Tuesday 19 June 2012

Brazil strikes a balanced text, endorsed by Parties

By Makereta Komai, PACNEWS Editor in Rio de Janeiro

Brazilian President of Rio+20

19 June 2012, Rio de Janeiro -  The draft text proposed by the Brazilian presidency of Rio+20 conference was provisionally approved Tuesday morning, two hours after Brazil convened the last plenary session.

The 49-page draft text, titled “The Future We Want’ was negotiated till the early hours of Tuesday, after the ‘oceans group’ was unable to resolve a number of issues in the draft text. It’s understood, the United States and the European Union agreed to some compromises in the text for the sake of reaching a conclusion in time for the Leaders Session.

United States chief negotiator, Todd Stern said whilst the U.S is pleased with some aspects of the text, it is dismayed that ‘reproductive rights’ are not properly reflected.

In support, Canada congratulated Brazil for ‘striking the right balance’ in the text.

“Brazil showed strong leadership and listened closely to the views of Member States, which resulted in a balanced text before us today, said the Canadian representative.

Speaking on behalf of all Small Island Developing States, the chair of the Alliance of Small Island Developing States (AOSIS), Ambassador Marlene Moses declared that while the draft was not perfect, it was a balanced one because it tried to reflect the diverse interests of all the States.

“For AOSIS this meeting is of special significance because it was at a similar meeting like this 20 years ago in Rio that our special case was recognized.

“The real test for the outcomes of this conference would be its implementation, said Ambassador Moses, who is Nauru’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York.

Brazilian Foreign Affairs Minister, Antonio de Aguiar Patriota declared the text was endorsed ad ref (provisionally) to a loud applause from members, who had spent the last six days negotiating a draft text which was originally 80 pages reduced to 49 pages.

Algeria, speaking on behalf of the largest negotiating bloc, the Group of 77 and China, welcomed the efforts made by Brazil, a member of the Group, to reach an agreed outcome.

“We have been negotiating for over a year now and today we have reached an agreement, out of respect for each other’s position. We have streamlined the text to represent our collective positions.

“G77 believes the text reflects the optimum that can be obtained from Parties. The Brazilian Presidency was able to identify a possible balance that is now in the text ready for our Leaders, said Algeria.

The High Level Segment begins Wednesday. A number of Pacific Leaders are already here in Rio to attend the Rio+20 conference.

Australian initiative to declare marine protected areas welcomed by Nauru

By Makereta Komai, PACNEWS Editor in Rio de Janeiro

19 June 2012, Rio de Janeiro - Australia’s announcement to create the world's largest network of marine protected areas, covering 1.3 million square kilometres of the Great Barrier Reef and the Coral Sea marine reserve, has been welcomed by Nauru.

And, Nauru’s Margo Deiye, speaking at a side event at the Rio+20 conference here in Rio de Janeiro said an initiative like this by the Julia Gillard government is encouraging for Pacific Small Island Developing States (PSIDS) who are championing the concept of a ‘blue economy.’

“As you know, the people of the Pacific are closely connected to the oceans. About half the citizens of the Pacific Islands live in coastal areas. Papua New Guinea and the Solomon islands are part of the Coral Triangle, the global center of coral reef diversity with more species of fish and corals than anywhere else on the planet.

“For our countries, healthy coral reefs and marine ecosystems are the foundation of coastal communities’ livelihoods, our culture, critical to local food security, and, in many cases, major contributors to our national economies through fishing and tourism revenues.

Healthy reefs, Deiye said are essential for marine biodiversity and for protecting coastal communities and infrastructure from storms which are ever more intense and damaging as the oceans warm and sea level rises.

Citizens of Pacific SIDS will suffer in terms of both food, economic and physical security as a result of coral reef degradation, undermining our countries’ opportunities and aspirations for sustainable development.

Ms Deiye said ocean acidification is a fundamental threat - alongside climate change and sea level rise - to our communities.

Pacific SIDS have championed proposals to build marine resilience to ocean acidification.

That is why the Pacific is well represented at the Rio+20 to seek political will to implement what has already been agreed in relation to marine and coastal resources.

“We need stronger action now to restore fish stocks, so that they are healthier and more resilient as the seas acidify.

“We need real action on the ground and on the seas. Rio must just be the beginning. Commitments made here must be implemented on the ground. And we need commitments of capacity development and support so that developing countries can build resilient marine ecosystems.

Pacific waters sustaining local livelihoods

The Parties to the Nauru Agreement have adopted measure to limit tuna catches, through a “vessel day scheme” to reduce fishing pressure, and ban on high seas fishing, among other measures. These are big commitment by small countries to restoring tuna stocks – as a continued source of income for sustainable development.

“If small countries like the Pacific SIDS that are so highly dependent on fisheries income can take these measures, we would like to see other countries commit to greater efforts to reduce fishing pressure and restore stocks.” said Ms Deiye.
Agenda 21, penned here 20 years ago, and the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation both laid the way forward – but implementation has been sorely lacking, she said.

Viewpoint: What value do you think youth have at the Rio+20?

By Ms. Brianna Fruean, 14 years, Samoa
19 June, 2012, Rio de Janeiro

Q:  What value do you think youth have at the Rio+20?

Pamla Gapaul, NEPAD Agency, South Africa

“Youth are the key to the environment problem. Normally they should have a very important role to play, not only in consultations on the problems but in implementing solutions for the future. I think they play a very important role here at Rio +20.”

Olushola Olayide, Senior Policy Officer, Addis Abada, Ethiopia

“Very important for youth to experience what goes on in these meetings.  In the beginning, everything seems to be going all over the place but at the end of the day, the negotiations do come together. We as the world population need to believe that things will come together and we need to do it in one voice.”

Tony Nyong- Nigeria

“Youth play an important role in the voice of Africa. Youth need to be empowered and speak out now on issues about sustainable development and green economy. Youth attending these meetings is good for capacity building.”

Josua Dione, UN-ECA

“The Youth today should be learning now to be leaders of tomorrow. The Youth today should learn from this meeting so that when it’s their turn to be leaders, they do it right. They don’t have to do what their parents and grandparents did. They have seen how things are not walking, things are not moving in these negotiations. They should ask themselves, if they want to do the same thing when they come into power? The Negotiations are done by leaders who were here 20 to 30 years ago, and they are the same ones not making things move. So I want the youth today to learn from this meeting so when they come back in 20 years from now, they will need to do things differently.”

Rio+20 shifts into high gear

By Kathleen Leewai, SPREP
L - R Evan Wasuka and Makereta Komai, Senior Reporters

From Fiji to Papua New Guinea to Samoa then on to Rio! Ms. Kathleen Leewai, the Publications and Communications Intern at SPREP is attending her first international environment conference - the Rio+20, this has been made possible with support from PACMAS, SPREP and Conservation International Pacific Island Program. Born and raised in Fiji, Kathleen has lived in Papua New Guinea, Australia and now in Samoa at SPREP where she works as the Publications and Communications Intern. This is Kathleens first time outside of the Pacific region, read about her experiences!

18 June 2012 -- My second week in Rio has started with a slight change in the atmosphere. There are more world leaders arriving and the tension has risen as we get closer to the date of the conference.

This comes after the negotiations on the draft of the Rio+20 outcomes document were extended, the last scheduled day having been on Friday and there seem to be some worried faces walking the halls, perhaps worried that the text for the outcomes document may not be ready in time for endorsement.

Preparing for the Pacific side event is exciting as well because we have 5 Pacific leaders featured, speaking on a range of issues including oceans, the Micronesia Challenge, the Green Economy in the context of a Blue World, as well as climate change mitigation in the areas of renewable energy.

I have realized that having a Pacific side event at a global conference like this is very important because it allows the Pacific to really showcase the challenges faced by nations in terms of sustainable development, and also to highlight the success stories of innovative ways the region has explored in battling these issues.

Being able to work alongside senior reporters in this setting has been a great experience. They have been a wealth of information, not just on media work but also about large conferences like these and how they work.

It’s been a pleasure working with them so far, and they’ve taught me a lot. I’ve been very fortunate in getting this opportunity and believe that what I’ve learned here will help me in many other areas of my work.

Offsetting carbon emissions at Rio+20

Ms. Brianna Fruean, 14 years, Samoa/SPREP

19 June 2012, Rio de Janeiro - Volunteers at the Rio+20 are offering delegates the opportunity to offset their carbon emissions by funding national environment projects in Brazil.
Danielle Lodi, Rio+20 volunteer

30 volunteers in all roam the RioCentro conference venue approaching delegates, not always with good results.

“Approximately 3 people a day say yes to me,” said Danielle Lodi of Brazil

“I hope we have many more as the money will go towards good environment activities in Brazil.”

Travel from Samoa to Brazil came to 30 tonnes of carbon which cost us 50 Realz to offset.

Brazilian text well-received, oceans still not resolved

By Makereta Komai, PACNEWS Editor

Ambassador Luiz Alberto Figueiredo

18 June 2012, Rio de Janeiro - Hours before leaders start arriving into Rio de Janeiro for the High Level Segment of the Rio+20 conference, Brazil, as host is exhausting every possible means to get a broad agreement on a text that will form the outcomes document on Friday.

Speaking to journalists, Brazil’s climate change advisor, Ambassador Luiz Alberto Figueiredo was upbeat about the level of acceptance of the Brazilian text, introduced to negotiators last Saturday.
“At this stage, we are moving smoothly through the thematic areas of the text. There have been some hurdles but we have managed to overcome some of them, said Ambassador Figuereido.

The only contentious issues that needs more work are in the ‘oceans’ and means of implementation (MOI)’ text.

“In the coming few hours, we have to fine tune these controversial issues and we are absolutely positive that a text agreed to by all parties will be ready before world leaders arrive for the High Level Segment, which begins Wednesday

In the oceans negotiations, the United States has introduced a ‘compromise’ text recommending that the 68th United Nations General Assembly, with respect to enhanced implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), consider developing a multilateral agreement to address the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction.

Ambassador Figueiredo said ‘oceans is an area that will require more intense negotiation efforts.’

Currently, 20 out of the 287 paragraphs in the Brazilian text now negotiated covers oceans. Most of the oceans paragraphs have been resolved except for paragraphs 163 and 169, where there are many differences mostly between the United States, the European Union and the G77 and China group.

Using a parallel between a soccer match and the negotiations, the Brazilian climate change advisor said ‘we are now on extra time’ and ‘the game will come to an end soon.’

“The time of the match has expired and we are now into extension time. We don’t have much time longer.”

Another issue that will need to be resolved before the text is finalised is the proposal by G77 and China to establish a sustainable development funding mechanism with multiple donors from both public and private sector interests. Negotiators are still trying to find a common position on the form on this proposed multilateral mechanism.

The Secretary General of the Rio+20 conference, Sha Zukang, in a statement read to journalists said he was happy to see the great response to the Brazilian text.

“The negotiations have gone smoothly and are nearing completion. It is really through the accelerated and dynamic process put in place by our hosts, the government of Brazil.

“While there are minor adjustments to be made, I am encouraged that the text has been well received, said Zukang.

He urged Parties to show flexibility in the spirit of compromise to deliver the future we want for the globe.

Tourism, the Pacific Islands gateway into the Green Economy

Mr Evan Wasuka, One Television, Solomon Islands

Tourism underway in the Solomon Islands
18 June, 2012, Rio de Janeiro - For Pacific Islands countries, tourism has been touted as the key to successfully embracing the green economy.
As countries around the world embrace a greener and cleaner development, the United Nation's High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (OHLRS), Under-Secretary-General, Cheick Sidi Diarra, says Pacific Island countries can utilize their exotic location and natural environment to benefit from the green economy.

Speaking after a Rio+20 side event, Mr Diarra says tourism is one area Pacific Island countries can be competitive in.
"Tourism in my view is the best element, the best asset for Small Islands and the second one is the marine resources, fisheries, coral, biodiversity marine."
The aim of the green economy is to combine efficiency with sustainability. When this happens Mr Diarra says Pacific Island countries will then become sustainable in their production and consumption, improving the livelihood of people.

According to Mr Diarra, the main benefit for Pacific nations to embrace the green economy, is the preservation of their islands and its very limited resources.

"If the living standards cannot be improved, we have to stabilize it at the level that it is right now."

It is predicted that small islands states will suffer the most as a result of the impact of climate change, through sea level rising, depletion of coral, while marine resources and biodiversity would progressively decline if conservation measures are not taken.

Although the green economy is a relatively new - catch phrase - Mr Diarra says the concepts involved are not foreign to vulnerable countries, including Pacific Island countries.

"Many of them can rightly say that they are already involved in green economy practices and activities and in certain instances may have already adopted policies that have successfully promoted green growth.

"There is a need, therefore, to identify and build on these success stories from these vulnerable countries on this issue and replicate them where applicable."

He said his office has been advocating the need to better understand and utlilize the Tourism, Biodiversity and Culture nexus to protect and conserve these important natural assets which in turn could contribute towards economic growth and their sustainable development.

“In the case of Small Islands Developing States (SIDS), with their narrow resource base, the oceans and its marine resources is a key sector that continues to contribute to economic growth in many of them.

“In several SIDS the marine resources presents the only viable resource base for economic development and growth – proceeds from which directly contributing towards funding their national efforts to meet their sustainable development objectives and eradicate poverty.

Mr Diarra says the small island countries can be successful through targeted policies that, among other things, would encourage private and public sector partnerships, stimulate green growth and create job opportunities.

“With the necessary support of their partners, I am confident that they can lead the way forward in making green growth and the green economy a reality.

“LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS, many of which are not industrialized nations, are well positioned to take full advantage of this new development paradigm to leapfrog into more sustainable practices

“The one certain thing that would make green growth and the green economy a reality in the vulnerable countries and the wider world, for that matter, is that there has to be shift in the way we think of development, our approaches to it and what it entails.”

The issue of gender across the three pillars of sustainable development

By kathleen Leewai, intern, SPREP

Panel at Gender Justice event at Rio+20
18 June 2012, Rio de Janeiro - The issue of gender has been under intense discussion at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development.

Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN) stated that, in their view, the current text of the Rio+20 outcomes document shows many imbalances across the three pillars of sustainable development, i.e. the social, economic, and environmental pillars of sustainable development.

They believe that the only way to achieve sustainable development is to include gender perspectives in the discussions of issues under all three pillars.

Maureen Penjueli, Coordinator of the Pacific Network on Globalisation in Fiji, said that there are a few issues for women in the Pacific that should be brought forward at Rio+20, but that they would be different under each of the pillars.

“Under the environmental pillar they need to be looking at the impacts of climate change on women, especially coastal women, such as access to water and funding for adaptation efforts.

In the economic sense, on the other hand, the issue is about access to information about the economic model being sought in Rio and how this will impact them.”

Speaking at a side event on juggling gender justice across the three pillars, Ms. Melinda Ching from the Office of the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights said, “It is important to address that we are all here to fight for human rights for women, but also for human rights for all, as human rights, including human rights for women, are the key to sustainable development.”

“I think that the gender text is one of the most controversial and contentious text that still remains in Rio”, said Ms. Penjueli as negotiations on the text regarding women and health continued.

“I think a lot of the emphasis and strategies here are really on how to defend the rights that have been gained at the World Conference on Women in Beijing and the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, so that women don’t go away from this conference with lesser rights than when they came.”

All parties, including submissions from Major Groups have until tonight (18 June, 2012) to finalise text in order to have a text ready before Wednesday, chances are negotiations will continue tomorrow.

Biggest environment conference in UN history

By Evan Wasuka, One Television, Solomon Islands

18 June 2012, Rio de Janeiro
- After the first week of negotiations at the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development and the Environment, failed to produce an outcomes document, host country Brazil is now leading consultations.

Brazil has until the June 19 to come up with a document for world leaders to endorse at Rio+20.

Evan Wasuka takes a look at the first week of the biggest environment conference in UN history.

Brazil takes over as country negotiations come to the end from Wasuka Media on Vimeo.

Pacific countries told to adopt 'precautionary approach' to seabed mineral mining

By Makereta Komai, PACNEWS Editor

18 June, 2012, Rio de Janeiro - It’s been suggested that Pacific Island Countries and territories wishing to make use of resources on the deep seafloor for economic returns need to adopt a ‘precautionary approach.

This can simply be interpreted as “in any development where there are threats of serious harm to the marine environment, the lack of full scientific data shall not be used as a reason for postponing that development, said Dr Russell Howorth, director of SOPAC Division of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC).

But, that particular development, he added should use cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.

The ‘precautionary approach’ has been in existence in Rio principle 15 for 20 years but hardly used in the context of bringing the economic benefits of the resources of Pacific islanders to improve their livelihoods, said Dr Howorth while addressing Oceans Day at the Rio +20 conference here in Rio de Janeiro.

Under Principle 15 of the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development (1992), the application of the Precautionary Approach is defined as “In order to protect the environment, the precautionary approach shall be widely applied by States according to their capabilities. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.”
Dr Russell Howorth, director of SOPAC Division of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC)

Dr Howorth also revealed a ground breaking advisory opinion by the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea Seabed Disputes Chamber which ruled that the precautionary approach is a legal requirement for States sponsoring deep sea mining activities.

“The same advisory opinion also gave a significant indication that the ‘precautionary approach is on its way to becoming a binding legal principle of international customary law more generally.

Scientific research and exploration of deep sea minerals have been ongoing in the Pacific Islands region in the last 40 years. Since its inception in 1972, the then Pacific Islands Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC) was instrumental in the evaluation of seafloor minerals that occur within the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) of Pacific Island Countries and Territories, in collaboration with developed countries including the USA, Australia, France, Korea, Japan and Germany.

These early efforts have led to the discovery of some potential seafloor mineral deposits within the EEZs of Cook Islands, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Marshall Islands, Fiji and Kiribati, said Dr Howorth.

"Beyond the region under national jurisdiction, large areas of the Clarion Clipperton Zone of the Pacific Ocean are undergoing mineral exploration – these activities are overseen by the International Seabed Authority.

The SOPAC director said recent interests in deep seafloor mineral deposits have been revived in a number of Pacific Island Countries where a number of entities have either been granted or applied for commercial exploration licenses.

"This new development is largely attributed to sustained increase in global metal demand along with land resources becoming increasingly stretched.

"Additionally, new discoveries of high grade precious and base metals on the seafloor in Papua New Guinea and Tonga in recent years coupled with the granting of an offshore mining lease in Papua New Guinea in early 2011 have demonstrated the increasing interest in deep seafloor mineral resources in the Pacific islands region.

Also, in 2011 the International Seabed Authority (ISA) granted exploration licenses to Nauru Ocean Resources Inc (NORI – Nauru registered company) and Tonga Offshore Mining Limited (TOML – a Tonga sponsored company) to explore identified areas in the International Seabed Area (commonly known as “the Area”).

"This is indeed a significant milestone for Nauru and Tonga, and they must be congratulated for embarking on this new initiative that resulted in joint venture partnerships with exploration companies to explore ‘the Area’, providing the opportunity for this industry to help these countries meet their development goals.

“This was also a significant milestone for the ISA and the international community as it was the first time developing states had been able to participate in the Area and sets an important precedent for other developing states to follow, said Dr Howoth.

As the demand for minerals continues to rise, along with the environmental and social costs of land-based mining, seafloor mineral deposits will almost certainly play an increasingly important role in supplying society with an acceptable means of obtaining the metals needed to meet global development objectives.

“The lack of access to metals (for example copper and rare earths) at affordable prices is a serious hindrance to social development and must be overcome if development objectives are to be achieved, and if we are to build affordable clean energy technologies on a global scale required to create a "Green Economy.”

Dr Howorth said because of the very high costs of collecting data to help build the knowledge base for Pacific Island Countries through exploration in the deep sea environment, this work must be carried out in partnership with the private sector, which is in a position to manage the financial risks.

“An EU-funded SPC Deep Sea Minerals Project is assisting Pacific Island countries to put in place law and policy to manage responsibly this relationship with private entities. The aim is to ensure the implementation of the Precautionary Approach and other international environmental law standards, and also to provide a stable regulatory environment providing comfort to private entities and their financiers, and to concerned citizens and commentators alike,” said Dr Howorth.

The total exclusive economic zone of 22 Pacific Island Countries and Territories is around 30 million square kilometers, four times the land area of Brazil’s 8.5 million square kilometers, which is the fifth largest country in the world.

Environment conventions in the Pacific


18 June 2012, Rio de Janeiro - ‘Multilateral environmental agreements’ – is a crucial term for the livelihoods of Pacific islanders and their communities.

Beyond Rio+20

By Ms. Brianna Fruean, age 14 years, Samoa

Messages from youth visible on walls at the Rio+20

18 June, 2012, Rio de Janeiro - It is getting so close to when the World leaders arrive and the action of the meeting starts. When that’s all done whether the outcome is positive or negative, we ask ourselves, what happens next? 

An event to encourage people to think and plan what they are going to after Rio+20 to bring sustainable development for the planet was hosted by the AEGEE (European Students Forum), called "Beyond Rio+20”.

For Youth, Rio+20 is a learning experience and a place to meet other people and make connections, if these connections aren’t used after the conference, it can easily be lost.

A partnership between the wise and the young can be very successful.

The panel of speakers featured advocates who were youth during the very first Earth Summit 20 years ago, now many years on the discussions allowed for reflection on experiences and issues that have evolved since then.

"We were once young and easily lost connections. Young people should make use of their time and plan so that their networks and new friendships do not start and end at Rio+20", said Michael Davidson, who was youth environment advocacate during the first Earth Summit 20 years ago.

Social media is a perfect way of staying on track, it's also a form of communication that was not available in 1992, this side event encouraged youth to use social media networks such as facebook and twitter to stay in touch and help make the Rio+20 outcomes come alive.