Prime Minister of Fiji, Frank Bainimarama, as incoming President of the UN Climate Change Conference in November 2017 in Bonn, Germany, addressed delegates on Thursday, May 18 2017, the final day of the May UN Climate Change Conference in the former German capital. In his address, he set out his vision for Fiji’s Presidency of COP23. Excerpts:
Certainly, the ball is being passed to Fiji this year at a very critical time. But we very much appreciate the way that ball has been positioned to give us the best opportunity to kick it forward ourselves. And, as incoming President, I very much appreciate the assistance of the Moroccans to this point and their pledge to continue to support us, just as we will assist Poland when the time comes for us to do so in 2018.
Germany’s gesture to facilitate COP23 to be held here in Bonn has enabled Fiji to become the first Small Island Developing State to assume the Presidency of this very important process which encompasses the formal negotiations and the partnerships for action.
By extending a hand of friendship to Fijians and Pacific Islanders, Germany is empowering us and giving us a voice that we would never have had without that assistance. And we look forward very much to working together in a spirit of friendship and collaboration to make COP23 Fiji Bonn an unqualified success.
As incoming COP President, I will be relying a great deal on my team, and especially Ambassador Shameem-Khan. I see myself more as the team captain, leading from the front, giving encouragement and persuasion where it’s needed. And fulfilling my promise to bring the non-state actors closer to this process by not only spending a great deal of time here in what we are calling the Bula Zone, but over in the Bonn Zone down the road. Because I am convinced that pursuing an inclusive process that ultimately involves every global citizen is the best way – the only way – to move our collective agenda forward.
My role, of course, is to be impartial, to act in the collective interest of all nations. But I certainly bring my own perspective to these negotiations. And it is that of a Fijian, a Pacific Islander, who comes from a region of the world that is bearing the brunt of climate change – whether it is the rising seas, extreme weather events or changes to agriculture, which threatens our way of life and in some cases, our very existence.
We who are most vulnerable must be heard, whether we come from the Pacific or other Small Island Developing States, other low lying nations and states or threatened cities in the developed world like Miami, New York, Venice or Rotterdam. But together we must speak out for the whole world – every global citizen – because no-one, no matter who they are or where they live, will ultimately escape the impact of climate change.
Many of you have asked what Fiji’s vision is for COP23; the principles that will govern our Presidency; our aims and objectives. Well, acknowledging the important leadership roles of past COP Presidencies in laying the foundation for a robust COP23, Fiji’s vision for COP23 is this:
- To advance the work of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and preserve the multilateral consensus for decisive action to address the underlying causes of climate change, respecting climate science.
- To uphold and advance the Paris Agreement, ensure progress on the implementation guidelines and undertake consultations together with the Moroccan COP22 Presidency to design the process for the Facilitative Dialogue in 2018.
- To build greater resilience for all vulnerable nations to the impacts of climate change, including extreme weather events and rising sea levels; to enable access to climate adaptation finance, renewable energy, clean water and affordable climate risk and disaster insurance; and to promote sustainable agriculture.
- To forge a grand coalition to accelerate climate action before 2020 and beyond between civil society, the scientific community, the private sector and all levels of government, including cities and regions. I repeat: We are all vulnerable and we all need to act.
- To harness innovation, enterprise and investment to fast track the development and deployment of climate solutions that will build future economies with net zero greenhouse gas emissions, in an effort to limit the rise of global temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
- To draw a stronger link between the health of the world’s oceans and seas and the impacts of, and solutions to, climate change as part of a holistic approach to the protection of our planet.
- To infuse COP23 with the Fijian “Bula Spirit” of inclusiveness, friendliness and solidarity and promote the Pacific concept of talanoa. This is a process of inclusive, participatory and transparent dialogue that builds empathy and leads to decision making for the collective good. It is not about finger pointing and laying blame but is about listening to each other, learning from each other, sharing stories, skills and experiences. By focusing on the benefits of action, this process will move the global climate agenda forward.
In summary, Fiji’s vision is for a Presidency that is transparent and inclusive of all, advances the Paris Agreement and accelerates climate action for all vulnerable societies, drawing on our own experiences as a Small Island Developing State in the Pacific.
That is Fiji’s vision for COP23, one that is inclusive and is very much focused on maintaining the momentum for the implementation of what was agreed in Paris at the end of 2015 – a diplomatic triumph that I have described as France’s gift to the world for the sake of all 7.5 billion people on earth.