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Rt Hon Helen Clark - World Environment Day Speech

Rt Hon Helen Clark
Prime Minister


World Environment Day and the
Green Ribbon Awards for Service
to the Environment

Grand Hall
Parliament Buildings

5.15 pm
Friday 5 May 2000
This evening’s function marks two important events. The first is the annual celebration of World Environment Day, first established by the United Nations in 1972. That year the United Nations Environment Programme began its work to build greater international awareness of the environment and mobilise political will to protect it.

This year, the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan used the occasion of World Environment Day to highlight the importance of human beings recognising how closely we are interconnected, how we rely on each other, and how our actions affect each other.

The United Nation’s environment theme for this year is: The Environment Millennium – Time to Act.

The second event we mark tonight is the presentation of the Green Ribbon Awards. These awards go to those who have already acted in support of the environment. They include individual citizens, community organisations, businesses, and local government. Their work in our country forms part of a larger international mission.

To sustain our environment for future generations requires effort at every level.

For sure, the headlines go to the international conferences, the politicians, and the global NGOs.

But what we know in this country is that governments can’t sustain the environment on their own.

The future of our environment rests on the partnerships we can all build across civil society – between citizens, community, business, and central and local government.

I remember many years ago as Minister of Conservation travelling to Owaka in the south of New Zealand to present an award to an individual citizen, who cared enough to volunteer huge amounts of his time over many years to protecting the penguin habitat on the local coast.

He and countless thousands of other New Zealanders have in ways large and small contributed both to the protection of our unique native species and habitat and to raising awareness about the overall pressures on our environment.

Our new government is placing a high priority on environmental issues.

We all know that the continuing loss of New Zealand’s unique biodiversity is one of our most pressing environmental problems.

That’s why we are providing significant extra funding for protecting and restoring our threatened biodiversity. We are acting to “Turn the Tide” on the loss of our indigenous biodiversity.

There will be another $187 million spent over the next five years to protect and restore that threatened biodiversity. Fifty-seven million dollars are for pest and weed control, and $2.6 million for the development of a comprehensive biosecurity strategy. There will be a further $37 million to boost protection of biodiversity on private land. We want to build on existing successful partnerships between government, local bodies, tangata whenua, and land owners and users.

We will provide $2.35 million to begin addressing the loss of Matauranga Maori – customary knowledge about nature. There will also be $10 million for the kiwi recovery programme, and just over $40 million for researching and managing biodiversity and marine biosecurity.

We are acting on other high priority issues too.

We intend that New Zealand will ratify the Kyoto Protocol on climate change by the time of the Rio Plus Ten Conference in mid-2002. That means that we must stabilise our greenhouse gas emissions at 1990 levels, on average, over the period 2008 to 2012.

Unfortunately the latest greenhouse gas inventory shows that New Zealand’s total emissions in 1998 were well above those of 1990. Carbon dioxide emissions in 1998 were about fourteen per cent higher than they were in 1990, with the transport sector continuing to show rapid growth. We have a big job ahead to reach our targets, but we have to reach them if our voice on the environment is to be credible internationally. We want New Zealand to be recognised as a country which takes its environmental responsibilities seriously.

Today I am announcing that we are allocating an extra $1.5 million a year for the Ministry of the Environment’s work on climate change. That will be complemented by extra funding for the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority and for other ministries. Reaching our Kyoto Protocol commitments requires action across the economy and society. Our goal is to draw up a comprehensive programme to enable us to meet our international obligations.

Another environmental issue which we have long signalled as being of high priority is waste management. An extra one million dollars per annum is going into work in this area.

The aim is to have all waste management working on a full cost recovery basis and all landfills meeting high standards by 2010. We also need to work in partnership with local government to achieve a reduction in the solid waste stream.

Water issues are also important. Some water-short regions are under pressure to identify and allocate water resources, and that problem could be accentuated in the future by climate change.

The Ministry for the Environment is working to help local councils deal effectively with water issues in their plans, and to develop a draft framework for water allocation.

Initiatives to improve water quality are needed too. By the end of this year the Ministry, along with the Ministries of Health and Agriculture, expects to complete a research programme into the levels of disease-causing organisms in our waterways. Understanding the extent of contamination in our water will help in developing health and environmental guidelines for water.

Again, effective partnerships will be needed to improve water quality, with central and local government, and agricultural, horticultural, and forestry land users all needing to be involved.

Tonight I have stressed the concept of partnership a lot, both because it is central to the ethos of this government, and because we cannot sustain our environment without working partnerships across the economy and society and between nations.

The fact that we have such strong nominations for the Green Ribbon awards tonight convinces me that our whole community has the will to act on the environment and that working together we can make a difference at home and abroad.


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