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Asia and Pacific Regional Preparatory Meeting for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development

Seoul, 19 – 20 October 2011,

Statement by New Zealand:  Sustainable Development

Mr Chair, Honorable Ministers and distinguished delegates.

New Zealand wishes to join others in thanking the Government of Korea for hosting this conference.

And we extend our thanks to ESCAP, UNEP and the ADB for the preparation and organization.

This meeting is very timely as we all head to the deadline for national submissions.  It is an opportunity to have an exchange of ideas and to identify commonalities as we move forward.

First, New Zealand would like to endorse the comments by the Honorable Minister of Natural Resources and Environment of Samoa, on behalf of Pacific small island states, on the special case of SIDS for both environment and development - as identified and set out at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit.

Flying to Seoul yesterday, hours on end over the vast Pacific Ocean scattered with small islands, made graphically clear why the blue world is so important to those of us located in the Pacific region.  The Minister, and Pacific delegates, have explained very clearly the importance of oceans and fisheries to the island states of the Pacific, so I will not repeat these points here.

Second, delegations may be aware that at the annual meeting of Pacific Islands Forum leaders in Auckland in September New Zealand took up the rotational Pacific Islands Forum chair.  That meeting produced the Waiheke Declaration on sustainable economic development which affirms that immense potential rests in our productive sectors, particularly fisheries, tourism and agriculture, and that capitalising on this potential is crucial for the future of the Pacific and the livelihoods of its peoples. 

At the Pacific Islands Forum the United Nations Secretary General and Pacific Forum Leaders “stressed the critical importance of the sustainable development, management and conservation of the region’s oceans, coastal and fisheries resources as a source of livelihoods and income for communities, industries and governments, and of enabling Pacific SIDS to enjoy a greater share of the benefits derived from those resources”. 

The Pacific Islands Forum communique also called for Rio+20 to recognise the significant global value and contribution of the Pacific Ocean to sustainable development, acknowledging the stewardship of Pacific Island Countries.

These messages will be conveyed to the Rio+20 secretariat.  It will be important that Pacific interests in the blue economy feature strongly at Rio+20 and we believe that these issues should be fully reflected in the outcomes of this meeting.

Third, New Zealand will be putting oceans and fisheries to the fore in its national submission for Rio+20.  We will be looking for outcomes that support the health and sustainability of the oceans through:  global integrated assessment of the state of the marine environment (Global Marine Assessment); creation of marine conservation and protected areas based on sound environmental and scientific evaluation; improved oceans governance and management of fisheries taking a precautionary approach; addressing illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and fisheries subsidies.

Fourth, New Zealand has made its general views on the green economy clear in various meetings leading to Rio+20.  We see pursuit of a green economy to be a pragmatic approach, not a new paradigm - it is as much about how we grow as it is about how much we grow.   It is not desirable or possible to take a one size fits all approach.  Pursuit of a green economy should avoid trade distorting measures and imposing new, green, barriers to trade.

New Zealand wishes to use this opportunity to discuss two specific elements under the green economy heading – fisheries subsidies and fossil fuel subsidies.

We welcomed the reference in the draft proposal for the Asia Pacific regional statement to refer to damaging subsidies.

New Zealand sees Rio+20 as an opportunity to address harmful  fisheries subsidies, given the stalled WTO negotiations,  and would be pleased to discuss this with other delegations here.

New Zealand believes that Rio+20 must address harmful fisheries subsidies that contribute to overfishing and overcapacity, and impact negatively on sustainable development. Harmful fisheries subsidies can undermine fisheries management decisions, contribute to illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing, and create perverse economic incentives which impact on the long term sustainability of global fisheries, and add pressure on the last remaining, not fully exploited fisheries. Ultimately the impacts of subsidies will fall most heavily on countries and communities that depend on fisheries resources for livelihoods, development and employment.

In this context, as a complement to ongoing WTO negotiations, countries should re-commit at Rio+20 to eliminate subsidies which contribute to overcapacity, as well as subsidies for activities that affect already overfished stocks, and subsidies for vessels and enterprises found to be engaged in illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing.  Countries should also undertake to pursue further unilateral or plurilateral reform of subsidies that contribute to overfishing,

Finally, in the 2002 Johannesburg Plan of Implementation we committed to “remove [energy] market distortions including the restructuring of taxes and the phasing out of harmful subsidies”. G20 and APEC leaders reaffirmed these political commitments to “rationalise and phase-out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies that encourage wasteful consumption”.

Global fossil fuel subsidies cost an estimated US$300 - $500 billion a year. New Zealand is working with others, including with the ‘Friends’ of Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform (FFSR) group of non G-20 countries to support reform. Fossil Fuel Subsidy reform offers positive climate change and environmental outcomes by reducing the potential for wasteful usage of fossil fuels and associated emissions, as well as being good for public finances, energy security and trade.

This fits well with the 'green economy' focus of Rio+20. New Zealand believes that Rio+20 should join these other international efforts to reform inefficient fossil fuel subsidies over the medium term, while mitigating adverse impacts on vulnerable groups. We would welcome the support of others on this topic.

Thank you Mr Chair.

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Page last updated: Friday, 17 February 2012 15:39 NZDT