Small island developing states in the Pacific must receive a greater share of the benefits of ocean and fishery resources if they are to develop sustainably, New Zealand Environment Minister Nick Smith said Thursday.
Oceans cover 70 percent of the planet, feed and provide employment for millions. [File photo]
Opening the United Nations Association New Zealand Conference in Wellington, Smith said improving environmental management of the oceans would be a priority for New Zealand at the Rio+20 conference in Brazil in June.
"The oceans, or 'the green economy in a blue world' is one area where we believe significant advances can be made at Rio+20. Although the health of the oceans and sustainable use of fisheries and other marine resources was addressed at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002, implementation has been largely lacking," Smith said in a published speech.
"Oceans cover 70 percent of our earth, feed and provide employment for millions, many from least developed countries, and yet the state of this important life sustaining resource is threatened by pollution, overfishing and the effects of climate change. And yet there is a lack of coordinated, science-based collective management of our oceans.
"Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing continues unchecked in many parts of the world, sometimes even supported by government subsidies. The FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) reports that 85 percent of the world's fisheries are fully exploited, overexploited, depleted, or recovering from depletion - the highest percentage since the FAO began keeping records, and a 10 percent increase from four years ago. Things are heading in the wrong direction.
"Halting or slowing overfishing will be one goal, but restoring the oceans will be another. We support the call for a global network of representative marine protected areas that can provide a natural refuge and be a regenerative resource for the oceans.
"For the Pacific, oceans issues are the top priority for Rio+20. Sustainable development in the Pacific cannot be separated from oceans and fisheries issues. Small island developing states in our region must receive a greater share of the benefits derived from those resources. Over 55 percent of our development assistance is focused on the Pacific, and our efforts support long term sustainable development, including in oceans and fisheries."
New Zealand would also be focusing on greener economic growth at the conference, said Smith.
"We have a real contribution to make noting our ranking as best performer in the 2011 Global Green Growth Index. The global community, in these difficult times, needs to focus on policies that enable improved living standards and incomes while ensuring better stewardship of natural resources."
New Zealand would also be particularly active in advocating for reform of fossil fuel subsidies.
The debate on carbon pricing to reduce emissions was undermined by global subsidies of 500 billion U.S. dollars per year of fossil fuels.
"There is real opportunity for significant emissions reductions and saving for governments from removing these distorting subsidies," said Smith.
Ground-breaking concepts contained in the Rio principles and Agenda 21 had been mainstreamed into daily life in the 20 years since the Rio Earth Summit, he said.
"Significant environmental agreements in climate change, biodiversity, and desertification grew out of that summit, and work under these conventions continues to develop."
The Rio+20 conference on sustainable development in June would focus on two themes: the green economy in the context of poverty eradication, and the institutional framework for sustainable development.