Environment officials are in Apia to begin talks starting with a focus on sustainable eco tourism.
The 28th SPREP meeting got underway this morning with the incoming chair, Umiich Sengebau who is the Minister for the Environment in Palau, saying he wanted other members to take a leaf out of his country’s success story to move forward in this area.
He spoke of introducing and endorsing the user pays system that had been so successful in his country.
“Palau has always been known as a diving mecca,” Mr Sengebau said.
“We knew this is where Palau is gonna go and it was important that we also protect the very resources that the tourists come for.
“And of course our president has always been fond of saying that our environment is our economy and our economy is our environment.”
Mr Sengebau encouraged members to take care of their eco systems to ensure sustainability.
SPREP Director-General Kosi Latu said the SPREP meeting would echo many of the issues talked about during the recent Pacific Islands Forum Leaders meeting.
“Our strategy plan recognises the challenges as articulated on the global and regional stage by our Pacific leaders who met here about two weeks ago in Apia,” Mr Latu said.
“Where climate change, again our principle concern and oceans as our key cross-cutting theme, was highlighted by our leaders when they met here in Samoa”
Concern over ocean pollution is likely to dominate the meeting, with Mr Latu saying the Pacific region is 98 percent ocean and 2 percent land.
He said a long-standing worry about the transportation of nuclear waste through the Pacific would also be on the agenda.
“We don’t know when these shipments happen and often we require prior notification, so we are aware of where these shipments are going and where they are coming from,” Mr Latu said.
” And it can get very political. But that has been a concern for a very, very long time.”
Mr Latu said SPREP also had a role in assisting member countries to access climate change finance.
“To achieve this we must focus our efforts in strengthening the work that we do to ensure that SPREP is able to mobilise, allocate and direct technical and financial resources to make a difference where it is relevant and has the greatest impact for our communities.”
The meeting is scheduled for the next three days.