General Nawadra. Minister Plibersek confirmed – “Australia joins everyone here today in our commitment to maintaining a secure, prosperous, and sustainable Pacific. It’s one of our highest priorities, and it touches every decision we make.“
Australia has worked in support of the Pacific islands as the world negotiates a new Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, stating - “We recognise the need to make sure that the special conditions of small island developing states are reflected in the Framework”,
Hon Minister Plibersek also confirmed that Australia is pushing for an ambitious Post-2020 Framework and stands by the 30 % protected areas target – “we are looking to increase the level of protection in our system of marine protected areas.”
The Kingdom of Tonga has a long history of managing its oceans and its latest detailed marine spatial plan forms the basis for a coherent and systematic ocean management strategy, once again, with clear conservation targets through area-based protection and management.
Ms Kay Kilom, Director of Environment from Papua New Guinea outlined their Biodiversity Climate Fund, further highlighting the new approach which is being taken in the Pacific to find innovative ways to fund Protected Areas Management. The greatest impediment to protecting biodiversity in Papua New Guinea is the lack of sustainable financing for Protected Areas, it is hoped the Biodiversity Climate Fund will help address this.
The Pacific Ocean Conservation and Governance side event at CBD COP15 was held on Saturday 17 December 2022 at 6.15 pm in the Yuan Yang Room. Coordinated by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), the side event was hosted by the Pacific Islands with financial support from the Government of Australia.
The event was moderated by the Director General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme and featured the:
- Premier of Niue, Hon DaltonTagelagi presented on Ocean Conservation and Protection in the context of their Large Scale Marine Protected Area Moana Mahu and the proposed Niue Ocean Wide Trust fund and the Ocean Conservation Credits.
- The Minister of Natural Resources and Environment of the Government of Samoa, Hon Toeolesulusulu Cedric Shuster presented on the Samoa Ocean Strategy 2020 – 2030.
- The topic of Australia – Pacific Partnerships was presented by the Minister for Environment and Water of the Government of Australia, the Hon Tanya Plibersek.
- The Permanent Representative of Fiji to the United Nations, His Excellency Ambassador Dr Satyendra Prasad presented on the unique challenges facing the Small Islands Developing States in Ocean Governance.
- The topic of the Tonga National Ocean Management Plan was presented by Ms Atelaite Lupe Matoto the Director of the Ministry of Meteorology, Energy, Information, Disaster Management, Environment, Climate Change and Communication.
- Ms Kay Kaylim, Director of the Environment of Papua New Guinea, presented on Innovative Biodiversity Climate Financing.
The Fifteenth Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD COP15) is held in Montreal, Canada from 7 – 19 December 2022. Chaired by the Government of China, the CBD COP15 will result in a new Global Biodiversity Framework that will continue the 2020 Biodiversity Targets with the global goal of halting biodiversity loss.
Fourteen Pacific Islands countries are Party to the CBD. They are contributing to a unified One Pacific Voice on collective issues at COP15. The countries present in Montreal are the Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Niue, Nauru, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
Led by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), support to Pacific island countries has been implemented with technical input through the Pacific Islands Roundtable for Nature Conservation (PIRT), and includes a One Pacific approach involving support from the Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner, and the Pacific Community at COP15 with financial assistance from the Government of Australia and the ACP MEA Phase 3 Project funded by the European Union and the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States for the ACP countries.