Pacific Science Association

Pacific Science Association statement on Sustainability in the Pacific

As a Scientific Associate of the International Council for Science (ICSU), PSA was asked to prepare a statement on the particular needs of Pacific Island states for the occasion of the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development Summit which will be held in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012.

A PDF of the statement is here, and is also reproduced in full below.

Pacific Science Association Statement on Sustainability in the Pacific
Submitted to the International Council for Science (ICSU) for the Rio+20 Summit
By the Pacific Science Association
15 March 2012

The Pacific Science Association (PSA) is a regional non-governmental, scholarly organization that advances science and technology for sustainable development in and between the countries of the Asia-Pacific by actively promoting interdisciplinary and international collaboration, research and conferences. Since the Association’s founding in 1920, PSA has hosted seminal multidisciplinary scientific meetings — Congresses and Inter-Congresses — every two years in rotating venues throughout the region. These well-attended meetings are recognized as critical venues for the region’s senior and junior scientists and students to meet, present research findings, and forge new interdisciplinary collaborations with colleagues from the region and beyond. Scientific Working Groups spearhead the PSA’s activities between Congresses.

PSA is composed of national-level members — which are National Academies of Science or leading universities of Australia, China-Beijing, China-Hong Kong, China-Taipei, France, Guam, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Okinawa, Philippines, the Pacific Islands (Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu), Russia, Singapore, Thailand, United States, and Vietnam — as well as individual member scientists.

PSA has an important, though by no means exclusive, focus on the island states of the Pacific. While there are many ways to think about sustainability, some aspects of the concept are of even greater importance for island states than for countries located on or near continents. This is particularly true for the more remote island states of the Pacific. For the occasion of the Rio+20 Summit on 20 – 22 June 2012 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, we wish to emphasize the particular concerns and challenges of the Pacific respect to sustainable development.

Small and remote island states in the Pacific are characterized by relative isolation, resource scarcity, high reliance on fragile ecosystem services, small homogenous markets, high cost of inputs, energy, and equipment, sometimes constrained human resources, limited and expensive access to transportation, education and health services, disproportionately large impacts from both population growth and migration, and vulnerability to climate change and natural hazards. Of the planet’s areas and peoples profoundly affected by climate change, the environmental, social, and economic impacts of global warming in the Pacific will perhaps be equaled only in areas of the Arctic. The climate change-related phenomena of highest concern for the Pacific small island developing states (SIDS) are sea-level rise, severe weather events, coral bleaching and ocean acidification.

Science, technology, and engineering have critical roles to play in developing solutions for the problems facing the island states of the Pacific. PSA and our partners call for a new emphasis on human security to focus attention on the full spectrum of individual livelihoods and community well-being that are under increasing challenge from climate change and unsustainable development practices. This broad theme is the focus of PSA’s upcoming 12th Pacific Science Inter-Congress which will be held in July 2013 at the campus of the University of the South Pacific in Suva, Fiji.

Comprehensive and integrative mind-sets are needed to fully develop and implement realistic and practical solutions in many critical areas of research related to sustainable development including: climate science, biodiversity and ecosystem services, marine science and oceanography, earth system science and integrated disaster risk management, population and urbanization, agriculture and water resource access, new energy technologies, sustainable resource use, and human health and well-being. These needs are particularly acute in the island states of the Pacific. Greater linkages and more inclusive approaches between continental and island locations will improve the potential of institutional reforms needed to catalyze the emergence of green economies, which, in the context of sustainable development and poverty alleviation, is a main theme of Rio+20. Such an approach to development will greatly enhance the prospect for sustainable futures in the Pacific Islands.

PSA recognizes that there are no quick or simple solutions to the complex problems facing the region and its societies. The implementation and management of solutions that arise from scientific research will require individuals and society to adapt to change. The emergence of science-based approaches to regional and global problems requires both the advance of individual scientific disciplines and their integration into more holistic, trans-disciplinary methods, both advocated by ICSU, that involve non-scientific stakeholders in the development, conduct, and dissemination of research. Such approaches will increase the likelihood that research-based solutions will be accepted and adopted by societies.

Achieving sustainability in the Pacific island states will occur within the contexts of both complex global phenomena such as climate change and globalization, as well as circumstances unique to an island or island group. This means that addressing development will require both global and local solutions. The unique characteristics of island states require an emphasis in several areas.

Given sufficient awareness and attention to the unique needs and perspectives of island states as well as better cooperation and communication between all stakeholders regionally and internationally, PSA believes that island states have a critically important role to play in developing effective global solutions to environmental and developmental challenges, even as new tools will be needed to drive political, economic, and technical innovations that are required for the future of the island states of the Pacific to be a sustainable one.