PM DIS­CUSSES RE­GIONAL ECO­NOMIC CO-OP­ER­A­TION, IN­TE­GRA­TION

‘WITH OUR OTHER PA­CIFIC NEIGH­BOURS, WE ARE AP­PRE­HEN­SIVE ABOUT THE EF­FECTS OF CLI­MATE CHANGE’

Fiji Sun - - Big Story - Feedback: jy­otip@fi­jisun.com.fj PM Voreqe Bain­i­marama

‘We can help each other and that is what Fiji is do­ing. We sent dozens and sol­diers, nurses and other re­lief works to neigh­bour­ing Van­u­atu last year when it was dev­as­tated by a sim­i­lar event – Trop­i­cal Cy­clone Pam’

The fol­low­ing is a tran­script of the Prime Min­is­ter’s con­tri­bu­tion on cli­mate change and Pacer Plus at the 72nd ses­sion of the United Na­tions Eco­nomic and So­cial Com­mis­sion for Asia and the Pa­cific (UNESCAP) in Bangkok. It is a re­sponse to two ques­tions: I have two ques­tions: n The first ques­tion re­lated to the dev­as­tat­ing ef­fects of Trop­i­cal Cy­clone Win­ston on your peo­ple and econ­omy. What are the ma­jor im­pacts and lessons that your coun­try and the Pa­cific as a re­gion can take from Win­ston, par­tic­u­larly in terms of how re­gional co­op­er­a­tion could help build the re­silience of Pa­cific is­lands against cli­matein­duced nat­u­ral dis­as­ters, such as trop­i­cal cy­clones? n The sec­ond ques­tion re­lates to the Pa­cific Agree­ment on Closer Eco­nomic Re­la­tions (PACER) Plus which Fiji to­gether with other Pa­cific Fo­rum Is­land Coun­tries are ne­go­ti­at­ing with Aus­tralia and New Zealand. What are the ‘pluses’ Fiji would like to see out of a PACER?

Madam Ex­ec­u­tive Sec­re­tary, we are al­ready working closely to­gether as a re­gion to con­front the is­sue of cli­mate change. Be­fore the World Cli­mate Sum­mit in Paris last Novem­ber, the mem­bers of the Pa­cific Is­lands De­vel­op­ment Fo­rum – not only na­tions but rep­re­sen­ta­tives of civil so­ci­ety and the pri­vate sec­tor in the re­gion - gath­ered in the Fi­jian cap­i­tal, Suva, and came up with a joint po­si­tion to take to Paris. We called it the Suva Dec­la­ra­tion. And in it, we asked the global com­mu­nity to em­brace cuts in car­bon emis­sions to cap global warm­ing at one-point-five de­grees Cel­sius over pre-in­dus­trial lev­els. One by one we all made im­pas­sioned speeches in Paris. Three of our num­ber – Kiri­bati, Tu­valu and the Mar­shall Is­lands – face be­ing sub­merged al­to­gether by the ris­ing sea lev­els on cur­rent pro­jec­tions. Be­cause they are low-ly­ing coral atolls, whereas Fiji is among the Pa­cific na­tions that en­joy the rel­a­tive pro­tec­tion of be­ing mainly vol­canic moun­tain­ous is­lands. Al­though we have still had to re­lo­cate three coastal vil­lages so far and dozens more are ear­marked to be re­lo­cated in the next few years.

This is a mat­ter of sur­vival for Pa­cific Is­lan­ders. We didn’t cause the global warm­ing that has pro­duced this cri­sis in the first place. Our car­bon foot­prints are neg­li­gi­ble – in Fiji’s case 0.004 per cent of to­tal global emis­sions. We haven’t en­joyed the wealth that the in­dus­tri­alised na­tions have gained from the fac­to­ries that belch out car­bon. Yet we are the ones to bear the brunt of this cri­sis. Through no fault of our own, we are the ones who are most vul­ner­a­ble to the ris­ing sea lev­els and ex­treme weather events caused by cli­mate change. So that’s what we went to Paris plead­ing for – a one-point-five per cent cap on car­bon emis­sions over pre-in­dus­trial lev­els. And in­stead we got a two per cent cap from the global com­mu­nity as a whole.

Yes, it’s a pos­i­tive step but it’s only a first step. And the col­lec­tive mes­sage from the Pa­cific is that it’s not nearly enough. Be­cause the sci­en­tists say we are still going to go un­der in places like Kiri­bati, Tu­valu and the Mar­shall Is­lands and all of us are going to lose large tracts of arable coastal land. Worse, we are all vul­ner­a­ble to the ex­treme weather events like cy­clones that the sci­en­tists say are going to be­come more fre­quent and more in­tense. And we don’t need the sci­en­tists to tell us that in Fiji be­cause it’s al­ready hap­pen­ing.

Win­ston im­pact

As many of you know, the strong­est trop­i­cal cy­clone ever to make land­fall in the south­ern hemi­sphere slammed into Fiji just over three months ago on Fe­bru­ary 20, 2016. It had winds of more than 300 kilo­me­tres an hour.

And it left a trail of ter­ri­ble de­struc­tion over a large part of the coun­try. 44 of our peo­ple were killed and many more were in­jured. Around 40,000 homes were dam­aged or de­stroyed, along with 229 of our schools and many pub­lic build­ings and other in­fra­struc­ture. The dam­age bill has been es­ti­mated by the World Bank at US$1 (F$2.12bn)

So Madam Ex­ec­u­tive Sec­re­tary, Fiji doesn’t need any lec­tures about cli­mate change. We are al­ready feel­ing the full brunt of its ef­fects. And with our other Pa­cific neigh­bours, we are ap­pre­hen­sive about the ef­fects of cli­mate change. We can help each other and that is what Fiji is do­ing. We sent dozens and sol­diers, nurses and other re­lief works to neigh­bour­ing Van­u­atu last year when it was dev­as­tated by a sim­i­lar event – Trop­i­cal Cy­clone Pam. And we have of­fered to give a per­ma­nent home to the peo­ple of Kiri­bati and Tu­valu – our near­est neigh­bours – in a worst case sce­nario if their na­tions are sub­merged al­to­gether by the ris­ing seas.

We’ve al­ready fa­cil­i­tated the pur­chase by Kiri­bati of a large amount of land on our sec­ond big­gest is­land, Vanua Levu, to en­sure its food se­cu­rity even be­fore any­one has to move. But there’s noth­ing we can do to pre­vent these cy­clones from oc­cur­ring.

Ca­pac­ity

We know we don’t have the power to force a more rad­i­cal ap­proach to global warm­ing on the global com­mu­nity. What we can do is keep re­mind­ing the world of its moral obli­ga­tion to those global cit­i­zens who are bear­ing the brunt of the ex­cesses of the in­dus­tralised era.

In­no­cent Pa­cific is­lan­ders and the cit­i­zens of small and vul­ner­a­ble na­tions the world over. So our mes­sage now is this: if you won’t em­brace our more rad­i­cal cap on global warm­ing, at least give us the means to adapt to the fright­en­ing new era that you have cre­ated. Gives us the means to build our re­silience so that we can strengthen our homes and our in­fra­struc­ture. Give us or lend us the money we need to build that re­silience. We don’t have the re­sources. You do. And you can help us by mak­ing it eas­ier to ac­cess the fi­nance we need to pay for it all.

Even hav­ing suf­fered a ter­ri­ble event like Win­ston, Fiji is still dis­ad­van­taged when it comes to ac­cess­ing cer­tain av­enues of fi­nance be­cause we have been des­ig­nated a mid­dle in­come na­tion. This has to change. Be­cause the task we face is im­mense and it is sim­ply not fair to pun­ish us for our suc­cess. Ev­ery Pa­cific is­lan­der knows that a cy­clone of the force of Win­ston that scores a di­rect hit on any of our na­tions, af­fect­ing the en­tire coun­try and not just a part of it, could dev­as­tate our economies overnight. All the ad­vances we have made, all the strides in de­vel­op­ment that have been taken to im­prove the lives of our peo­ple, could be wiped out in one event. Pray God it doesn’t hap­pen but that’s the sit­u­a­tion we are fac­ing.

Ap­peal

And I ap­peal to you all to take this mes­sage back to your govern­ments and your friends and fam­i­lies.

That the is­sue of cli­mate fi­nance to build re­silience in the af­fected coun­tries is just as press­ing as the his­toric agree­ment that was reached in Paris last Novem­ber.

And even more so. Be­cause the Paris tar­get isn’t good enough and we need a more con­certed global re­sponse to con­front the great­est chal­lenge to our age. Not only to lower the tem­per­a­ture cap fur­ther but pro­tect the economies of vul­ner­a­ble na­tions.

Madam Ex­ec­u­tive Sec­re­tary, we in the Pa­cific are do­ing our bit. The av­er­age Fi­jian gen­er­ates five times less car­bon than the av­er­age global cit­i­zen. But we are still com­mit­ted to re­duc­ing our own emis­sions by 30 per cent by 2030 by in­creas­ing our use of al­ter­na­tive en­ergy sources such as hy­dro and so­lar.

I am proud that Fiji was the first na­tion in the world to have ap­proved the rat­i­fi­ca­tion of the Paris Agree­ment and to lodge the rat­i­fi­ca­tion in­stru­ments. I am also proud to of­fer Fiji as the base for a cen­tre for cli­mate change re­search and re­silience build­ing, not only for the Pa­cific Small Is­land De­vel­op­ing States but other SIDS na­tions and vul­ner­a­ble states the world over. We are tak­ing this pro­posal to var­i­ous re­gional and global fo­rums and are cur­rently talk­ing to UNESCAP to col­lab­o­rate with the Fi­jian Gov­ern­ment on this ini­tia­tive. So Madam Ex­ec­u­tive Sec­re­tary. We are stand­ing to­gether as Pa­cific is­lan­ders. We are of­fer­ing each other sup­port and in Fiji’s case, a per­ma­nent home to some of our af­fected neigh­bours. But we now look to the world to help us fu­ture proof our economies and need the sup­port of the global com­mu­nity to do so. Oth­er­wise we have lit­tle or no hope of meet­ing some of the 2030 Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals that are at the core of our global de­vel­op­ment agenda.

Fiji is spon­sor­ing a res­o­lu­tion at this Com­mis­sion to build the re­silience of all af­fected na­tions. Through de­vel­op­ment fi­nance, tech­nol­ogy trans­fer and tar­geted ca­pac­ity build­ing for women, young peo­ple and marginalised com­mu­ni­ties - the most vul­ner­a­ble of our peo­ple. And I ask you all for your sup­port.

Fiji – PACER Plus

The sec­ond ques­tion re­lates to the Pa­cific Agree­ment on Closer Eco­nomic Re­la­tions (PACER) Plus which Fiji to­gether with other Pa­cific Fo­rum Is­land Coun­tries are ne­go­ti­at­ing with Aus­tralia and New Zealand.

What are the ‘pluses’ Fiji would like to see out of PACER?)

Madam Ex­ec­u­tive Sec­re­tary and Fel­low Pan­elists, this leads me to the is­sue of the Pa­cific Agree­ment for Closer Eco­nomic Re­la­tions (PACER) Plus with Aus­tralia and New Zealand. You ask a di­rect ques­tion: What are the pluses Fiji would like to see out of PACER? Let me give you a di­rect an­swer: There sim­ply aren’t enough pluses in it for Fiji yet for us to want to sign it. And let me tell you why. Aus­tralia and New Zealand are de­vel­oped coun­tries whose economies dom­i­nate the re­gion, in­clud­ing ac­cess to our own mar­ket. We are de­vel­op­ing coun­tries and rel­a­tively vul­ner­a­ble, not only to such things as cli­mate change and nat­u­ral dis­as­ters but be­cause of a range of eco­nomic and so­cial dis­ad­van­tages. Trade is sup­posed to help our economies grow. And we want PACER Plus to have more ‘pluses’ in terms of its de­vel­op­men­tal as­pects than is cur­rently on of­fer. Fiji clearly sees the need for PACER Plus or any other trade agree­ment for that mat­ter to be a de­vel­op­ment agree­ment. This es­sen­tially means:

se­cur­ing long-term im­proved mar­ket ac­cess for goods, ser­vices and labour;

pre­serv­ing do­mes­tic pol­icy space, es­pe­cially the right to reg­u­late for de­vel­op­ment pur­poses; and

en­sur­ing con­tin­ued com­mit­ment to de­vel­op­ment co­op­er­a­tion from our tra­di­tional de­vel­op­ment part­ners who will be par­ties to the PACER Plus agree­ment. As such, we want a PACER Plus that pro­vides bind­ing com­mit­ments on labour mo­bil­ity and de­vel­op­ment co­op­er­a­tion, to­gether with mar­ket ac­cess. In its cur­rent form - de­spite it be­ing an in­te­gral part of the PACER Plus Agree­ment - this is not legally bind­ing.

In ad­di­tion, al­though labour mo­bil­ity has been dis­cussed and pro­vided for in the ne­go­ti­a­tions, it was rel­e­gated to an ar­range­ment which is out­side the Agree­ment and is not legally bind­ing. Labour mo­bil­ity is one of the most tan­gi­ble ar­eas in which re­gional in­te­gra­tion has brought ben­e­fits to Pa­cific Is­lan­ders. The Re­gional Sea­sonal Em­ploy­ers scheme – in which Fi­jians have be­gun to ac­cess short term em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties in Aus­tralian and New Zealand - has shown prom­ise. But this also needs to be ex­panded un­der a long last­ing mech­a­nism that pro­vides se­cu­rity and as­sures sus­tain­able ben­e­fits for the Pa­cific is­lands.

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