Pacific environment leader warns: ‘We will be the first to go under’

United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction - Sub-Regional Office for the Pacific

GENEVA, 16 July 2013 - The head of a major Pacific regional organization said the region’s acute vulnerability left it no alternative but to lead the world in integrating risk reduction and climate change action into one over-arching strategy to secure a sustainable future.

The Director General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), Dr David Sheppard, said the Pacific would rise to the challenge but they needed the world to join efforts too.

‘’Although Pacific countries only contribute 0.03 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, our countries are the most vulnerable to the effects of climate change and sea level rise: We will be the first to go under,’’ Dr Sheppard said.

‘’In our region our leaders have continually reminded us of the urgency of climate change and that it is in fact an issue of national security.’’

Dr Sheppard said recent disasters, including Cyclone Evan which battered Samoa and Fiji late last year and the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Solomon Islands earlier this year, reminded of the power of nature and ‘’the vulnerability of Pacific nations both to climate change and to natural disasters’’.

He said it was critical that the Pacific combined its resources and expertise. ‘’These are historic times. It is the first time in our region – indeed the world – that the climate and disaster risk roundtables have been brought together with the Pacific Meteorological Council.

‘’This approach reflects the ‘Pacific Way’ of working together, of being innovative in the face of challenges and developing Pacific solutions to Pacific problems. This will set a precedent and be an example to other communities and regions in the world.

‘’The world is watching and the Pacific is sending a clear message that we must integrate our responses if we are to effectively address the challenges of climate change and natural disasters this century.’’

Dr Sheppard urged the Pacific to draw on five lessons of history to secure disaster and climate resilient development: first the need for a joined up approach to avoid duplication; second, a balance between infrastructure and protection of ecosystems; third, better use of meteorological data; fourth, the use of good science that builds on indigenous knowledge; and fifth, the need for good governance.

‘’All are important and to some degree linked but perhaps the last one, governance, is the most vital. We need that at all levels because without it, it is very difficult to achieve anything,’’ Dr Sheppard said.

Dr Sheppard was speaking at last week's 2013 Joint Meeting of the Pacific Platform for Disaster Risk Management and Pacific Climate Change Roundtable in Nadi, Fiji.

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