PM: CLI­MATE CHANGE, SIN­GLE MOST IM­POR­TANT CRI­SIS FAC­ING OUR NA­TION

FOR SOME OF OUR NEIGH­BOURS, IT IS LIT­ER­ALLY A MAT­TER OF LIFE AND DEATH THESE ARE THREATS TO EV­ERY GOVERN­MENT, EV­ERY COM­MU­NITY AND EV­ERY PER­SON ‘We are de­ter­mined to leave our is­lands in a bet­ter state for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. And we urge mem­bers of the Col

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It gives me great plea­sure to ex­tend to you all a very warm wel­come on be­half of the Govern­ment and the peo­ple of Fiji and to thank the Colombo Plan for ac­cept­ing our in­vi­ta­tion to host the 45th ses­sion of the Colombo Plan Con­sul­ta­tive Meet­ing. We hope that while you are here you will en­joy our true Fi­jian hos­pi­tal­ity ex­em­pli­fied by our Bula Spirit. Many Fi­jians are still feel­ing the joy of our his­toric gold medal win at the Rio Olympics for sev­ens rugby, so I think you will find our peo­ple even more hos­pitable than usual.

For Fiji, as a Small Is­land De­vel­op­ing State, cli­mate change is not just a sig­nif­i­cant global is­sue. It is the sin­gle most im­por­tant cri­sis fac­ing our na­tion. And for some of our neigh­bours, it is lit­er­ally a mat­ter of life and death. Ex­treme weather events, ris­ing seas and en­vi­ron­men­tal change and degra­da­tion threaten us at our very core. These are threats to ev­ery govern­ment, ev­ery com­mu­nity and ev­ery per­son. Some Pa­cific na­tions are fac­ing the very real pos­si­bil­ity of dis­ap­pear­ing be­neath the seas. They may have no is­lands to call their own. The peo­ple will have to mi­grate, but their way of life and their cul­ture may never be the same as re­luc­tant ex­iles in an­other coun­try, no mat­ter how gen­er­ous their new host na­tion may be. We are also work­ing with our threat­ened neigh­bours. The Govern­ment of Kiri­bati has pur­chased 20 square kilo­me­tres of farm­land on our sec­ond ma­jor is­land, Vanua Levu, to guar­an­tee the food se­cu­rity of its peo­ple, and they are al­ready growing root crops there. And should the un­think­able oc­cur, Fiji has com­mit­ted to pro­vide a per­ma­nent home to the en­tire pop­u­la­tions of Kiri­bati and Tu­valu – our two clos­est neigh­bours. We pray that this will be un­nec­es­sary, but we must pre­pare for the un­think­able. In Fiji alone, my Govern­ment has iden­ti­fied some 830 com­mu­ni­ties that will prob­a­bly need to be re­lo­cated to es­cape to ris­ing sea lev­els. Of this group, about 40 are high pri­or­ity. We will keep them as close to their cur­rent lo­ca­tion as pos­si­ble so that the cul­tural, so­cial and eco­nomic dis­rup­tion can be kept to a min­i­mum. But any move like this is bound to pro­voke anx­i­ety and fear. Peo­ple need to be­lieve they will be safe when they fi­nally re­lo­cate. They will be con­cerned about the re­lo­ca­tion of the graves of their fam­ily mem­bers - there are huge im­pli­ca­tions for food se­cu­rity, health, ed­u­ca­tion, em­ploy­ment and the dig­nity and over­all well­be­ing of com­mu­ni­ties. Many of you present to­day are fac­ing sim­i­lar chal­lenges. We, Pa­cific Small Is­land De­vel­op­ing States don’t have the lux­ury of time. The fact that Fiji was the first coun­try to sign and rat­ify the Paris Agree­ment shows the ur­gency of the hour and our com­mit­ment to the fu­ture of our com­mon hu­man­ity. But we have only be­gun our cam­paign to spur the world to real ac­tion to com­bat cli­mate change, and we will con­tinue to press and press and press—at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity, in ev­ery fo­rum, un­til the world takes the dif­fi­cult steps, makes the hard choices and shares the sac­ri­fices nec­es­sary to con­front cli­mate change. We ac­knowl­edge the U.S govern­ment, China and other in­dus­tri­alised coun­tries for fol­low­ing suit and rat­i­fy­ing the Paris Agree­ment. And we are grate­ful for the sol­i­dar­ity of our Pa­cific neigh­bours in this re­gard, through the Suva Dec­la­ra­tion and their stren­u­ous ef­forts in­ter­na­tion­ally. But the hard work has just be­gun. We are de­ter­mined to leave our is­lands in a bet­ter state for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. And we urge mem­bers of the Colombo Plan who have not rat­i­fied the Paris Agree­ment to do so as soon as pos­si­ble. And then we ask you to join our un­com­pro­mis­ing call for ac­tion.

In Fe­bru­ary this year, Fiji was dev­as­tated by Cy­clone Win­ston, the big­gest trop­i­cal cy­clone ever to make land­fall in the south­ern hemi­sphere. In 2015, Trop­i­cal Cy­clone Pam laid waste to Van­u­atu. In late 2014, the Philip­pines suf­fered enor­mous destruc­tion and loss of life from Typhoon Haiyan. And we re­mem­ber, of course, that

Win­ston crossed over Tonga twice; it did a 180-de­gree turn and came back across Tonga to strike Fiji. So we are not alone as these trop­i­cal storms get stronger and even strike out­side the tra­di­tional cy­clone sea­son. We con­tinue the long road to re­cov­ery from Win­ston, and one of our pri­or­ity ar­eas is en­sur­ing that schools and homes and dam­aged in­fra­struc­ture are re­built and re-equipped as quickly as pos­si­ble. We thank our de­vel­op­ment part­ners and many friendly coun­tries for their timely as­sis­tance in the wake of Cy­clone Win­ston. Re­build­ing is good, of course, but prepa­ra­tion, pre­ven­tion and re­silience are much bet­ter.

Ex­cel­len­cies, ladies and gentle­men, the theme that we have cho­sen for our meet­ing fo­cuses on com­mu­nity-based adap­ta­tion to cli­mate change. Ev­ery Fi­jian now knows how im­por­tant it is for our na­tion to deal with the ef­fects of cli­mate change. But in the end, when the wind blows, when the rains don’t come as ex­pected, when the waters surge, ev­ery com­mu­nity and ev­ery house­hold en­dures the ef­fects in a very in­ti­mate way. Govern­ment re­sources, know-how and or­gan­i­sa­tion must be mar­shalled for the pub­lic good, and govern­ment lead­er­ship is es­sen­tial, but in the end it is the lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties that must be pre­pared. Peo­ple must be able to adapt to the mul­ti­ple threats caused by ris­ing sea lev­els, storm surges, drought and in­creas­ing in­ten­sity of trop­i­cal cy­clones. And ev­ery na­tion must forge a strong part­ner­ship be­tween the na­tional govern­ment and the lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties.

As a na­tion, our nat­u­ral re­sources, in­clud­ing our flora and fauna, are at im­mense risk. More­over, vari­a­tions in cli­matic con­di­tions place ad­di­tional stress on ecosys­tems, which makes them more vul­ner­a­ble and harder to pro­tect. In some cases, ecosys­tems that have pro­vided liveli­hoods for peo­ple for gen­er­a­tions face dra­matic change: Some species may dis­ap­pear, and new species may ar­rive to take their places, bring­ing dif­fer­ent sources of food or new chal­lenges for earn­ing a liveli­hood in our ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties.

In this re­gard, it is es­sen­tial to build aware­ness in and de­velop strate­gies for com­mu­ni­ties whose re­sources and im­me­di­ate environment are at risk from chang­ing cli­mate. We need to be con­stantly on guard to the need to adapt, and we need to arm our lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties with the in­for­ma­tion and re­sources they need to do so.

In Fiji, we have also put into place long-term strate­gies for en­sur­ing that our young peo­ple un­der­stand the ef­fects of cli­mate change.

Part of this has been to de­velop ed­u­ca­tional poli­cies on sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment and bring to­gether the right per­son­nel and re­sources. But we are also keen to tap into tra­di­tional knowl­edge, as part of our over­all mit­i­ga­tion strate­gies.

The fact is that en­vi­ron­men­tal protection must be a ma­jor fo­cus of our de­vel­op­ment ef­forts for the fore­see­able fu­ture. So in 2015, Fiji launched its Green Growth Frame­work with par­tic­u­lar em­pha­sis on the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the 2030 Agenda on the sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment goals. These com­mit­ments are being in­cor­po­rated as a mat­ter of pri­or­ity into our five­and twenty-year Na­tional De­vel­op­ment Plans cur­rently un­der for­mu­la­tion.

Oceans

In the spirit of the Paris Agree­ment, we will also be co-host­ing, with the govern­ment of Swe­den, the UN Oceans Con­fer­ence on the im­ple­men­ta­tion SDG14, in New York, in June next year. The un­re­lent­ing degra­da­tion of the oceans and their pre­cious re­sources should be a mat­ter of grave con­cern to ev­ery na­tion. We know how im­por­tant the oceans are. The im­por­tance of the ocean to our Pa­cific peo­ples are self-ev­i­dent—for their cul­ture, for their liveli­hoods, and for their health. But they are also the earth’s cir­cu­la­tory sys­tem, and their health af­fects the health of ev­ery con­ti­nent, ev­ery is­land, ev­ery city and ev­ery farmer’s field.

There­fore, I ask you all to do ev­ery­thing you can to pro­mote the themes and ideals of this con­fer­ence and draw global at­ten­tion to the is­sues at stake – the ur­gent need to re­verse the pol­lu­tion, the pro­lif­er­a­tion of rub­bish in the ocean, the over­fish­ing and the destruc­tion of marine habi­tats that has reached alarm­ing pro­por­tions in so many parts of the world.

Ex­cel­len­cies, ladies and gentle­men, we have a chance next June to bring the na­tions to­gether to for­mu­late a more con­certed and holis­tic re­sponse to sav­ing our oceans and seas.

Fiji is nat­u­rally very proud to be co­host­ing this event with our Swedish friends. It is a great hon­our for a Pa­cific Small Is­land De­vel­op­ing State to be given the task of do­ing so, and Fiji shares that hon­our with ev­ery Pa­cific Is­lan­der.

Colombo Plan and Fiji

Ex­cel­len­cies, ladies and gentle­men, While the fo­cus of this meet­ing is on re­silience to cli­mate change, I do not want to ig­nore all the ben­e­fits Fiji has gained through the Colombo Plan in the ar­eas of fight­ing drug traf­fick­ing and pre­vent­ing drug abuse, com­mu­nity polic­ing, shar­ing of in­for­ma­tion be­tween the pub­lic and law en­force­ment agen­cies, SME de­vel­op­ment, gen­der equal­ity, hu­man rights. It is my Govern­ment’s pri­or­ity to build a na­tion and a work­force that can meet the chal­lenges and reap the re­wards of the 21st cen­tury. Our train­ing and ed­u­ca­tion must be highly tar­geted and re­fined, and that is where the Colombo Plan has set its foun­da­tion. The Colombo Plan pol­icy ob­jec­tives dove­tail well with Fiji’s na­tional pri­or­i­ties, and the Colombo Plan train­ing pro­grammes have been of enor­mous ben­e­fit to Fiji’s de­vel­op­ment in the 44 years that we have been a mem­ber. So in the true spirit of the Colombo Plan, I call on mem­ber coun­tries and in­ter­na­tional Non Gov­ern­men­tal Or­gan­i­sa­tions for their ac­tive co-op­er­a­tion with Fiji and other Pa­cific Is­land Coun­tries in com­bat­ing the ef­fects of cli­mate change through the Colombo Plan ini­tia­tives.

I am cer­tain that you will see par­al­lels in your own coun­tries to the chal­lenges we in the Pa­cific face in re­spond­ing to cli­mate change, and I am sure that this area of work will fea­ture strongly in fu­ture pro­grammes of the Colombo Plan. This is, af­ter all, the great­est chal­lenge we face glob­ally in the 21st cen­tury. We have much to learn from each other, and this meet­ing gives us the plat­form to share lessons learnt and best prac­tices. I wish you ev­ery suc­cess in your meet­ing. Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.

Prime Min­is­ter Voreqe Bain­i­marama The Pres­i­dent of the Colombo Plan Coun­cil, Sec­re­tary Gen­eral of the Colombo Plan, Ex­cel­len­cies, dis­tin­guished del­e­gates, Bula Vinaka and greetings to you all. The fol­low­ing is Prime Min­is­ter Voreqe Bain­i­marama’s open­ing re­marks at the in­au­gu­ral ses­sion of the 45th Colombo Plan Con­sul­ta­tive Com­mit­tee meet­ing yes­ter­day in Suva.

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