Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama
United Nations, New York
September 29, 2018
I fear that far too many still underestimate the peril we are in due to global warming.
We underestimate, in part, because it is too uncomfortable or politically inconvenient to acknowledge the nature and scale of the risk.
However, the recent weather events – in the last month alone – in the United States, Asia and elsewhere should leave no one in doubt. We have entered a frightening new era. And this is at just one degree of warming above the pre-industrial age.
Our existing NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions) have us on a path to warming of at least three degrees by the end of the century.
This spells catastrophe. Not just for countries like mine, which are currently on the front lines, but for all of us.
Measures taken by Fiji
While it seems we must wait for more of the world to wake up to this simple fact, we certainly cannot afford to wait to take action at home.
That is why, in the last few years, Fiji, with the help of forward-looking partners, has launched a number of ground-breaking initiatives to stand up to this threat and build the resilience of our infrastructure, communities and natural environment.
For example, we have partnered with the World Bank to conduct the first Climate Vulnerability Assessment of its kind, which is now helping us plan how to move forward in a smart and deliberate fashion.
Last year, we launched the first sovereign green bond for a developing country – and third in the world to fund both mitigation and adaptation projects– and earlier this year, we listed it on the London Stock Exchange.
We are taking a leading role in exploring ways to expand renewable energy to isolated communities. We are developing insurance products tailor-made for small-island countries. And we are beginning to consider some of the legal complexities that will arise as more and more people are displaced by climate change.
The Talanoa Dialogue
But as we take action at the national level, we are also proud to do what we can to lead at the global level.
This is of the Talanoa Dialogue, which is based on the concept of Talanoa, an open, honest and respectful process of dialogue used in communities in Fiji and other Pacific nations.
The idea of Talanoa is to move the world beyond debates and zero-sum negotiations in order to bring the best ideas to the surface and share them – all in an effort to give political leaders the inspiration, the tools and the partnerships they need to prepare more ambitious emission reduction targets by 2020.
Global Climate Action Summit
One of the greatest examples of the power of Talanoa was last fortnight’s Global Climate Action Summit, convened by my friend and Special Envoy to States and Regions, Californian Governor Jerry Brown. Investors, cities, states, civil society groups and others showed us the groundswell of climate action that is taking place around the world.
They showed us how some of the brightest minds have turned their attention to developing the technology and solutions to help us face this crisis. And, most importantly, they showed us a number of ways that countries can harness all this progress and put it to use to strengthen climate ambition at the national level.
The task ahead
This is the task before us. As national leaders, we are expected to search for ways, within our own means and resources, to strengthen our NDCs resolutely upward by 2020.
The Talanoa Dialogue at COP24 is an important milestone on this path and I fully expect that it will provide the catalyst needed to help us get there.
But do not think that my small island country is asking the world to do what we are not willing to do ourselves. While we have contributed little to the warming that now threatens our planet, we are determined to lead by example.
At the One Planet Summit, I will commit Fiji to delivering an enhanced NDC by the Secretary General’s Climate Summit next year.
To achieve this, we are engaging all sectors of the economy to prepare a long-term decarbonisation strategy for net-zero emissions by 2050, which we will launch at COP24 in Poland. This process of broad consultation will inform the preparation of the new NDC, including examining strengthened reduction targets from our transport, maritime, agriculture and forestry sectors. This, of course, is in addition to our existing commitment to produce one hundred per cent of our energy from renewable sources by 2030.
As my fellow Pacific leader from the Marshall Islands (which launched its own 2050 Net-Zero Strategy this week) President Heine, has said, “If we can do it, so can you.”
Frankly, there is no acceptable excuse not to. We look to other nations to follow our lead in raising ambition. It is the only way we can keep warming to within 1.5 degrees this century.
I said I feared that too many people continue to underestimate the challenge ahead of us.
But let us not also underestimate our collective ability to solve the problem.
Exponential technological change is already happening, which can be a game changer.
We have the ability to change our energy systems, to draw down carbon into our forests, mangroves and soils and to make more efficient use of our resources. But it’s up to us to make sure we don’t fall short of our potential.
Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama is Prime Minister of Fiji. The above was his address to the 73rd Annual General Assembly of the United Nations at its Headquarters in New York today (September 29, 2018).