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NEWS RELEASE October 10, 2000 Hagåtña, Guam


Pacific government officials met yesterday to review two important Pacific legal instruments - the Apia and SPREP Conventions.

Global developments were also discussed at the meeting on issues such as access to genetic resources, benefit sharing and biosafety, persistent organic pollutants and environmental impact assessment.

To ensure that the two conventions capture and priorities global concerns relevant to the needs of the Pacific islands, the Meeting also looked at the possibility of amendments to strengthen the two conventions and decided to:

* Organize a two-day workshop of legal experts to look into possible amendments to the Apia Convention in light of developments in the Convention on Biological Diversity.

* Organize a workshop that will be dedicated to examine the amendment of the Emergency Protocols to the SPREP Convention in order to respectively bring them into line with the 1996 Protocol of the London Convention (1972) on Dumping, and the Oil Pollution Response Convention.

The Meeting highlighted a number of important activities undertaken by the SPREP Secretariat and Parties during the years 1998-2000 to implement the two Conventions. Also raised was the need to strengthen the legal capacity of the SPREP Secretariat to better service the legal needs of SPREP's member countries.

The legal officers of SPREP, Jacques Mougeot and Andrea Volentras, were encouraged by the outcomes of the meeting to take the necessary steps to better achieve the objectives of the Conventions.


NEWS RELEASE October 11, 2000 Hagåtña, Guam


The government of Italy is funding a project to give small Pacific island countries more warning on droughts, floods and storms.

The Island Climate Update (ICU), a regular, user-friendly climate bulletin for the Pacific ocean region, will give small island countries three months warning of changes in rainfall and storm patterns.

The ICU, first issued today (October 11), is being produced by New Zealand's National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), in collaboration with Pacific Island Meteorological Services (see http://www.niwa.cri.nz/ncc/icu). Project Manager, Dr. Jim Salinger, says it will help individuals, industries and governments in the Pacific to avoid costly and disastrous effects of shifts in climate.

"In the Pacific, communities largely survive on the food they grow or take from the ocean, and advance warning of possible changes in rainfall can be critical," Dr. Salinger said. "Many small island nations have no streams or lakes, so if they're facing long rainless periods, they need to know as soon as possible, so they can start conserving whatever water supplies they do have."

The ICU will also flag any likely increases in storms or severe weather events, such as tropical cyclones, in the next three months. "Low-lying atolls are extremely vulnerable to storm surges, as Kiribati, the Cook Islands and other Pacific island countries know from 1997-98, when El Niño brought high tides which swept over some atolls," said Mr. Pene Lefale of the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), who coordinated the project.

Today's ICU, which has been mailed and e-mailed to individuals and organizations throughout the Pacific, and posted on the Internet, says El Niño is not in the picture at the moment and its opposite climate pattern, La Niña, has now gone.

However, La Niña's influence on rainfall may linger for a few more months. Those parts of the Pacific that have had much less rain than usual this year may find this influence continuing through December.

"Timely and accurate rainfall and tropical cyclone activity predictions provided by the Pacific ENSO Applications Center (PEAC), a climate bulletin for the North Pacific, allowed the governments of the U.S.-affiliated Pacific islands to plan ahead for the record-setting 1998 drought, averting death and unnecessary suffering. Our southern neighbors wanted a similar capability," said Mr. Chip Guard of PEAC. The impressive new ICU is their equivalent of our Pacific ENSO Update newsletter."

The ICU found that September was much drier than normal in much of the Pacific, with many countries receiving less than half their average rainfall. The ICU says there is a high chance that in the next three months the rains will not return to normal in the eastern Pacific. The update for October to December says it will most probably continue to be unusually dry in Tuvalu, Tokelau, Samoa, eastern Kiribati and the northern Cook Islands.

La Niña's influence earlier this year made the western Pacific wetter than usual, and this is likely to continue for a few months. The ICU predicted that from October to December there is a good chance that rainfall will remain above average in western Pacific countries, from Papua New Guinea to Niue.

Dr. Salinger said Pacific island governments had identified the need for such an update several years ago. "It is an essential planning tool," he said. "NIWA's experience in providing long-range climate forecasts for New Zealand sectors like agriculture and specific industries has shown the value of providing user-friendly information. We are delighted we can do something similar for our Pacific neighbors."

The ICU is a cooperative venture, using the resources of meteorological services across the Pacific, and climate researchers from the governments of Australia, Fiji, France, Italy, New Zealand and the United States. It is coordinated by the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), an intergovernmental organization based in Samoa.

The ICU was launched today in Guam, at the meeting of SPREP's 26 member governments.

For further information, contact Fatu Tauafiafi in Guam at Ph: 671 482 0039 or 671 647 1234; Fax: 671 647 1235, email fatu_t@hotmail.com 


Dr. Jim Salinger, NIWA, Auckland, New Zealand, at Tel: + 64 9 375 2053 Mr. Pene Lefale, SPREP, Apia, Samoa, at Tel: + 685 21 929 Mr. Chip Guard, University of Guam, at Tel: + 1 671 735 2695

The ICU on the Internet: http://www.niwa.cri.nz/ncc/icu 

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