|Integrated Clean Energy for Peace and Climate|
CURRENT AND CRITICAL ENVIRONMENT AND DEVELOPMENT CONCERNS OF THE SMALL ISLAND DEVELOPING STATES OF ASIA AND THE PACIFIC FOR INCLUSION IN THE REGIONAL ACTION PROGRAMME FOR ENVIRONMENTALLY SOUND AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT, 2001-2005.
The critical concerns of the small island developing states of the Asia Pacific Region are:
1. Five years ago in Barbados, small island developing States and the international community spoke of the need to send a strong message to the worlds peoples of the unlimited development opportunities to be achieved when pursued in partnership and with a sense of common purpose. It was agreed then that the sustainable development of island nations was both essential and achievable.
2. The Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of small island developing States (BPoA) was the first meaningful and concrete effort at a global alliance for the pursuit of sustainable development.
3. Small island developing States have a strong sense of ownership of, and are deeply committed to the principles and aims of the BPoA. The small island developing states of the Asia Pacific Region and their associated sub-regional organisations have made a sincere and dedicated effort to live up to their commitments to implement sustainable development and environmental reform.
4. The special financial, geographic and human circumstances of small island developing states were recognized at Rio and Barbados and the international community made promises to assist the small island developing states with new and additional financial resources and technology transfer. In September 1999 the Heads of State and Government of AOSIS and the United Nations General Assembly expressed concern that in the five years following the Barbados conference, adequate, predictable, new and additional financial resources in support of implementation of the BPoA had not been provided by the international community. They also expressed concern at the overall decline in financial assistance to small island developing States, noting in particular the decline in official development assistance. They recalled that the commitment of the international community to support small island developing States made in Barbados was based on their acknowledgement that such joint action was essential for the effective implementation of the BPoA. They therefore called on the international community to provide funding for the full implementation of BPoA. They also urged developed countries to increase their ODA to meet the agreed United Nations target of 0.7% of their GNP.
5. Delays in responding in a substantive way to the multitude of environment and development needs of the Pacific island countries increase the severity of the problems and their impact on the economic, social and environmental sustainability of the island cultures.
6. Pacific island governments and their associated sub-regional organisations have identified the environment and development problems and have developed strategies for their resolution but lack the financial resources and technological capacity to deal with these issues in a definitive and positive way.
7. Priorities from the Roundtable of Pacific Island Ministers on Sustainable Development (17 November 1998) were:
Cross Sectoral Issues
8. SPREP is currently reviewing the National priorities of its members as part of the process for developing the 2001 - 2004 SPREP Action Plan. New and important issues are emerging, such as integrating environmental considerations into economic decision making and revising the process of funding and implementing environment and development programmes.
9. Pacific island countries affirmed that the issue of climate change remained an urgent and primary concern. Climate change is already having devastating effects on small island developing States, threatening the well-being and the economic survival of island communities. Climate change will further undermine the efforts of small island developing States to achieve sustainable development. They therefore asserted that global warming and sea level rise should be given higher priority by the international community. They underscored that the efforts of the developed countries to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases should be strengthened and accelerated. They also expressed the need for further international assistance for small island developing States to plan for longer-term adaptation to the effects of climate change.
10. They noted that the Kyoto Protocol to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change is a modest first step in the right direction, but that it will not meet the objectives of the UNFCCC. They stressed the point that only small island developing States had ratified the Protocol and urgently called on Annex 1 Countries to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. They also undertook to continue cooperation in the search for and promotion of adaptation solutions, through the sharing of information and consultation in relevant fora.
11. Some support has been received from the international community at national and regional levels to assist with research, technical studies, capacity building, planning and the development of policy relevant advice.
12. The outcome of the studies to date and a growing body of qualitative and anecdotal evidence from across the Pacific indicate that climate change from atmospheric pollution is already causing substantial damage to small island developing states. Extreme weather and climate events have had serious environmental and economic consequences. For example, in Fiji, drought wiped out about two-thirds of the newly planted sugar crop in 1998, the overall economic impact was equivalent to 3% of GDP. Tongas squash crop, producing about half of exports by value, was cut by 50%. Australia spent more than A$30 million delivering food aid to people in isolated areas of Papua New Guinea, many of whom were close to starvation. In the Federated States of Micronesia many atolls ran out of water. In the Marshall Islands, the United States had to bring in large scale desalination plants to provide water for the people. In Palau drought led to the loss of 30% of the taro patches affecting one third of the population. Tuvalu suffered 3 cyclones during this same period resulting in the loss of land, inundation of taro pits, destruction of houses and contamination of fresh water supplies.
13. The Pacific Island Conference on Climate Change, Climate Variability and Sea Level Rise, Rarotonga 3-7 April 2000, identified a wide range of priorities for action that will require substantial funding from industrial donors.
14. An integrated, major response to climate change should not only assist the small island developing states with adaptive responses, it should also foster reduction of biomass and fossil fuel use in the industrial countries.
15. Tuvalu, one of the most vulnerable countries in the Pacific, backed by the other Pacific island nations, repeatedly and strongly stressed that the polluter pays concept should be applied to climate change. They are especially adamant that the industrial nations not only provide new and substantial funding to mitigate the impacts of climate change, but also make substantive efforts to promote and support renewable energy strategies and thus reduce pollution of the atmosphere.
16. Industrial nations should take notice of the World Banks recently adopted Energy-Environment Strategy that stresses the provision of basic modern energy services to the rural poor and peri-urban populations. This would involve substitution of low quality biomass fuels by more efficient modern fuels or substituting centralized fossil fuel electricity generation by off-grid renewable systems.
17. The World Bank-GEF Renewable Energy Strategic Partnership aims to shift the programming of GEF resources for renewable energy from one-off project components to large-scale, long-term renewable energy programs.
18. Tuvalu and Vanuatu also note that Shell Oil and Daimler-Chrysler are leading an international consortium to make Iceland the worlds first hydrogen based economy. Iceland has geothermal energy and so is a good candidate for the first experiments.
19. Therefore, Tuvalu and Vanuatu urge the industrial nations and the international agencies to assist them and all the Pacific island nations with substantial technical and financial assistance to shift their fossil fuel dependent societies to non-polluting hydrogen energy economies.
20. The Prime Minister of Vanuatu, the Right Honourable Barak T. Sope, sees hydrogen power as a way to free their country from the escalating costs of petroleum. Two major studies were completed on the geothermal potential for their major island and, combined with hydrogen energy, this will form the basis of a whole new energy economy for Vanuatu.
21. The hydrogen initiative will assist both the island nations and the industrial nations. The components for a hydrogen energy economy are ready now. Industrial nations need to integrate the components into one functioning society where renewable energy and hydrogen fuels power the entire community; cars, trucks, buses, tractors, boats and electrical utilities.
22. If the industrial nations pay their own renewable energy industries to design fully integrated hydrogen powered communities for all the inhabited islands of the Pacific Ocean, hydrogen technology will achieve an economy of scale and become a viable contender to replace fossil fuel economies in the industrial world. And this, in turn, will hasten the end of pollution of the atmosphere with carbon dioxide and associated pollutants.
23. As a bonus, under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the Kyoto Protocol, developed countries investing in clean energy projects in developing countries will gain credits for reductions in carbon dioxide that result from those projects. Establishing hydrogen powered island economies is the perfect implementation of the CDM.
24. The technical, scientific and financial support for implementing hydrogen power economies in the small island developing states will also help meet the mandate of the General Assembly to provide new and substantial funding and technology transfer.
25. The Heads of State and Government of AOSIS and the Pacific Island Forum reaffirmed their opposition to the transportation of hazardous and nuclear materials through the exclusive economic zones of small island developing States, and recalled that the right to ban such movement and transportation was formally accepted in the BPoA. They recognized the need to pursue initiatives within the existing international legal regime in order to formally defend that right.
26. They exhorted the international community to ensure that the principle of state responsibility is more vigorously enforced to ensure that the environment of small island developing States is protected from the threat of such materials and not adversely affected by pollution from these sources.
27. They also asserted that there exists a special responsibility of the international community and the United Nations system to those people of small island developing States, who have been adversely affected and are suffering as a result of nuclear testing programs. Responsible states should give appropriate assistance in cleaning up, disposal or containment of radioactive contaminants, and other measures to restore their safety, productivity and well being.
28. The Pacific islands note with growing concern that hazardous wastes have been imported into their countries in the past and now represent a major hazard to public health and to the freshwater and marine environments. Many of these chemicals were imported from various industrial nations without due diligence and until recently the Pacific island governments were not informed of the nature of extent of the dangers these chemical stockpiles represent. In particular, Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) are a significant problem. These include pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls, general industrial chemicals, medical wastes, laboratory chemicals, oil, bitumen, timber treatment chemicals and fertilisers. Costs associated with disposing of the stockpiles of obsolete and unwanted chemicals, contaminated site remediation, and other waste management activities for 14 Pacific small island developing states will be about US$8 million. While this is a very small amount of money when compared to toxic waste clean up sites in industrial countries, it is currently beyond the financial capacity of the Pacific island countries.
29. Stockpiles of unwanted toxic and hazardous POPs are only one aspect of a growing problem with waste disposal for the small island developing states. Hazardous chemicals continue to be imported. Old cars, used tyres, and large amounts of plastic packaging are serious issues on small islands where land is a premium for homes, gardens, watersheds, and wildlife zones. Addressing these issues will require innovative partnerships with the industrial world. Chemical companies selling pesticides and weed killers that now represent a health threat by polluting groundwater and contaminating streams and coastal environments bear a responsibility for not adequately warning the island countries that this serious danger existed. Where clean-ups are required or substitute water sources must be found, the manufacturers must share in the costs of the remediation.
30. Under the principle of state responsibility, industrial countries should take action to curtail manufacture and export of persistent organic pollutants, promote the reduction of plastic and non-recyclable packaging, and assist Pacific islands with recycling programmes.
31. The small island developing states have made real strides forward in establishing community based conservation areas. These initiatives are one of the major success stories of environment in the Asia Pacific region. The long term sustainability of the Conservation Areas will require ongoing support from the developed world. Towards this goal, the Pacific islands have agreed to set up a regional Pacific Conservation Trust Fund to provide ongoing and permanent financial support to these and future community based conservation initiatives in the Pacific islands.
32. Establishment of the fund to maintain the current level of support and provide for future growth through investment will require US$40 million.
33. Environment issues are closely linked with development and the small island developing states recognize a need to shift the institutional emphasis away from Environment and Economic Development to Sustainable Development. Integration of environmental issues into the economic decision making process will require the formulation of sustainable development strategies within all sectors and levels of Government as well as in private industry and communities. This was a primary focus of Agenda 21 but it has been poorly implemented in the small island developing states of the Region.
34. The SPREP report Pacific Islands Environment Outlook, points out that many of the planning and coordination functions of the environment units should be taken over by the development agency and line ministries. Cost/benefit analyses, for example, should be done by the development agency (Finance, Planning, Development or Treasury). The line ministries would continue their control over forestry, fisheries, agriculture, tourism, health and education.
35. The Environment unit can be reassigned to provide valuable monitoring and feedback for the process of sustainable development. New Zealands Commissioner for the Environment is a useful model for this. The Commissioner is an independent body that undertakes studies and responds to public, private or government concerns about a great variety of environmental issues. The findings are reported directly to Parliament.
36. A Commissioner for the Environment would, in addition to acting as an environmental ombudsman recommended by GEO2000, monitor the effect of policies and action plans on the island ecosystems. This would let people know when their efforts were making a positive difference to the health of the sea, the watersheds, and the forests. The Commissioner would alert the community if their actions were causing problems, and make recommendations to correct the plan. The Commissioner could keep track of progress on the commitments of line ministries as stated in their individual and collective sustainable development action plans.
37. Almost all Pacific island countries import far more than they export. Their small economies often depend on a few commodities and any shift in world prices or trade practices has a devastating effect on their financial status. For example, increases in the price of oil impose a de facto energy tax on the entire economy. The small island developing states are concerned that the pace and terms of globalisation and trade liberalization have seriously affected the economies of small island developing States, undermining their efforts to achieve sustainable development.
38. They are particularly concerned at the serious risk of marginalization in the emerging global economic order, which their economies face in the areas of trade, investment, commodities and capital markets, despite efforts at domestic reform undertaken to facilitate integration into the international economy. They underscored the serious negative effect that the erosion of trade preferences is having on the economies of small island developing States, and reaffirmed the need for the international community to address the limitations and vulnerabilities of the economies of small island developing States through continued market access and through special and differential treatment in the international trading system.
39. In this regard the Pacific island countries welcome the progress in the development of a vulnerability index, which should be used as one of the criteria for determining special and differential treatment for small island developing States in trade, and for concessional treatment in financing and monetary matters. They also reaffirmed the importance of ensuring the full and effective participation of small island developing States in all relevant international fora, including in the multilateral trade, financial and monetary institutions, and called for the support of the international community to assist small island developing States in this regard.
40. Demographic issues are also a serious concern for the Pacific island nations, especially the problems of urbanization and associated unemployment and health issues. These, and related priority concerns, are addressed in other action plans, especially by the UNFPA, UNESCO, and ESCAP. These programmes also require urgent new and additional funding from donor countries.
41. The central theme chosen for the programme of action at the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), held in Cairo in 1994 was Choice. This theme is an excellent one for sustainable development as well. It focuses efforts of all concerned on the fact that the choices made by all the people of the islands will determine their common future.
42. "Choice" is an essential conceptual compass to guide and integrate the combined efforts of the island society and its external partners. The theme highlights the need for participation, provision of knowledge and empowerment to all partners, transparency of governance in the decision making process, and decentralisation of responsibility for environmental reform to all sectors of government and civil society.
43. Access to information is essential to making wise, sustainable choices. The Palau National Policy includes; "maintain, whenever possible, an environment which supports diversity and variety of individual choice". This is an excellent definition of sustainability. Whereas environmental degradation always cuts down the range of choices for society, sustainable development expands the range and depth of choices. A sustainable fisheries means there are plenty of fish to catch and different ways to catch them. A depleted fishery leaves little choice - other than finding something else to eat.
44. The more knowledge, the more choices. The Internet is the best opportunity for island people to gain information to create wise choices, and is the best opportunity for island people to influence global choices on key environmental issues such as climate change, radioactive wastes, and persistent organic pollutants.
45. In October 1999, The Pacific Islands Forum adopted the Forum Ministers for Communications Vision for the Pacific Information Economy. The communications ministers envision a future where;
46. They see all the islands connecting to the Internet and joining the new millennium of business and personal networking. This is a rewarding choice for the island countries because, as the Ministers pointed out, it vanishes isolation and opens up huge sources of knowledge. People can share information, create ideas and invent opportunities over the Internet. The industrial nations will help support linking the Pacific island communities to the Internet because, in the end, the costs are minimal compared to the benefits.
47. The BPoA and the Regional Action Programme 1996-2000 adopted at MCED3 underscore the importance of information and information technology in the process of achieving sustainable development. Almost all International, Regional, sub-Regional organisations are already on-line and the amount of information they are posting on their websites is growing exponentially. Many government offices in Pacific island countries are already networking emails, uploading and downloading files of every description. As the satellite communications improve and costs come down, government officers will be holding international meetings on line, chat-messaging with colleagues, white-board designing, video-conferencing, and expanding the databases with information on all aspects of sustainable development.
48. The Internet offers significant potential for both encouraging and implementing the environmental action plans. New software enhances the ease and effectiveness of on-line collaboration. This will, when fully integrated into action strategies, lower the costs of international cooperation and speed the implementation process. Organisations and government offices should be encouraged to place their sustainable development objectives on their web-sites and to update these on a yearly basis to report on progress towards their stated objectives. Important statistical information for sustainable development should be maintained on an online database, with authorized statistics officers from participating countries updating the information on a regular basis. By updating information on-line, the process of recording and reporting will be rapid and fully integrated, thus avoiding delay and incompatible data formats. On-line statistical data checks can catch and highlight errors during entry.
49. The global information network being developed and implemented through SIDSnet has been a great success. It networks sustainable development concepts and information between 42 SIDS . In October 1999, Pacific Island leaders from the region's 16 independent countries endorsed SIDSnet activities in the region. They noted SIDSnet was helping implement the Barbados Program of Action. The 22 Special Session of the UN General Assembly recommended strengthening SIDSnet as an important tool for sustainable development.
50. SIDSnet is a valuable tool for capacity building, particularly through its programs for Internet training and the scope offered for enhanced communication and for technical cooperation among small island developing countries. The island states urged the strengthening of the SIDS Unit in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations. The Forum further requested the designation of SIDS focal points in all United Nations agencies.
51. Forestry issues continue to be a problem for Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. The Forests and Trees Support Programme at the SPC is addressing these issues, with important linkages to the SPREP conservation programmes and FAO. NGOs play a critical role in Forest use issues. Still, with all best intentions, unscrupulous foreign interests continue to undermine their efforts.
52. After depleting forest resources in their own countries, Asian countries have moved progressively further away, first unsustainably logging the Philippines and then moving into Melanesia. Achieving sustainable development is difficult enough without the added complication of unscrupulous outside interference. The Pacific islands therefore call upon the industrial nations, especially in Asia, to curtail their unsustainable harvesting of the limited and critical forest resources in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands and support eco-labelling and sustainable forestry initiatives through import restrictions.
53. Agricultural, forestry and fishery priorities for the next five years, as developed by the Third Special Ministerial Conference on Agriculture in Small Island Developing States (Rome, 12 March 1999) include:
54. The Pacific islands have made great strides in harmonizing sustainable development goals by integrating all concerned parties into the decision making process. Successes, especially in community participation projects, have bolstered confidence in the processes for involving communities and businesses in the decision making process.
55. Integration of sustainable development planning between government workers and village people requires a methodology based on visual representation to augment the vision making process of Agenda 21. The Vanuatu Land Use project has had considerable success using land use charts as visual representations of the communitys development vision. It is created as an electronic model using a Geographic Information System (GIS). Current GIS charts in Vanuatu, Fiji, the Solomon Islands, New Caledonia, Tonga and the Cook Islands already show many features of the island landscapes. For example, land and soil morphology, coastal topography, watersheds, forests, agricultural areas, pastures, public and private buildings, roads, utilities, waste flows, land ownership, and political boundaries. Just as one would use an architectural plan to design an integrated resort complex, the geographic information system is an adaptable plan for designing and managing an integrated island landscape.
56. The Vanuatu Land Use Planning Office successfully uses the national GIS to create resource management action plan maps in partnership with all government sectors and local communities. These are now being applied to a Rural Economic Development Initiative. The VLUPO process can be improved by using the Appreciative Inquiry approach to community planning, and by including the SOPAC Island Systems Management Programme.
57. SOPAC uses GIS as a dynamic systems management tool. In 1998, SOPAC assisted the Fiji Electricity Authority and the Solomon Islands Electricity Authority with the installation of a GIS for improved asset and financial management. The projects helped the utility companies achieve faster response to faults and enhanced planning with an overall goal of improved efficiency of operations. SOPAC intends to help member countries adopt a more holistic approach to integrate these technologies as an Islands Systems Management Programme. The electronic chart will design links between the island infrastructure systems to improve the efficiency of the building industry, telecommunications, manufacturing, supply, waste processing, agriculture, power and water delivery, travel and recreation.
58. Pacific island organisations and National governments have made great strides in gender equity. The SPC, SOPAC, SPREP and the PIF actively strive to ensure gender equity in all aspects of sustainable development. UNIFEM Pacific has been active for over a decade in mainstreaming gender issues.
59. Women are significant users of land and coastal resources and tend to take major responsibility for family health. Their input will be increasingly important on land degradation issues, decision making and training (as trainers and recipients) on waste management and land use.
60. The resolution of environmental issues in the Pacific islands must deal with communal tenure systems, traditional land and coastal use practices and cultural values. The Pacific island leaders recognize the importance of local knowledge and management system activities that integrate easily with indigenous knowledge and natural resource management practices are received with growing enthusiasm in the Pacific.
61. The UNDP/SPREP Capacity Building and Environmental Management Project works towards recording indigenous knowledge on Pacific island ecosystems. These kinds of data will take on added value as the Pacific islands come on-line, not only because of the ability of younger Pacific islanders to learn traditional wisdom and lore, but because there is a wide global interest in cultural issues.
62. The Internet may play an important role in assisting in the collection of traditional knowledge, music, art and dancing. The Pacific Arts Festival, the Melanesian Arts Festival, and other cultural events can be advertised over the Internet and stories, images, music and video clips integrated into the catalogue of cultural on-line displays.
63. Funding for preserving culture needs special attention. Cultural Associations and Museums require significant funding. In Fiji, for example, an extension of the existing museum will cost an estimated F$25 million. Again, Internet advertising networks may help gather support for Cultural Associations that set up especially attractive and popular websites. In addition, the websites will increase visitors to the museums and cultural events. Art reproductions and traditional crafts can also be marketed globally on-line. Traditional art from Melanesia, in particular, is extremely popular in Australia, Europe and the United States.
64. Mitigation of climate change and atmospheric pollution should be the urgent focus of bilateral and multilateral agreements to work together on improving and integrating renewable energy technologies with an end-goal of establishing renewable-energy/hydrogen-based economies in the small island developing countries. This will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve the economies of the Pacific islands, and help achieve an economy of scale to substitute non polluting energy technologies for biomass and fossil fuels on a global basis.
65. International, regional and national organisations should merge environment and development factions into a single sustainable development sector with a strong emphasis on whole-of-society involvement.
66. To highlight the importance of informed decision making as a key prerequisite for sustainable development, all organisations should adopt the use of "choice" as the theme to integrate and promote the participatory process for sustainable development.
67. All organisations should feature the Internet as the key to information access, training, conferencing, networking and coordination.
68. Organisations should use GIS to create graphic vision statements that integrate community, government, and industry activities much in the same way that architectural plans and models display visions of development.
70. Industrial nations should implement policies to curtail unsustainable use of Pacific island resources, such as forests, by their own industries. They should also assist sustainable development of the Pacific islands (and themselves) by reducing plastic packaging, participating in trans-national recycling programmes, and restricting exports and transhipments of hazardous synthetic chemicals to Pacific island countries.