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Andris Piebalgs

European Commissioner for Development

Climate change: don't forget the Pacific. For a stronger EU-Pacific joint action

High-Level Regional Conference on climate change in the Pacific

Vanuatu, 4 March 2011

Your Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me begin by thanking the Government of Vanuatu for hosting this High-Level Regional Conference on climate change in the Pacific and the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat for its support.

I would also like to thank the prime ministers and ministers from pacific countries and territories for having accepted our invitation and, in many cases, for making the long trip here to participate in this conference.

Your presence shows our shared commitment: we must not leave the effects of climate change as a legacy to our children and grand children.

Addressing climate change and development go hand in hand in the Pacific. Without combating the effects of climate change, we can not alleviate poverty here.

You know better than I the huge impacts that climate change has on your countries. You are hemmed in by rising sea levels, threatened with increased erosion from more intense storms and confronted with saltwater intruding into freshwater supplies. These impacts are encroaching upon every aspect of your citizens' lives – on the houses in which they live, on the basic infrastructure that provides them with work, education and healthcare, on the water they drink and the land they cultivate for food. The dramatic weather we have witnessed in recent months will unfortunately be recurrent pattern, it seems.

The Pacific islands are remote, small and vulnerable to natural hazards. This gives you very specific structural challenges that are putting a brake on sustainable development, economic growth and progress towards meeting the MDGs. Add to these climate change, which amplifies structural challenges, undermines achievements and diverts already scarce financial resources from other pressing needs, and you have a situation which we simply must address.

It is clear, then, that our overarching aim of meeting the MDGs will remain elusive unless we tackle climate change together. That was what prompted this event.

Pacific island countries and territories are not responsible for climate change. You are the lowest emitters of greenhouse gases – and yet your geography and high dependence on natural resources such as land or water, so heavily affected by climate change puts you directly in the firing line.

It is time for us to take the lead in rallying substantial international community support for your climate change adaptation efforts.

I hope that we will soon see a successful outcome of international negotiations, but one of the positive elements to come out of Cancún was an Adaptation Committee and an Adaptation Framework.

Our priority now is to implement this so that it takes into account your specific needs here in the Pacific.

Building on the Cancún outcome will require that we make full use of all the tools at our disposal in our climate toolbox.

My colleague, Commissioner Hedegaard, responsible for climate action, has rightly pointed to the need for both green technologies and natural solutions in our climate change toolbox. Indeed, on this last point, we can learn from you. We should look beyond purely technological solutions: technology will not lift an island out of the ocean. Ecosystem-based adaptation approaches, already widely used in the Pacific, include "working with nature and green infrastructure" and are based on traditional knowledge, sometimes unfairly overlooked. They often provide multiple environmental and socioeconomic benefits at a comparably low cost. When married with technology, they have much to offer.

In addition, we will have to find ways to make international mechanisms fit the Pacific context. Take the Clean Development Mechanism, for example. This mechanism allows developed countries to meet part of their greenhouse gas obligation through projects in developing countries. Yet fewer than 2 in every 1000 projects cover the Pacific. Carbon funds focus on very large projects, and often require highly skilled and very expensive international consultants. Moreover, the Clean Development Mechanism has not been well communicated in the Pacific.

Specific solutions are required to meet the Pacific's more specific needs. The EU's own approach to funding for the Pacific also needs to evolve. Money from the European Development Fund has been used to adapt infrastructure after natural disasters, most likely linked to climate change. For instance, such funding was used to rebuild Tonga's only hospital, destroyed in the 2009 tsunami, on higher ground and to help fund the realignment of new roads in the Solomon Islands following the 2009 floods.

Using development aid only to rebuild social or key economic infrastructure destroyed by climate change-related events is useful but not the most productive over the long term. Adaptation to climate change therefore needs to be part of a climate resilient economy in the first place, and this we will support.

- At local level, all infrastructures must be build with climate change in mind, and we must help adaptation and mitigation through support for agriculture, water, sanitation and renewable energy.

- At national level, we must be better to integrate climate change in all our policy strategies and to help predict and mitigate climate change.

- At regional level, I see a key role for the organisations such as the Pacific Islands Forum to help build and use capacity in Member countries.

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The EU is committed to making its engagement against climate change in the Pacific count. As you know, the Commission has decided to allocate a very significant share of new funds available under the Global Climate Change Alliance to the Pacific.

A € 3.2 million programme is already ongoing in Vanuatu. Today we will sign a € 2.8 million financial agreement with the Government of Solomon Islands and an € 8 million agreement with the University of the South Pacific to bring climate change science to students and communities. An € 11.4 million package to support Pacific Small Island States will be launched very soon.

On top of these, new EU funds through European Commission-managed assistance will be made available for the Pacific.

I am pleased to announce today a € 2,5 million allocation for Samoa, a € 4.3 million humanitarian assistance allocation for disaster preparedness across the region, and € 20 million to support a Pacific regional programme on disaster risk reduction. EU Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) will programme € 12 million in EDF funding for action on climate change. Our ability to exploit synergies between Pacific ACP States and OCTs will be a further boost to our overall aim of comprehensively addressing climate change impact across the Pacific.

In addition, as meeting the MDGs in the Pacific is dependent on the fight against climate change, I would like to propose that the entire 10th European Development Fund Mid-Term Review top-up for Pacific ACP countries (€ 16.16 million in all) is used to address climate change-related aspects in those countries that qualify. With respect to the MDG initiative, I would like to encourage Pacific ACP countries to identify key actions to link MDG achievement and climate change adaptation in practice. These actions could then be supported through future MDG allocations for Pacific ACP countries.

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Pacific and the EU together have put in place a solid foundation on which to build a renewed commitment to achieve all MDGs and address climate change impact in all Pacific Countries and Territories.

It is now time for the Pacific and the EU to step up a gear. This will mean cementing our global partnership on climate change, speaking with one voice in the international debate and encouraging other partners to join forces with us, both politically and financially.

Achieving this aim will also require assistance from the international community as a whole. With that in mind, the Commission and the Forum Secretariat have agreed a Joint Initiative to encourage EU Member States and other international climate change partners to secure a fair share of international climate change funding for Pacific countries, through more effective and coordinated delivery methods.

When Secretary-General Slade and I signed a Memorandum of Understanding to formally launch the Joint Initiative, this was not just a strong statement of intent, but a first step towards a joint integrated strategy to address climate change in the Pacific, in the knowledge that climate and poverty challenges are fundamentally intertwined. The next step has been the preparation of a Plan for Action, submitted for your consideration today.

Ladies and gentlemen

The EU needs to do more and better. Stepping up our effort to ensure that more financial resources are made available should be accompanied by adapted delivery modalities. It should support the development of capacities in the region as well as improved coordination and division of labour, including forms of delegated cooperation.

Our enhanced effort to address climate change in the region should be accompanied by a broader Pacific-EU renewed commitment to high-impact development cooperation.

I would like to invite you not only to discuss and endorse our Plan for Action on climate change, but also to take our development cooperation agenda forward. I would urge you to debate how we can move from words to deeds and get tangible results on the ground.

I have launched this debate in the EU already and announced to the upcoming Polish Presidency of the EU my intention to put forward a framework for enhanced EU cooperation in the Pacific to help EU Member states increase their engagement in the region.

This debate will enable public institutions to engage with local authorities, parliaments, civil society and the private sector. It will enable us to ensure that every euro spent provides the best value added, value for money and leverage. And it will enable us to establish the best legacy of opportunities for future generations.

Development policy is about investing in the future. So is combating climate change. Let's work together to ensure that the future for the Pacific is climate-resilient economies with inclusive growth and development at their core.

Thank you.

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