Picture: Minister Saumatua with UNEP Paris, Mr James Curlin during the exchange of gifts.
TWENTY seven customs officers from Pacific Islands Countries came together to consider means to address environmental crime in the region due to the phasing out of Hydro chlorofluorocarbons (HCFC) during a Green Customs Initiative workshop held at Outrigger on the Lagoon today.
These environmental crimes include the illegal trans-boundary movement like when a country transports hazardous chemicals from one region to another that involves the crossing of economic exclusive zones without prior consent from the respective country.
These crimes also include illegal smuggling of endangered/endemic flora and fauna under the Convention of International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES).
The remote location of Pacific Islands Countries (PIC) and numerous islands combined with limited capacity on enforcement agencies have imposed challenges for countries to commit to multilateral environmental agreements.
These agreements are international/regional conventions, treaties and polices to protect and manage our environment in a sustainable manner.
In 2000, PIC agreed to apply a regional approach to implement national activities to phase out ozone depleting substances with the assistance of UNEP.
The PICs ‘HCFC Phase-out Management Plan preparation’ was approved by the 60th meeting of executive committee of Montreal Protocol.
A three-day PIC regional network meeting of ozone officers started today to discuss policies and measures on implementation of the plan as well as regional cooperation.
“The regional cooperation and capacity building for Pacific Islands Countries will definitely promote environment protection in the region,” Minister for Local Government, Urban Development, Housing & Environment, Colonel Samuela Saumatua said.
The Ozone Network Meeting back to back with the Greens Customs Meeting is held from May 23 to 25 followed by the first joint meeting of Customs and Ozone Officers May 26 and 27.
Participants will explore ways to enhance ozone depleting substance licensing systems as well as to enhance information exchange and enforcement cooperation between ozone agencies and customs authorities at national and regional level.
Capacity building manager/Interim Network and policy manager, United Nations Environment Programme Mr James Curlin stated that “customs officers play a critical role in regulating the trade in ozone depleting substance and the cooperation between customs authorities and the national ozone units are crucial for countries to meet their phase out targets”.
Experts from CITES, the Convention of Biodiversity, the Basel Convention Regional Centre, the World Customs Organization, Oceania Customs Organization, Regional Intelligence Liaison Office for Asia & Pacific (RILO A/P) and (UNEP) will present skills and knowledge to customs officers on how to identify environmentally sensitive commodities and how to detect and investigate environmental crime cases and facilitating of legal trade.
The acting head of Secretariat of Oceanic Customs Organization Mr Nathaniel Tuiseke highlighted that customs were the frontline at borders to protect the environmental securities of countries and it was difficult for a single country to address transnational environmental crime.He further added that customs administrations should improve their abilities to address environmental crime. This Thursday will see UNEP signing agreements with the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and the Oceania Customs Organization (OCO) for policy and technical assistance for countries on ozone depleting substances trade control at the Outrigger on the Lagoon.