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Helen Clark Speech To Welcome Dr Klaus Töpfer

Rt Hon Helen Clark

Prime Minister


To Welcome Dr Klaus Töpfer

Executive Director

United Nations Environment Programme

and in Honour of Appointment of Sir Peter Blake as UNEP Special Envoy

Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron


2:00 pm

Thursday 5 July 2001

It is a great pleasure today to welcome Dr Klaus Töpfer formally to New Zealand.

Dr Töpfer is the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP, and an Under Secretary General of the United Nations.

UNEP was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1972, following the Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment. Its mandate was revised and expanded in 1992, following the Earth Summit in Rio de Janiero, and again in the Nairobi Declaration on the Role and Mandate of UNEP in 1997.

UNEP’s role is to provide leadership and promote partnerships for environmental protection, through assessments of the state of the global environment, furthering development of international environmental law, carrying out policies to advance environmental protection, and co-ordinating environment activities in the UN system and broader international arena.

New Zealand has been a member of UNEP since it began in 1972, and is currently serving on its governing council for the fourth time.

New Zealand takes environmental issues very seriously both at home and at the international level. The government’s efforts internationally are matched here in New Zealand by strong resource management legislation, by a commitment to preserving our unique biodiversity, by a very active community of environmental NGOs, and by the emergence of the New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development which is also committed to promotion of the triple bottom line to ensure that environmental and social considerations are weighed in decision making alongside the economic considerations.

UNEP has built a reputation for its scientific research and environmental assessments. It has catalysed international action on wastes, toxic chemicals, biodiversity, the ozone, our oceans and on natural resource management. It is extending its engagement into the related fields of sustainable development and global environmental governance.

Through sustainable development, we can meet the needs of present generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. In New Zealand that concept goes alongside a very strong government commitment to conserving our unique natural and historic heritage. The government is especially proud of its decision to stop all logging of ancient rain forest on public land, and to place the great forests of the West Coast which lacked protection within the conservation estate for protection in perpetuity.

The government is presently working on a formal sustainable development strategy for New Zealand. There is already considerable promotion of the concept in local government through its planning processes. In the private sector, here and abroad, leading edge firms are finding that social and environmental responsibility goes hand in hand with brand image and market positioning in the twenty-first century.

Working in partnership, government at all levels, the private sector, and NGOs can make New Zealand a world leader in sustainable development. We want to make a strong statement on our approach at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in South Africa next year, a decade after the Rio Earth Summit. As Prime Minister, I expect to attend that Summit.

New Zealanders are well aware of the pressing and urgent nature of the international environmental issues and the need for action internationally. While we ourselves, for example, are relatively minor contributors to the greenhouse gas problem, we accept our responsibility to take measures to avert devastating climate change.

Urgent international agreement is needed to reduce greenhouse gases. We would like to see the Kyoto Protocol process back on track and are working as hard as we can to support the engagement of all the key players in it.

The complexity of international environmental issues brings UNEP to the centre of fresh thinking on global environmental governance.

The pursuit of environmental safeguards and the commitment to practical mechanisms for sustainable development have resulted in the negotiation of more than five hundred international treaties and arrangements related to environmental management.

It is widely recognised that this rather thick web of arrangements, and the convention secretariats which service them, might benefit from some rationalisation.

While there appears to be little support for the establishment of a new world environment organisation, there is a groundswell for UNEP to continue to build its role as the principal global environment authority. New Zealand strongly supports that.

And now I have a very special announcement to make on behalf of the United Nations Environment Programme.

UNEP is appointing Sir Peter Blake, one of our New Zealand heroes, as a Special Envoy. This is the first time a New Zealander has received this honour, and we are very proud of Peter’s achievement.

Sir Peter’s appointment gives recognition to his commitment to promoting environmental awareness. Through Blakexpeditions, he undertakes voyages to areas of the world which are key to the global ecosystem. Inspirational television and education programmes flow from these voyages. Sir Peter’s mission is to help protect life in, on, and around the waters of the world.

Around one year ago Sir Peter and I were here at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron with Greenpeace launching a campaign for a global whale sanctuary. Sir Peter spoke in a very moving way about his observations of these great animals on his voyages in the Southern Ocean. The New Zealand Government stands with him in strongly opposing commercial whaling. We are very concerned at the campaign being mounted by whaling interests and pro-whaling countries to oppose new whale sanctuaries, and potentially even to roll back the existing moratorium on commercial whaling.

Congratulations, Sir Peter. You take up your role with UNEP with the best wishes and the respect of all New Zealanders.

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