Remarks: SG Puna opens Blue Climate Initiative Summit

Blue Climate Initiative Summit
Opening Statement
Henry Puna, Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum and Pacific Ocean Commissioner
15 May 2022
• Your majesty Prince Albert II of Monaco and your representative here,
His Excellency, Edouard Fritch, President of French Polynesia
• The Honourable Mark Brown, Prime Minister of the Cook Islands
* Honourable Ministers of the French Polynesian Cabinet
* Traditional and Spiritual Leaders
• Distinguished friends from around the Pacific
• Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen
• May I say Ia Orana, Kia Orana, and from Micronesia in the West to French Polynesia in the East, from Palau in the North, to Aotearoa in the South, warm Pacific greetings to you all.
• I am extremely pleased to be able to join you all at this Summit because it is, for me, an opportunity to explore and discuss innovative solutions, to accelerate ocean-related solutions to climate change.
• Together, we share a passion, a dedication and commitment, to the conservation and sustainable development of our Oceans.
• You see, for us in the Pacific, as was made clear earlier on, the Ocean is more than just a resource – it is everything to us, our highway to the world and a connector with each another, it is our livelihood, it is our identity, it is our past, and is our future.
• For that reason, Pacific Leaders have committed to responsibly and effectively manage 100% of the Pacific Ocean, within and beyond national jurisdiction. And as the Pacific Islands Forum, our ocean forms the basis of our Blue Pacific identity and narrative, which frames our own collective advocacy and engagements, in the midst of an increasingly geopolitically contested environment, both in the region and globally.
• But at the heart of our shared commitment, to determine our own collective development trajectory, is the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent, our guiding North Star for the next 30 to 50 years. At its core, the strategy is framed around valuing, protecting, and managing the ocean, to help us meet our sustainable development needs and goals, in the face of ever-growing challenges.
•Excellencies, friends, I set this context to emphasise the inextricable link that we have to the ocean, in all facets of our society. Indeed, we are the custodians of the Blue Pacific Continent – spanning over 48 million square kilometres and making up 20% of this planet’s surface.
• Our stewardship responsibility is one that we do not take lightly. It is also a responsibility that we acknowledge requires strong partnerships, in order for us to fully deliver.
May I at this point in time acknowledge my colleague from the Pacific Community, Dr Stuart Minchin, Director General of the Pacific Community. And also at this point in time, I would like to acknowledge my good friend Nainoa Thompson and  all those vaka Ocean-going  warriors  that have made it here to join us in this very important summit.
[The Ocean Agenda in 2022]
• You see globally, 2022 presents a year of opportunities for the ocean agenda.
• I can tell you we are well on our way to developing a treaty on plastics; we will adopt an important treaty on biodiversity in international waters, later this year; we will adopt a new framework for biodiversity and we will advance the ocean-climate nexus dialogue. We will finally eradicate subsidies, that contribute to IUU fishing in our waters.
• Ladies and gentlemen, this gathering is an opportunity, to contribute to the international momentum on ocean-specific initiatives, right across the world. It is only right, that I acknowledge the visionary leadership of President Fritch, in partnering and hosting this prestigious event, right here in the very heart of our Pacific.
• I call on you all who are here today, and will join us over the next few days, to join us, and to work with us, to realise the full potential of our Ocean – the time for talking and commitments is now past, we need to see action now, and the only way to take effective action, is together.
 So how do we do that?
• Most critically, we need a robust Ocean Governance framework in place, that provides guiding parameters but does not restrict the ability or flexibility of Island States, to realise their development aspirations. These need to be in place, both within and beyond national jurisdictions.
• Indeed, the very nature of our ocean implies, that any action in our own waters can, and will have, transboundary impacts on other countries, and to our global commons.  The Pacific, for instance, is currently dealing with the proposed release of potentially hazardous nuclear waste-water, into the Pacific Ocean.
• Interestingly, in a time when we  requirepeople to vaccinate to protect themselves and others, why are we unable to require one State, to exercise precaution and due regard, to the rights of other States?
• Caring for the ocean you see, and its resources, is not just our moral duty. It is our obligation under international law. Let me touch briefly on a key piece of work, that is being spearheaded by the Pacific, globally.
• In August 2021, the Pacific Islands Forum Leaders adopted the Declaration on Preserving Maritime Zones, in the face of Climate Change-related Sea-level rise. It is an initiative that is founded on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and will contribute to addressing one of the most critical consequences of sea level rise: our loss of sovereignty, livelihoods, and identity.
• It is an example of how we can use policy mechanisms, such as international law, to play a critical role in securing our future. However, critical to ensuring success in all these legal and policy frameworks and entities, is to ensure we have a solid enabling environment. This is where we will look, and continue to look, to solid and mutually beneficial partnerships, that support our priorities for our future.
[Partnerships we seek]
• Last month in Palau, over 16.35 billion USD was committed at the Our Ocean Conference.
• However, this is but a drop in the commitment we need, to progress work and actions on Oceans more generally. Some estimates have indicated a funding gap of around $150.00 billion dollars per year, to implement Sustainable Development Goal 14, that focuses on Oceans.
• For us here in the Pacific, the Pacific Ocean Initiatives Registry, has tracked 74 projects in the region, representing USD864 million, with each project averaging about 11 million US dollars. But the needs are still high.
• In the face of the challenges before us, we continue to work together to search for collective solutions, that respond to our unique vulnerabilities. One such initiative is the Pacific Resilience Facility – the first Pacific designed, led and owned initiative, that will provide communities with direct access to financing, that will ensure that existing and/or new community-level projects, consider and prepare for the increasing risks of climate-induced, and other natural hazard risk disasters. This is
• We know the challenges facing the development financing landscape, at this point in time. Therefore, we will look to innovative private donors and philanthropists to also join us, and make a commitment to this initiative. I urge all of you in this room today, to have a conversation with me on this if you are interested, to find out more about it – and see where we can go. Prime Minister Brown here is also an avid political champion, of this initiative.
• But more generally, as we engage in our discussions this week, there will undoubtedly be many innovative ideas to explore, and test with each other. I just urge that you keep in mind, that whatever partnership we build, or whatever solution we implement, they must respond to the needs and priorities of the recipients. Far too often now, we see well-intentioned projects that go to waste, just because they do not take the time, to hear and understand our regional context and listen to our national aspirations.
[Conclusion]
• In conclusion, on Thursday afternoon, I had the high honour of spending a few hours with school children in Puna’auia. They belong to a network of schools, with responsibility for educational marine managed areas. My time spent with them reaffirmed one key learning, that I have held fast since I started working more concertedly in ocean-related issues, more than a decade ago: The fruits of our work today, and efforts on sustainable ocean governance and conservation, may not be realised in their lifetime  – but it will be enjoyed by our future generations – our grandchildren, and their children after them. And so for their sake, we must carry on and never give up!
• Friends, our efforts today is our gift to the future. We can only be truly effective if we all work together.

• Meitaki Maata, Vinaka Vakalevu, and I wish uou all the very best for the week ahead. I Thank you–ENDS

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