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April 3-7, 2000 Rarotonga, Cook Islands

Address by Fiu Mataese Elisara Laulu Assistant Resident Representative UNDP-Samoa

UNDP is indeed most privileged to be involved in this most timely initiative since the Pacific Island countries as you know are amongst the most vulnerable to the adverse impact of climate change and sea-level rise.

The increase in the frequency and intensity of storms and cyclones, combined with sea level rise threaten both the very existence of many of the low-lying atoll countries of the Pacific, and has, furthermore, proven to be a significant impediment and threat to many other aspects of sustainable human development in the region.

The adverse impacts of climate change and sea level rise are, as many of you scientists and policy makers here today will agree, amongst the most serious environmental threats in the region.

UNDP, in close partnership with the Global Environment Facility (GEF), has for a number of years now assisted the Pacific Island countries in their efforts to try and reverse these threats through initiatives such as the SPREP executed Pacific Island Climate Change Assistance Programme, or PICCAP as it is known for short.

UNDP is therefore is particularly proud to support and provide funding for this Conference, which is a direct output of PICCAP. Its overall objective of linking climate change policy and science, as well as developing a Pacific Regional Strategic Framework for future action is of paramount importance in these efforts. Your presence here today: the policy-makers, scientists, country participants, representatives of the regional organizations and institutions, members of the donor communities, NGOs and other development partners, gives the Pacific Island countries a most encouraging signal and resounding vote of confidence that their future is in good hands.

Needless to say, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in 1992, put climate change and sea-level rise on the global agenda for the first time. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), as an outcome, signaled a new era of environmental treaty and global partnership. Since then, and reflecting the region’s concern, all the Pacific Island countries ratified the UNFCCC. UNDP/GEF have subsequently been committed to assist in addressing the adverse impacts of climate change and sea-level rise and other inter-related problems.

PICCAP, which started out in 1997, is yet another step towards our obligations and commitments in the Pacific. UNDP is currently working together with SPREP and the countries of the Pacific to ensure that the momentum and success of PICCAP can be maintained in the long term. First, through a one-year extension to the PICCAP program. Later, through the development of a second phase of PICCAP under the Pacific Regional Framework Strategy being developed here this week. With your useful contribution this strategy is expected to provide the future direction for the region’s response to climate change and sea level rise over the period 2000-2005 and beyond.

Furthermore, UNDP also recognizes that commercially viable and environmentally sound technologies are becoming increasingly available to help Pacific Island countries in their mitigating/adaptation initiatives on climate change. We are therefore currently engaged in consultations with the Pacific Island countries, regional organizations and other partners to develop a regional project aiming at removing barriers for the adoption of renewable energies in the Pacific.

We look forward to further advance the process during this conference in our scheduled discussions with the country participants and other interested development partners. The regional experience of SPREP, SPC, SOPAC and others in the area of renewable energy will, hopefully, guide our work in these discussions. Unfortunately UNDP/GEF resources will not be sufficient to implement the Climate Change Regional Framework Strategy.

Neither will our efforts be adequate to address all that needs to be done in our region to mitigate the adverse impacts of Climate Change and Sea-Level Rise. For this reason, UNDP/GEF is most appreciative of the broad participation in this forum. We see this as a conduit for all interested partners and stakeholders to consult together, and collectively advance complementarily in their individual but integrated approaches to addressing the adverse impacts of climate change and sea-level rise. What we will do well, we must do together.

Forum Secretariat/South Pacific Regional Environment Programme Rarotonga, Cook Islands April 3, 2000

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