Speech of Fijian Prime Minister and incoming COP23 President Frank Bainimarama at the opening of Partnership Days in Fiji prior to Pre-COP 2017.
This is the beginning of a very important week for Fiji’s Presidency of COP23 – our Pre-COP and – as I’m told – the largest Pre-COP ever.
We are playing host here in Denarau – Fiji’s most popular holiday destination – to more than 300 delegates from 68 countries, international institutions, civil society organisations and business leaders. And on behalf of the Fijian Government and the Fijian people, I extend to you all the warmest of Fijian and Pacific welcomes.
I am thrilled as incoming COP President that so many of you have travelled such vast distances to come to Fiji. It is a great honour. Vinaka vakalevu.
I have to admit that we have been surprised and a little bit overwhelmed that so many delegates committed to make the journey at the last minute. But I can assure you that we intend to show you our world famous Fijian hospitality. And as we move the climate action agenda forward, I encourage you to see as much of our beautiful country as possible and especially to make enduring friendships with our people.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, these two partnership days are a critical part of the broader climate action agenda arising out of the Paris Agreement. The Fijian COP23 Presidency created this innovative gathering in order to bring together representatives of all the local, regional and international players to move this process forward.
This is what we mean by the Grand Coalition that we are helping to build to enable us to stay within the 1.5 degrees. We are bringing together those who have the power to deliver our objective.
Governments at every level, decision-makers in civil society and business, faith-based organisations and all those communities around the world who are doing something constructive to solve this problem of immense complexity and scale.
In a moment, you are going to hear from some of the leaders who are making a difference in the world and whose contribution I honour and celebrate. But we also intend to tap the energy and enthusiasm of hundreds of millions of people around the world who have already been galvanised into action. Let them be the example that inspires many more – wherever they are on the planet – to do what they can in their own place and in their own way. Because as recent events have shown all over the world, we are all vulnerable and we all need to act.
And ordinary people do have power in this process when they come together and create the demand for change. That’s when the rules of the game change. That’s when global markets respond and new technologies flourish. And usher in a new era of prosperity in harmony with our planet.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, it matters that you have come to Fiji, to where we live, to see the impact that climate change is having on our way of life. And to perhaps understand better the specific vulnerability of people living in Small Island Developing States.
I am especially pleased that we have such a strong media contingent from around the world who as well as covering this conference, are visiting some of the more vulnerable parts of Fiji to tell the stories of our people and their challenges.
We also have some very positive developments to share with you this week, including a financing mechanism to bring renewable energy to our rural communities in Fiji; the development of a Green Bond – the first in the Pacific; and a water and sanitation improvement program to strengthen the resilience of our capital, Suva.
These are practical measures that will improve the lives of the Fijian people. They underline the importance of Fiji stepping up to take this global role. They underline the importance of linking the global negotiations to action on the ground at home. And they can be replicated in other communities in the Pacific and around the world to make a real difference in combatting climate change.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, over the next few days, you will hear a lot more about the ambitions of our Presidency. But I especially want to highlight our commitment to safeguarding the health of the world’s oceans – a process we began when we co-hosted, with Sweden, the UN Ocean Conference in New York in June.
This afternoon, we will be launching the Oceans Pathway Partnership, which is designed to build support for elevating the importance of oceans within our climate institutions. I am convinced that we cannot achieve our collective climate goals without addressing the health of our oceans. This Oceans Pathway Partnership is of particular value to Fiji because the Pacific plays a central role in our culture, economy and very survival.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, we are now precisely three weeks from COP itself in Bonn. So enjoy the sunshine and ocean breezes while you can. As I keep saying, we are all in this together. All in the same canoe. As many of you know, Fiji will have an ocean going canoe – a Drua – in the main foyer in Bonn. It will be a symbol of our duty to ourselves and to future generations to fill its sail with a collective determination to make this process count. And can I remind you all at the start of our Pre-COP that together, we have the power and means to bring the Paris Agreement to life. So let’s do it.
This evening, I invite you all to the foreshore outside as another Drua lands carrying a Fijian tapa scroll bearing a plea for action from ordinary Fijians living in some of our outlying islands. And we intend to take that message to Bonn and beyond.
Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.