Work began in July at the Pacific Environment Ministers meeting and got a boost this week with the Pacific's first ever Environment Forum, held in Samoa.
The Forum brought together experts, officials and non-government organisations for a brainstorming session.
Presenter: Jemima Garrett
Speaker: Greg Sherley, United Nations Environment Program, Pacific Head of Agency; David Sheppard, Director, Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP); Vaitoti Tupa, Director, Cook Islands National Environment Service
GARRETT: The Pacific has a lot to gain from the Rio +20 summit, if it can make its voice heard.
The Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Program (SPREP) is convinced that is not too much to ask.
With all the key experts and officials due to be in Apia this week for SPREP's annual meeting, the time seemed right to use their talents to galvanise ideas and enthusiasm for effective action in Rio.
The United Nations Environment Program has been leading the charge on the Green Economy putting out a global report in that name.
UNEP's Pacific Head of Agency, Greg Sherley, told the Pacific Environment Forum that the world faces a sustainability crisis that includes food and water shortages and the decline of biodiversity and ecosystem services.
SHERLEY: It's like an accelerating curve. It's getting worse and worse and in ways which we don't fully understand with lots of interacting variables that are getting too complex ever to model exactly and all this has been brought to a head ina region like the Pacific where small island developing states are really on the forefront of the receiving end of the consequences.
GARRETT: The United nation's 'Green Economy' report has a role to play in tackling the sustainability crisis. What is it aiming to achieve exactly?
SHERLEY: Well, its a formal attempt to try and do an environmental scan, providing the best technical knowledge available to date for the globe, as a matter of fact, but it also contains a significant amount of information that also applies to small island developing states such as in the Pacific.
GARRETT: Green economy initiatives are designed to put economic development on a sustainable footing with the added benefit of creating jobs.
Vaitoti Tupa, from the Cook Islands Environment Service told the Forum his country's national green economy strategy is almost complete.
TUPA: What we are working on is our renewable energy and also we are working closely with our tourism industry. As part of their strategy, they are also looking at a green economy, with ecotourism and so on. So these are the issues that we have identified so far.
GARRETT: SPREP Director, David Sheppard, says the Forum acknowledged that in our region the Green economy goes well beyond land-based resources.
SHEPPARD: In the Pacific we are focussing on how we can better manage and better conserve the Pacific Ocean noting that there are many threats, including the overfishing of some species and also the challenge of climate change which has impacts on coral reefs in particular. So we discussed that. We noted a number of very positive initiatives from the region, such as the oceanscape initiative led by the President of Kiribati and the initiative recently announced by the Prime minister of the Cook Islands to establish marine protected areas covering 50% of their exclusive economic zone.
GARRETT: Green economy initiatives will have long-term benefits, but as Vaitoti Tupa points out they have up-front costs.
TUPA: There is an urgent need for assisting of the Cook Islands and also the Pacific region. to me this is a priority and that is something the Rio +20 should be looking at to assist the Pacific region, including the Cook Islands.
GARRETT: SPREP Director, David Sheppard, is convinced the region has a strong case.
SHEPPARD: The Pacific Ocean covers one third of the globe's surface, so it has global significance. So its something that is a matter not just for the Pacific countries, but fr the whole world. So we hope to see greater awareness of the challenges and also increased support from the international community.
GARRETT: The United Nation's Environment Program's Greg Sherley says the Pacific needs a united voice at the Rio +20 summit.
SHERLEY: there will be, literally, tens of thousands of voices at that meeting an many will be taking the front stage. What we need to do is focus on a few key points that we want to drive forward and do it in a co-operative manner so that we can make the best of the opportunity there, amongst all the other worthy people speaking and countries and issues.
GARRETT: How important is it that Pacific leaders get behind the Rio +20 summit?
SHERLEY: I think it is crucial. It is such a rare opportunity to make a stand and present the case that we so justly deserve in this region. We have been at the receiving end, through no fault of our own, of many of the consequences of the behaviour or the economic development of the developed world over the last few decades and I think it is essential that Pacific leaders take every opportunity that they can to stand up for what they know is right.