By Carolyn Kitione a journalism student from the University of the South Pacific
2 December 2013, Suva - Fiji is committed to stepping up its work in conserving and protecting its natural resources, said Fijian President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau when opening the 9th Pacific Islands Conference on Nature Conservation and Protected Areas this morning. Ratu Epeli said Fiji had put in place a range of initiatives to encourage a "cultural transformation that could well be emulated by other Pacific nations. ”
“We now have zero-rated duty on biodegradable plastic, zero duty on portable sewage treatment plants and zero duty on water desalination plants for use in areas where fresh water is scarce," Ratu Epeli said. “One of our manufacturers sells water in a plastic bottle that completely dissolves within 12 months. “Just imagine the transformation of our surroundings if every plastic bottle strewn around the Pacific could be gone in a year.”
This, said Ratu Epeli, was an excellent example of the benefits from working with the private sector. He said efforts to empower local communities have continued although the overall picture had become bleak. The President said the Pacific was baffled by the global community's “seemingly endless debate” and indecisiveness on climate change, while the the region's existence comes under direct threat. Ratu Epeli said Fiji was conscious of the need to make climate change "our number one environmental priority."
Ratu Epeli told delegates: "We have to confront the fact that however much control we can exercise over our immediate environments as Pacific islanders, there are much bigger forces at work that are beyond our control. "They require a global response and unfortunately the world is not responding adequately enough."
The conference theme is “Natural Solutions: Building Solutions for a Changing Pacific”. “At this conference we need to build on our successes thus far with a renewed commitment to do better – much better,” Ratu Epeli said.
Carolyn Kitione is a first year student at Fiji National University and a member of the Media Team providing coverage of the 9th Pacific Islands Conference on Nature Conservation and Protected Areas from 2 to 6 December in Suva, Fiji. This is a partnership between the Fiji National University (FNU), University of the South Pacific (USP), SPREP and Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) whereby a team of 10 journalism students are mentored by senior reporters as they cover the conference. This activity is funded by the Pacific Assistance Media Scheme (PACMAS).