PM’s ad­dress

‘GOOD USE OF OUR RE­SOURCES ON LAND AND AT SEA OUR NUM­BER ONE NA­TIONAL PRI­OR­ITY’ ‘We don’t want in­vestors in Fiji who pose any threat to our en­vi­ron­ment’

Fiji Sun - - Fiji Today -

Voreqe Bain­i­marama Prime Min­is­ter

The fol­low­ing are Prime Min­is­ter Voreqe Bain­i­mara’s speak­ing points on Eq­ui­table and Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment for ACP Coun­tries and Peo­ples – Agenda Item 5. It is from dis­cus­sions on the main theme: Repo­si­tion­ing the ACP Group to re­spond to the chal­lenges of Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment. Mr Chair­man/ Madam Chair, My fel­low heads of state and govern­ment, Ex­cel­len­cies, Ladies and Gen­tle­men,

Fiji has made the sus­tain­able use of our re­sources on land and at sea our Num­ber One na­tional pri­or­ity. Along with deal­ing with any threat to our de­vel­op­ment and the wel­fare of our peo­ple, and es­pe­cially the threat posed by cli­mate change.

So I’m de­lighted to be able to share some of our ex­pe­ri­ences with you as the only Pa­cific na­tion to have de­vel­oped a Green Growth Frame­work that is at the heart of our de­vel­op­ment agenda. That Frame­work sets a bench­mark for every de­vel­op­ment de­ci­sion we make in Fiji. And no na­tional project pro­ceeds without meet­ing the fun­da­men­tal re­quire­ment that it must be sus­tain­able. We have also in­cor­po­rated the same prin­ci­ple into our Trade Pol­icy Frame­work, which makes sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment the foun­da­tion of all our ef­forts to de­velop trade with other na­tions. We don’t want in­vestors in Fiji who pose any threat to our en­vi­ron­ment. We want clean, green in­dus­tries that are in keep­ing with our na­tional pri­or­i­ties and ob­jec­tives.

Ex­cel­len­cies, we started out with the un­der­ly­ing premise that the old ways of grow­ing our econ­omy, of devel­op­ing our na­tion, were no longer ad­e­quate or ac­cept­able. Too much of what had been done had been un­sus­tain­able. In far too many in­stances, our re­sources had been ex­ploited with lit­tle re­gard for the need to nur­ture them so that they can con­tinue to pro­vide the pros­per­ity on which we all de­pend.

As a Pa­cific Small Is­land Devel­op­ing State, Fiji knows that our pris­tine sur­round­ings are our ul­ti­mate liveli­hood and we must do ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to pro­tect them. It is what draws hun­dreds of thou­sands of in­ter­na­tional visi­tors to our shores every year, along with the famed hos­pi­tal­ity of our peo­ple. And be­cause tourism is our Num­ber One in­dus­try, main­tain­ing our is­land en­vi­ron­ment to the high­est pos­si­ble stan­dard is cru­cial to main­tain­ing the health of our econ­omy.

It is also the foun­da­tion of Brand Fiji – the grow­ing col­lec­tion of qual­ity goods and ser­vices that we are tak­ing to the world. Their cur­rency re­lies on the im­age of Fiji as a place of pris­tine beauty and clean­li­ness. A place far re­moved from the pol­lu­tion of the in­dus­tri­alised world. As our cur­rent tourism slo­gan puts it, Fiji is “where hap­pi­ness finds you”. But you can only find hap­pi­ness with pleas­ant com­pany - the Fi­jian peo­ple – and in pleas­ant sur­round­ings – our beau­ti­ful is­lands that have made Fiji syn­ony­mous with the no­tion of par­adise in the minds of mil­lions the world over. It is an im­age that must be pro­tected at all costs for the sake of the eco­nomic well­be­ing of our peo­ple now and for gen­er­a­tions to come. Yet sadly, we have not al­ways done what we should to live up to that im­age. At sea, we have had prob­lems with over­fish­ing, the strip­ping of our reefs and of our pris­tine wa­ters pol­luted with refuse such as plas­tic bags, bot­tles and con­tain­ers. On land, we have a prob­lem with lit­ter strew­ing many of our beaches and high­ways. And we are cur­rently try­ing to change the be­hav­iour of our peo­ple.

To get them to take per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity to keep Fiji clean. Far too of­ten in the past, de­vel­op­ments that were patently not sus­tain­able were given the go ahead. Whether be­cause of cor­rup­tion, ig­no­rance or both. But all that has now come to an end. We have reached a con­sen­sus in Fiji that de­ci­sive ac­tion is needed to tackle some of th­ese prob­lems and set a bench­mark for fu­ture de­vel­op­ment. And with our Green Growth Frame­work un­veiled last year, that is what we have done. That frame­work is be­ing in­cor­po­rated into the 5 and 20-year de­vel­op­ment plans that are cur­rently be­ing for­mu­lated to take us well into the 2030s.

In essence, it means pit­ting any de­vel­op­ment pro­posal against a ba­sic test. Is it sus­tain­able? And if it fails to meet that test – if the an­swer is “no” - then it is re­jected. Firmly and un­equiv­o­cally. Such an ap­proach re­quires tough de­ci­sions to be made, along with con­sid­er­able sac­ri­fices. And let me give you an ex­am­ple. There are con­sid­er­able re­serves of gold and cop­per in Namosi, a moun­tain range close to our cap­i­tal, Suva.

Th­ese re­serves, if ex­ploited, have the po­ten­tial to trans­form our econ­omy and give us the rev­enue we need to pro­vide all sorts of so­cial im­prove­ments. But we re­main to be sat­is­fied that this min­ing can go ahead without dam­ag­ing the lo­cal en­vi­ron­ment or hav­ing a neg­a­tive impact on the res­i­dents of our big­gest city. And so the project is on hold un­til we can be sure that Namosi poses no threat to the en­vi­ron­ment and the project is sus­tain­able.

Ex­cel­len­cies, th­ese are the tough de­ci­sions that have to be made. Be­cause without link­ing eco­nomic growth with en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion as de­ci­sion mak­ers, we are be­ing reck­less with the lives of those we rep­re­sent now and reck­less with the lives of fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. We can­not be ob­sessed merely with our eco­nomic per­for­mance as na­tions. We need a de­vel­op­ment model that is more holis­tic, in­te­grated, in­clu­sive and above all sus­tain­able.

I be­lieve that the eight guid­ing prin­ci­ples of our Green Growth Frame­work are not only a blue­print for Fiji but any devel­op­ing country.

Ex­cel­len­cies, Fiji went to the Paris Cli­mate Sum­mit last Novem­ber with a com­mit­ment to re­duce our car­bon emis­sions by 30 per cent by 2030. We in­tend to do this by re­plac­ing the use of fos­sil fu­els with more al­ter­na­tive energy sources such as hy­dro and so­lar. And we want a far big­ger com­mit­ment from the rest of the global com­mu­nity to tackle the causes of the global warm­ing that is pos­ing such a threat to us in small and vul­ner­a­ble na­tions the world over. On own car­bon emis­sions are a mea­gre 0.004 per cent of the global to­tal. And the av­er­age Fi­jian gen­er­ates five times less car­bon than the av­er­age global cit­i­zen. But we are com­mit­ting our­selves to a dra­matic re­duc­tion in our own emis­sions over the next four­teen years for two prin­ci­ple rea­sons.

Firstly, we recog­nise that every na­tion has a fun­da­men­tal duty to hu­man­ity to con­trib­ute to a global so­lu­tion to this cri­sis. And more im­por­tantly, we are deeply ap­pre­hen­sive – even fear­ful – that we have still not done enough as a global com­mu­nity to avert catas­tro­phe.

Ex­cel­len­cies, just over three months ago, the big­gest trop­i­cal cy­clone ever to make land­fall in the south­ern hemi­sphere slammed into Fiji with winds of more than 300 kilo­me­tres an hour. Cy­clone Win­ston killed 44 of our peo­ple and dam­aged or de­stroyed 40,000 homes, along with pub­lic build­ings and in­fra­struc­ture, in­clud­ing 229 schools. Our stu­dents are in tents or tem­po­rary shel­ters and we have in­sti­tuted an Adopt A School Pro­gram to get them back into proper class­rooms.

So I would en­cour­age all ACP mem­bers to con­sider adopt­ing a school in Fiji or en­cour­ag­ing your civil so­ci­eties or pri­vate sec­tors to do so. We were for­tu­nate that our main tourism ar­eas and our prin­ci­pal source of na­tional rev­enue were spared. So our econ­omy wasn’t as badly af­fected as we first feared. Yet Fiji is a stark re­minder to the world of the fright­en­ing new era that is dawn­ing on us all be­cause of the ex­treme weather events and ris­ing seas caused by cli­mate change.

Ex­cel­len­cies, there is frankly no point in can­vass­ing the is­sue of sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment without ad­dress­ing the big­gest threat of all to the de­vel­op­ment of small and vul­ner­a­ble na­tions. In Fiji’s case, prov­i­dence saved us from catas­tro­phe be­cause Win­ston struck only part of the country and spared the main pil­lar of our econ­omy. But we live in the sure knowl­edge that a sim­i­lar event scor­ing a di­rect hit on the whole country could dev­as­tate that econ­omy for many years to come. Wipe out all our hard-won de­vel­op­ment gains and make it dif­fi­cult, if not im­pos­si­ble, to meet our 2030 Sus­tain­able De­vel­op­ment Goals.

Ex­cel­len­cies, the mes­sage I am tak­ing to all the fo­rums of the world is sim­ple: the cap on global warm­ing of two de­grees Cel­sius over prein­dus­trial lev­els agreed to in Paris is not enough. Fiji be­lieves that the eu­pho­ria sur­round­ing the agree­ment, even if it is even­tu­ally rat­i­fied, is mis­placed.

It is an im­por­tant first step but much more rad­i­cal ac­tion is needed. Be­cause the sci­en­tists are telling us that it is not enough to save us in the Pa­cific from the ex­treme weather events and ris­ing seas that pose such a threat to our sur­vival. I urge you all to em­brace the cam­paign of Pa­cific na­tions to lower the cap to one-point-five de­grees Cel­sius as soon as pos­si­ble.

It is the fig­ure laid down in the Suva Dec­la­ra­tion is­sued at the end of the last meet­ing in the Fi­jian cap­i­tal of the Pa­cific Is­lands De­vel­op­ment Fo­rum.

We took it to Paris and it was re­jected. But it is the only hope we have to ward off dis­as­ter, not only from ex­treme weather events like Cy­clone Win­ston but the ris­ing seas that threaten vast ar­eas of arable coastal land. And the very ex­is­tence of three of our num­ber who are low-ly­ing atolls – Kiri­bati, Tu­valu and the Mar­shall Is­lands. We are do­ing what we can. Fiji has of­fered to pro­vide a per­ma­nent refuge to the peo­ple of Kiri­bati and Tu­valu –our near­est neigh­bours – in the event that th­ese sov­er­eign na­tions slip be­neath the waves. But we need a much more con­certed ef­fort by the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity to as­sist us to weather a cri­sis that the in­dus­tri­alised na­tions have cre­ated, not us Ex­cel­len­cies, we need ur­gent ac­cess to the fund­ing we need – in the form of grants or loans – for cli­mate adap­ta­tion.

To build our re­silience. Our abil­ity to with­stand the cy­clonic winds, the floods and the droughts as­so­ci­ated with cli­mate change. To strength our homes and our in­fra­struc­ture. To max­imise our chances of sur­vival.

In the case of Fiji, cer­tain av­enues of fund­ing are be­ing de­nied to us be­cause while we are a devel­op­ing country, we have been des­ig­nated a mid­dle in­come na­tion. We are es­sen­tially be­ing pun­ished for our suc­cess in im­prov­ing the liv­ing stan­dards of our peo­ple, even though all of this is now at risk. And as I am do­ing re­peat­edly in global fo­rums, I ap­peal to you all to lobby the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity as a mat­ter of ur­gency to pro­vide small and vul­ner­a­ble na­tions with the ad­e­quate lev­els of fund­ing they need for cli­mate adap­ta­tion.

Ex­cel­len­cies, in this con­text, may I warmly thank the Euro­pean Union for the as­sis­tance it is pro­vid­ing to Fiji. Whether it is to map the ar­eas of our na­tion that are most at risk, pro­vide sup­port for agri­cul­ture and bol­ster our re­silience gen­er­ally.

I coined the term “coali­tion of the self­ish” to de­scribe those na­tions that have been un­will­ing to shoul­der their proper share of the bur­den of re­duc­ing car­bon emis­sions. I am pleased to say that the Euro­pean Union has not been part of that coali­tion. And in­deed, has stood shoul­der to shoul­der with coun­tries such as Fiji, not only in its car­bon re­duc­tion com­mit­ments thus far but in as­sist­ing us with our adap­ta­tion mea­sures. But there is more to be done. And I urge the EU to con­sider em­brac­ing the one­point-five de­gree cap on global warm­ing that the Pa­cific na­tions have pro­posed.

Ex­cel­len­cies, Ladies and Gen­tle­men, I re­peat: the big­gest threat to sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment in the world to­day is the threat posed by cli­mate change. Some threats we can man­age and con­trol. Na­tions such as Fiji can adopt Green Growth Frame­works and do ev­ery­thing they can to try to en­sure their sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment. But it is the threats that we can­not con­trol that pose the great­est dan­ger to the well­be­ing of our peo­ple and our very sur­vival. And I urge you all to main­tain the pres­sure on the global com­mu­nity for a more de­ci­sive and rad­i­cal ap­proach to the ex­is­ten­tial threat we face in the Pa­cific. Vi­naka vakalevu. Thank you. Feed­back: jy­otip@fi­

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