Mr President, Excellencies,
As Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum, I have the honour to deliver this statement on behalf of the 14 Member States of the Pacific Islands Forum with presence at the United Nations, namely; Australia, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, New Zealand, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu and my own country, Tuvalu.
At the outset, allow me on all our behalf to express our deepest condolences to those who have suffered due to the ongoing Covid-19 global pandemic.
The Pacific region has a unique biodiversity, with many species, both flora and fauna, not found anywhere else on earth. However, with the world facing a biodiversity crisis, this uniqueness is in peril.
We have an opportunity to act now to confront this global threat, but this requires a genuine commitment from all states to take urgent action. We therefore encourage and support increased global ambition in the context of the post-2020 biodiversity framework under the Convention on Biological Diversity.
Stewards of the Ocean
As Forum Leaders, we are committed stewards of the Blue Pacific continent, working to strengthen the management, use and conservation of our vast and biodiverse Pacific Ocean.
The Ocean is inseparable from Pacific peoples, our cultures, economies and societies. 98% of our region is Ocean, and, together, Pacific island countries are stewards of over 40 million square kilometres of Ocean.
Today, threats including marine pollution and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing are undermining our sustainable development efforts, which rely on healthy marine ecosystem services. At the same time, climate change is threatening Ocean systems and species, imperiling our very viability as Large Ocean Island States.
Pacific Island Forum members have demonstrated a longstanding commitment to sustainable Oceans including through the 2002 Pacific Islands Regional Ocean Policy; the 2010 Framework for a Pacific Oceanscape; the Regional Roadmap for Sustainable Pacific Fisheries and the Framework for Nature Conservation and Protected Areas in the Pacific Islands Region.
We have also demonstrated strong, global leadership in advocating for urgent action on Oceans, leading to the adoption of SDG14 and its targets, built on the Aichi Biodiversity Targets.
The importance of ensuring a healthy, productive and resilient Ocean must be adequately reflected in the post-2020 global biodiversity framework.
A Way Forward
We believe urgent action by the international community to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is critical to keep us on the 1.5°C pathway. We must fully utilise the UNFCCC’s upcoming Dialogue on Ocean and Climate Change to consider the UNFCCC’s responsibilities relating to the climate-oceans nexus and we look forward to contributing to those discussions.
Forum members are working to protect our Ocean from harmful plastics through our Pacific Regional Action Plan on Marine Litter 2018–2025 and we call on Pacific Rim countries to join and commit to action in addressing marine pollution and debris.
We remain focused on achieving, in a timely manner, a robust and effective International Legally Binding Instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine Biological Diversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ instrument).
The work on the new BBNJ instrument and continuous efforts on the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework, as well as work on Ocean matters under the UNFCCC and other intergovernmental processes, must be cognizant of each other and work to the fullest extent appropriate towards common biodiversity objectives.
Just as we advocate for the health of our Ocean biodiversity, we continue to advocate for the reduction and elimination of any threat posed to our people and ecosystems by pollution including nuclear waste, radioactive and other contaminants, shipwrecks and World War II relics.
To this end, Forum Leaders have endorsed the commissioning of an appropriate body to undertake a scientific assessment of nuclear contamination in the Pacific, including in the nuclear test site at Runit in the Republic of the Marshall Islands.
The Effects of Covid-19
Undoubtedly, the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic will be felt in the years to come, exacerbating existing regional development challenges. In our efforts to ‘build back better’ we must ensure that sustainability objectives are hard-wired into our collective response and considerations of biodiversity are mainstreamed into all sectors. In doing so, we must adopt clear strategies to safeguard both biodiversity and human health throughout the COVID-19 recovery.
We must come out of this pandemic unified, resilient, and better positioned to protect the biodiversity of our one Blue Pacific, and one Blue Planet.
Mr President, Excellencies, I thank you.