Thursday 14 June 2012

Pacific at Rio+20: Q and A

Story by Makereta Komai, Editor of PACNEWS Agency

13 June 2012, Rio de Janeiro - Officials from 190 countries are in Rio de Janeiro this week for the PrepCom meeting ahead of next week’s High Level meeting of world leaders to adopt clear and focused practical global measures for implementing sustainable development. Negotiators from the Pacific are also here to finalise the text of what will become the outcomes from Rio that will form the new global commitment to achieving sustainable development. Sefanaia Nawardra, the Director of Environmental Monitoring and Governance at the Secretariat of the Pacifc Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) explains to Makereta Komai some of the major issues being pursued by the Pacific negotiators here at Rio+20 meeting

Nawadra: There are four key issues that Pacific Island countries and their partners are going to be pushing for in Rio. The first involves ocean and good oceans management and the equitable sharing of benefits that accrue from the development and use of ocean resources. This is being coined the ‘blue economy’ by the Pacific Islands missions in New York in the green economy debate. The second is to try and keep the special case of Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Over the years there have been challenges to the special case for SIDS. A number of other negotiating groups are arguing that they also have special case. It’s a real challenge for SIDS to continue to keep the ‘special case’ that was agreed to at the initial Rio Earth Summit.

MK: How different is our ‘special case’ to the other regions that are also staking their claims?

Nawadra: I think that’s one of the major arguments – you can’t really argue vulnerability to climate change any more because it’s not special to the Pacific. There are other areas like low lying coastal states, mountains states that are also vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. What we are pushing now is in the area of capacity, an area that differentiates our region from the rest of the world – we are small in size, have small administrations and small population, the capacity to address issues is a lot smaller and difficult compared to countries in these regions also claiming vulnerabilities.

MK: Is it almost like an ‘uphill battle’ trying to justify our special case?

Nawadra: For us, it’s not so much arguing our case, but making sure that our case is given the emphasis it deserves because of the competing interests from other regions. It’s really trying to argue our position to make us stand out from the rest.

MK: What are the other issues for the Pacific?

Nawadra: Another major issue is to convince developed countries to honour their commitments before they enter into new commitments that may come out of Rio. The other is the issue of energy which is a major concern for us in the Pacific, especially for maritime transportation, the high cost of getting energy in and trying to promote renewable energy. Health is another issue, especially the linkages between non communicable diseases (NCDs) with sustainable development. It is something that needs to be argued – not in health per say but as an issue of economic development and risks it poses to the work force.

MK: What are we specifically asking for on the issue of NCDs from this two weeks of negotiations and the high level session, where a number of Pacific Leaders are expected to attend?

Nawadra: We are trying to signal the impact of the high level of NCD rates in the region, not only on health but also its roll on effect on the economies of the region, if it’s not addressed properly.

MK: Your would have had seen the draft text to be negotiated in the coming days here in Rio – these four key issues for the Pacific you’ve identified – are you seeing any reflection of these issues in the draft text?

Nawadra: Most of them are reflected in some way. But in the negotiation process, we need to put in a lot of effort to keep the language that is already there and try and add on and strengthen areas where it may not be as strong as we like it to be. I think oceans issue has received quiet a lot of support because there are a lot of countries and partners also interested in it. One area that we might want to look at a bit more is in the areas outside national jurisdictions or the high seas, especially in light of the number of initiatives we have undertaken in the region related to the good management of our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).We also need to look at how we can strengthen areas outside the EEZ and that can only be done through an international global process because the areas don’t belong to any countries of the region. We are hoping that Rio can be the beginning of that process.

MK: In terms of the support in getting the kind of language that the Pacific would like to see, what kind of support are we looking at a major global conference like this?
Nawadra: Our missions in New York have been doing a very good job. As I said earlier, they coined the term ‘blue economy’ in order to put a label to the concerns about the inclusiveness of green economy to also include ocean and coastal issues. The issue has become part of the consolidated position issue for negotiating groups like the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and G77. It’s good that the Nauru is current chair of AOSIS and that helps put our issues up on the agenda of AOSIS. Also, some of our major partners like Australia and New Zealand, the European Union, UK are supporting our position.

MK: You earlier alluded to the need for commitments here in Rio. How much more can the Pacific push for ‘real’ global commitments?

Nawadra: The more urgent concern is for countries to make the commitments they’ve already made, meet those first before we go into talking about new commitments that may be required.

MK: What if anything is to be expected from Rio that we can take back to the Pacific at the end of two weeks of conference?

Nawadra: One is the recognition of oceans issues. We live in the Pacific and are responsible for large areas of ocean and we’ve tried to organise ourselves through national and regional initiatives like the Pacific Oceanscape, the Nauru Agreement on fisheries and moves to large marine protected areas in Kiribati and Cook Islands, the locally managed marine area networks that are there throughout the Pacific. What we are saying is that we are doing things from our side and we need global support for managing these resources because we are not doing this for ourselves but for the future survival of the global community. If we get that sort of support here in Rio, then I think that will be a major step forward. The second one is the continuing recognition of special case for SIDS. I think that has already started to happen because there is already talk of having a follow up to Barbados in 2014 and that signals some acceptance of special case for SIDS.

The energy at Athletes Park

Story by Ms. Kathleen Leewai

13 June 2012, Rio de Janeiro - An increasingly familiar sight at the Rio+20 Conference venues are electric vehicles of all shapes and sizes.
The Athlete’s Park exhibition site has electric vehicles from several energy companies and vehicle manufacturers, including the Veículo Elétrico from Itaipu Binacional, a bi-national government-owned electricity generating company.
The company is jointly owned by the governments of Brazil and Paraguay and runs the Itaipu Dam, a hydroelectric dam located on the Paraná River, which supplies 19% of the electricity used in Brazil and 90% of the same in Paraguay.

The manufacturers have partnered with a major Brazilian utility company to power the cars which boasts zero emissions and better performance than gasoline-powered vehicles.
Energy companies have flocked to Athlete’s Park to exhibit innovations in renewable energy and zero emissions vehicles as energy is one of the seven priority areas of the Rio+20 Conference.
Pacific Island countries will also have a chance to showcase recent initiatives undertaken in the area of climate change mitigation, in particular renewable energy, at the Pacific side event held on 19th June 2012.

“We’ll be looking at energy issues in the Pacific in particular,” said Mr. Sefanaia Nawadra, Director of Environmental Monitoring and Governance Division at the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).

“Issues such as remoteness, small economies, transportation costs, limited types of renewable energy technologies that can be used, as well as related issues like waste management of those energy issues.”
“The idea of the Pacific side event is to bring forward these issues and allow for some discussion, not only amongst Pacific Island Countries and Territories but also with our partners.”
He also mentioned that, although not a UN member, Tokelau is attending Rio+20 to showcase their initiatives in renewable energy after being given the opportunity by SPREP, of which they are a member country.

Tokelau has a target to be 100% renewable energy efficient by September 2013, this total project is costing 8.5 million dollars resulting in 93% photovoltaic system with a coconut oil hybrid as a reserve.

Commonwealth and regional bodies bring voice of small states to Rio+20 Earth Conference

SPREP/Commonwealth Secretariat Release

13 June 2012, Rio de Janeiro - Three different regions, home to Small Islands Developing states will come together during a side event at the Rio+20 Conference next week in Rio de Janeiro.

The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre and the Indian Ocean Commission will be part of a high level panel discussion facilitated by the Commonwealth Secretariat.

‘Across the Regions: SIDS Solutions for Sustainable Development’ is the title of the event.

This high-level panel discussion will highlight to world leaders and other stakeholders the unique development challenges that small island developing states face, and explore ways of working together between the regions ensuring that the next wave of development efforts considers, supports and fully addresses them.

“There is no denying the challenges of Small Islands Developing States are unique, we have to battle economic barriers, that of isolated, small island populations and administrations and the effects of climate change that makes life harder for some Pacific communities,” said Mr. David Sheppard, the Director-General of SPREP.

“Despite this, our island nations across the Pacific are working together under different initiatives to find solutions to these challenges. With support towards our efforts, we could achieve much more.”

There are several Pacific initiatives underway to ensure sustainable development such as the Pacific Oceanscape Initiative as a way to conserve and sustainably develop ocean resources and the Micronesia Challenge a shared commitment to conserve at least 30% of the near shore resources and 20% of the terrestrial resources across Micronesia by 2020.

The Commonwealth Secretariat, in partnership with the three SIDS institutions, will also launch a joint initiative to explore new ways to support climate resilient and low carbon economies across their memberships, through the signing of a memorandum of understanding.

Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General Ransford Smith said: “The global economic downturn has impeded the means to achieving the development goals of reducing poverty and accomplishing green growth in small and small island developing states. The task is made even more complex by their relatively small size, remoteness, vulnerability to external shocks and the effects of climate change.”

Mr. Smith, who will lead the Commonwealth delegation to the Rio+20 Earth Conference, added: “These countries also face challenges of securing funds for building resilient green economies to halt biodiversity loss, address food and water security, and invest in new sources of energy for sustainable, competitive growth. We are delighted that together with our partners, we shall commence a new chapter of supporting these countries to achieve more resilient and inclusive green growth.”

Participants are expected to call for high ambitions to be realised at the Rio+20 Earth Conference and future UN climate change negotiations to ensure that outcomes from these processes concretely address challenges of small island and other developing small states

Note to Editors
The panel discussion will take place from 17:00 to 18:30 in Room T-8 at the Riocentro Convention Centre in Rio de Janeiro. It is open to journalists accredited to cover the Rio+20 Earth Conference. Representatives from the four organisations will also be available for interviews.

Rio Conventions Pavilion: Linking biodiversity, climate change and sustainable land management

Story by Ms. Brianna Fruean, 14 years, Samoa

13 June 2012, Rio de Janeiro - At international UN environment conferences, the Rio Conventions Pavilion has become a key feature as a platform for people to come together and talk about three topics; biodiversity conservation, climate change and land sustainability.

It’s a forum for people to come and discuss issues and solutions for earth’s sustainable development.

Rio Conventions Pavilion based at the Athletes Park
“We can solve these problems together and figure out sustainable development in a synergistic fashion,” said David Ainsworth, the Information Officer at CBD Secretariat.

This initiative started at the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Nagoya Japan in 2010, it was featured at the 16th & 17th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework on the Convention on Climate Change in Cancun Mexico and Durban, South Africa; and was also present at the 10th Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention to Combat Desertification in Changwon, Korea.

Now in Rio de Janeiro for Rio+20, the Pavilion is a special event. It is very inviting and can be found at Athletes Park which is open to the locals. Hoping to appeal to the local audience in Rio, one of the videos to be shown at the Pavilion will be in Portugese.

“Here in Rio, we want the pavilion to bring people together and discuss the different ways people have come about with these three main topics and so in the future we can look back and see the ways we’ve gotten to that future position. “

Throughout the conference, they have an active timetable lined up with different events such as the Coastal Climate Change Solutions event at 5pm to 7pm on Friday 15th June.

The Rio pavilion opened on Wednesday 13th of June and the last day scheduled is Sunday 24th of June.  For more information on the Rio Convention Pavilion please visit: