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01 June 2012

Statement by Hon. Meltek Sato Kilman, Prime Minister of Vanuatu on Behalf of the Chair of the MSG Leaders Summit

“MSG Declaration on Environment and Climate Change”
Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development

Honourable Prime Ministers
Honourable Ministers
Your Excellencies
Development Partners
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

Ni Sa Bula Vinaka!


I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr David Sheppard, the Director General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) for extending to the Melanesian Spearhead Group this opportunity to present to you a brief overview of the MSG Leaders Declaration on Environment and Climate Change signed by MSG Leaders on 30 March 2012.  It indeed signifies the importance that you place on the Sustainable development and management of the Bio-diversity and ecosystems of Melanesia.

Let me begin by providing some brief context on the Declaration.

The MSG members combined constitute over three quarters of the population and land area of the broader Pacific group of nations. The countries of Melanesia cover a land area greater than 500,000km2 and include almost 2,000 islands, the flora and fauna of our region are species rich and numerous species are endemic to Melanesia. Melanesia is recognised as one of the world’s most significant biodiversity areas- both terrestrial and marine.

Over the past several decades, MSG countries have experienced increased pressures on our natural resources and environment brought about by increased monetization of our societies and growing emphasis on economic development together with trade liberalization, as well as increased population. These drivers of change have resulted in increased use of our natural resources.  Resources which are needed to generate income and improvements for our basic human development, and the need for growing export earnings to balance the costs of their imports.

Twenty years after Rio, the world is now faced with the consequences of unsustainable development. These consequences include the global financial crisis and the ongoing financial issues in Europe, the energy crisis, the emerging threat to food security, the degradation of our environment and the massive loss of biodiversity and Climate Change.

The countries of Melanesia region face a varying degree of environment and climate change challenges, but common amongst most are:

  1. Threats to the loss of species and bio-diversity, and invasion of species;
  2. Harvesting and exploitation of natural resources (forestry, fishery, mining and agriculture) without suitable environmental and conservation safeguards;
  3. Soil erosion and degradation of coastal marine ecosystems;
  4. Loss of terrestrial ecosystem and resultant loss of vital water supply, food and traditional medicine, and employment and income; and
  5. the impact of climate change across all sectors of society, which will exacerbate the impacts of current unsustainable resource use and poor environmental management

In view of this, MSG Leaders have recognised the critical importance of a healthy environment for the long term livelihoods of our people and the need for us to take significant steps to ensure the management and conservation of our unique ecosystems and biodiversity including our tropical forests, river systems, mountain and coastal ecosystems and marine resources.

Climate change while presenting MSG members with unique challenges, also has provided an opportunity for us to rethink how we deal with the challenges of managing our natural resources in a time when demand for economic growth drives our national agendas. Although each of the MSG countries has continued to implement climate change policy at national level which has to some extent influenced environmental outcomes, we also have acknowledged the opportunity to undertake a sub-regional approach on common Melanesia challenges.   In future, this may mean creating a premium value for our natural resources.

Environment and climate change is now a global challenge and one of the ways that we at Melanesia believe we can effectively tackle this challenge, is through strong domestic action and robust regional cooperation. We believe that both are indispensable and both are complementary. This is the basis of the MSG Leaders’ adoption of the MSG Declaration on Environment & Climate Change. This Declaration demonstrates the MSG’s commitment to fighting climate change, a critical issue we will be facing in the coming years and whose effects are already being felt by our communities.

Firstly, we at Melanesia have endorsed the adoption of a “Framework for Green Growth” as the basis for all development. The MSG’s green growth framework will be centered on the overall objective of enhancing economic growth and development through the avoidance of loss of bio-diversity and unsustainable use of natural resources, and the prevention of environmental degradation with a view to improving society’s welfare.

The MSG countries have the largest mangrove, seagrass and coastal swamp areas in the Pacific region and in recognition of this we have called for a “Melanesia Blue Carbon Initiative” that  will inform decision makers in Melanesia on the scale and value of these important areas as well as a strategy to conserve and manage these resources.

Further, in specifically recognizing the unique Melanesian Terrestrial and Coastal Environments and of the need to ensure landowning communities are supported, we will establish a “Melanesia Terrestrial Commitment” for the conservation, sustainable management and restoration of our terrestrial environment and ecosystems. While richer nations can try to ‘buy’ protection in the form of engineered solutions, people in developing countries like us in the Melanesia who are bearing the brunt of the impacts need a proven, accessible and affordable option. Prevention is always cheaper than cure, a part of this commitment is to adopt nature-based solutions as climate change mitigation and adaptation measures.

To achieve these commitments, climate change finance will be required. The MSG Leaders have agreed to develop a Melanesia Green Climate Fund to mobilize investments from all potential sources― public, private and international to effectively address the adaptation needs of our communities, particularly those that are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

Ladies and gentlemen, you will now see that Melanesia has a very distinct and unique set of environment and climate change challenges and interests which is different from other Smaller Island States in the Pacific region.  In this context, we urge development partners to tailor your environment and climate change assistance specifically towards these specific needs and interests, and to achieve the results we aspire in our MSG Declaration on Environment and Climate Change.

In closing, I wish to extend to all our development partners an invitation to discuss the key Commitments under the MSG Leaders Environment and Climate Change Declaration and its implementation programs at our Secretariat Head Quarters in Port Vila, Vanuatu.

Tankyu Tru!
Tagio Tumas!
Merci Beaucoup!
Vinaka vakalevu!

MSG Secretariat
Port Vila, Vanuatu
1 June 2012