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Dying reefs, disappearing biodiversity and Pacific survival tops Talanoa platform

Environment Ministers from around the Pacific converged on Apia, Samoa yesterday for a Talanoa to discuss a regional response to the imminent death of coral reefs, shrinking marine biodiversity and the very threat to survival of Pacific communities.

Climate change, ocean and marine pollution and seabed mining were high on the agenda at the Tanoa Tusitala Hotel. The meeting is part of the 29th Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (S.P.R.E.P.) meeting which opened on Monday. 

The Talanoa provided a platform for sharing national experiences and knowledge of these challenges, and the importance of partnerships and building upon lessons learnt. 

It was an opportunity for Environment Ministers and special representatives to articulate what a "Resilient Blue Pacific" is in practice - the theme of the 29th S.P.R.E.P. meeting.

The Talanoa was opened by Samoa’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Natural Resources and Environment, Fiame Naomi Mataafa. 

The United Nations Secretary General Special Envoy for the Ocean, Ambassador Peter Thomson said: "As we all know from the [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's] Special Report on 1.5 Degrees, if we continue as we are to 2 degrees, coral reefs will die. 

"I cannot imagine a world without coral reefs. And we in the Pacific cannot live without coral reefs."

New Zealand’s Minister for Pacific Peoples, Aupito William Sio, said: “Recently the [New Zealand] Government announced that $150 million of its $300 million global commitment to climate-related development assistance would go to the Pacific region. 

“The Talanoa will now provide an important opportunity to progress the conversation to ensure the strongest possible action is taken in relation to climate resilience and critical environment issues across the Pacific.”

French Polynesia Minister for Culture and Environment, Heremoana Maamaatuaiahutapu said: "Coral reefs play a major role in protecting us. This is why French Polynesia has taken steps to protect its Economic Exclusive Zone and prevent harmful and destructive activities so that the many marine species who live and pass through our waters can flourish, and the ecosystem which we depend on can thrive."

The 29th S.P.R.E.P. Meeting of Officials brings together S.P.R.E.P’s 21 Pacific Island member countries and five metropolitan members to discuss strategic issues pertaining to the organisation, and to approve the 2020-2021 work plan.

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