Opening statement at the Pacific Climate Change Roundtable by Hon. Toke Talagi, Premier of Niue
Fakaalofa Lahi Atu, Warm Greetings to you all and welcome to the Rock of Polynesia, Niue.
Before I start I wish to ask the meeting for a moments' silence to remember the victims in all countries that have been affected by the devastating and catastrophic and deadly earthquakes in NZ and Japan, including the tsunami that swept through the Japanese coast; and recent flooding in Australia.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of these nations, and I wish them strength and courage.
Thank you for accepting our offer to host the 2011 Pacific Climate Change Roundtable.
We are grateful to SPREP, PIGGAREP and PACC as well as Australia and Switzerland for the support and funding to enable this meeting to be held here in Niue. These are very important and critical contributions, particularly from Australia and Switzerland, and for the delegates from those countries, please convey to your respective governments our appreciation for this valuable support.
I wish to thank the local organising committee for their wonderful and tireless work.
I hope that this meeting will add more defining decisions on the various areas of Climate Change that continues to impact our countries in the region and the world in general.
Climate change has been identified by Pacific Island Leaders and world leaders as the most challenging and defining phenomena of our time.
Climate Change crosses all sectors and all facets of our lives and cannot be ignored or put aside without some very devastating long term consequences to our countries and indeed Mother Earth. It is no accident that these meetings now include NGOs, Private sector and civil society.
As many of you are aware there are probably critical areas that impacts Climate Change decision making.
Political meetings in Copenhagen, Cancun and Durban in future will determine whether there is political will by all countries to agree on a common objective. This common objective in terms of the lowering of green house gas emissions and CO2 levels and the consequential impact temperatures rises will have on our climate and planet.
This is the ultimate question on sustainability and mitigation with our planet, and without concerted action and common agreement then everything we will do and continue to do is to adapt and mitigate our failure of reaching this common objective.
We must plan adaptation measures and mitigating infrastructure to help us survive the current trends until we are able to at least stabilise our climate situation and hopefully reverse it. It is already clear and recognised that these are generational decisions and new phenomena.
The emerging green revolution and new sustainable developments models and practices is an acknowledgement of this new phenomena and its success will determine our worldwide success in keeping our climate changes to sustainable levels in both the short and long term.
We all acknowledge that the changes that have occurred to date have already made an impact and will continue to do so. Countries like Kiribati, Tuvalu, PNG and all low-lying islands and areas susceptible to rising sea levels are already impacted by the changes to our climate.
Last week at the meeting in Vanuatu the President of Kiribati explained the initial response of building sea walls has not been successful and many of the islands are no longer able to maintain acceptable standards. New infrastructure needs to be built and the options are very expensive and will involve a mix of solutions appropriate to the particular situation.
This week you will be discussing adaptation and mitigating plans and the coordination of these.
I am not surprised that these meetings are being convened, I have enough problems just figuring out the acronyms let alone what they can do to assist all of us. And to make matters worse each and every donor and acronym has their own governance accountability transparency frameworks which is challenging and frustrating to all of us.
To date Niue has been actively responding to these organisations, institutions and donors as well as trying desperately to formulate a credible Climate Change Policy framework as well as the strategies to achieve these goals and objectives we have prioritised.
Add these to the recurrent responsibilities we have plus the impact of the current financial and economic crisis and recent unrest and consequent oil price increases and it is clear that we have a great deal to do.
Our current work of preparing the budgets to help implement the five-year National Strategic Plan will help us with our climate change objectives priorities and funding options.
We must make sure that we are able to take action and not just talk about it. We must make our plans, prepare project proposals and seek funding to help us implement these plans and structures.
For the funding institutions and donor countries we urge you not just to pledge the funds but to ensure they are released in a timely manner so that we can activate our plans and programs. Focus on outcomes not process please.
I commend the EU for their actions which have seen funds allocated to the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu last week. This demonstrates a commitment to action which initially may appear small but is a significant millstone for the EU. Other countries such as Japan, NZ, Australia, and Switzerland are also now starting to realise that action and funds are needed now and not just pledged.
For the CROP agencies and other regional and international institutions, it would assist us if your efforts are coordinated, well managed and not a duplication of other agency efforts.
In Niue, our programme for mitigation is simple and based on a model of response which we have observed and also based on our experience with Heta in 2004 and the experiences we now see with Christchurch, Brisbane, and now Japan.
This is that we must build evacuation centres which are self sustainable, is multipurpose and hopefully self funding.
It is based on a model for building a complex which can be used as a tourist facility, a community facility or a small sports complex.
It will not necessary mean building all new structures but a mix of new, strengthening of old, adding more services and such things as adequate toilets, water catchments and cooking facilities.
We are progressing well with the EU funded alternative solar option to mitigate oil price increases as well as the Japan Government adaptation and mitigation funds.
I note that you have a long agenda and many important decisions to make. I wish you all success and hope that the outcomes from this meeting will help all of us adjust and adapt to climate change.
I have much pleasure in declaring this meeting open.