“The threat climate change places on the tourism sector has broad and severe implications” – Climate Champion’s Speech at Regional Seminar on Climate Change, Biodiversity and Sustainable Tourism Development

Climate Champion Inia Seruiratu’s remarks at the 30th Joint Meeting of the UNWTO CAP-CSA Meeting in Fiji

Bula vinaka and a very good afternoon to you all

I am delighted to join here today at the closing of this very important regional seminar on “Climate Change, Biodiversity and Sustainable Tourism Development”.

Firstly, let me congratulate each and everyone of you for the success of the seminar. I am told that there was a rich exchange of information with open frank discussions during the day.

I hope that this gathering of insights, experiences, and knowledge – from the diverse corners of the Asia-Pacific region will set a strong platform for increased regional and global partnership and collaboration.

This will be important because while we are diverse in the geography of our land, in the scale of our economies, in the culture of our people, and in the uniqueness of our ecosystems, we are all faced by one common threat – CLIMATE CHANGE.

Ladies and gentlemen

We all come from countries with a booming tourism industry. For us from small island states, this makes up our main GDP and therefore, the threat climate change places on the tourism sector has broad and severe implications, impacting our national economies down to the livelihoods of local communities.

Today you deliberated on “sustainable development tourism initiatives tackling climate change and biodiversity loss”. A topic that emphasises the strong linkages between our tourism sector and the environment.

It is clear that the attractions that draw tourists to our countries are under threat from climate change –our beautiful coral reefs are under threat from bleaching, our rich terrestrial and marine ecosystems are exposed to intensifying extreme weather events, our local food produce, especially fish, is depleting, and our sandy white beaches are being washed away into the sea.

As we go through these threats it is apparent that the problem does not belong to one sector or organisation alone. This caIls for partnerships and cooperation across all sectors, through all ranks of government and with all agencies and organisations.

I would like to share with you the different developments the Fijian Government is undertaking to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss and where the tourism sector can or will play a role.

The first is the Environmental and Climate Adaptation Levy that was put in place last year. The levy capitalises on the booming tourism sector which provides a feasible environment for the establishment of a green and climate financing tool.

It should be noted that even after Category 5 Cyclone Winston ravaged Fiji in 2016, visitor arrivals to our shores continued to increase in 2017.

The Environment and Climate Adaptation Levy is levied at the rate of 10% on prescribed services and mainly on visitor-related businesses with high turnovers. The funds will be used to support local climate adaptation and resilience projects and for the protection and enhancement of our natural resources.

The levy will result in healthy gains for the benefit of vulnerable local communities, for the protection of our natural ecosystems, and will foster ethical responsibility within the tourism sector where visitors and service users give back to a worthwhile cause.

The second is the Fiji green bond. The Fiji green bond is `a 100-million Fijian dollar bond that was launched in October, 2017 – making Fiji only the third country in the world and the first in the Southern Hemisphere to issue a sovereign green bond.

I am sure you would have been informed of this green bond and how this bond will support investments that build resilience against the impacts of climate change including adaptation projects with nature-based solutions.

The issuance of Fijian Green Bonds expands the number of climate financing instruments available and stimulates private sector investment promoting sustainable economic growth.

We are proud to be issuers of this green bond and to send the message to the world that small countries with small economies can also create innovative climate financing tools geared towards strengthening the resilience of our people and our economies.

The third development is a Blue Carbon Project for the Pacific. The anticipated blue carbon project will see Fiji working with other Pacific countries to protect and manage coastal blue carbon ecosystems in the Pacific. These ecosystems – mangroves, tidal marshes and seagrasses – sequester more carbon per square metre than almost any other ecosystem and also play an important role in maintaining and nurturing the rich biodiversity of our marine ecosystem.

Well managed blue carbon initiatives will contribute to biodiversity conservation and reduce the vulnerability of terrestrial and marine ecosystems and of course local communities. This in turn will strengthen the resilience of our tourism industry and provide investment opportunities.

All these initiatives serve to protect our biodiversity, increase the resilience of our local communities and economy, and boost private sector investment.

The participation of the tourism industry will boost these initiatives and this highlights the important role the tourism sector can play in supporting governments with the implementation of their NDCs.

I therefore, encourage the tourism industry and governments to collaborate closely on how you can play a role in enhancing and implementing your country NDCS – a process which is at the core of achieving the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Ladies and gentlemen

I would like to conclude by reminding us all that we live in challenging times. Climate change is placing an array of stressors on our environment, on our people, on our economies, and on our way of life.

We all need to come together to respond to these challenges. No single government, sector, development organisation, company, or industry can address these challenges on their own. Nor can they do so through isolated, uncoordinated actions.

Partnerships, coordination and joint initiatives must be at the core of how we respond to these challenges.

This is crucial for the sustainability of the tourism sector and for the livelihoods of the people who depend on this.

I wish you all an enjoyable evening and fruitful discussions over the next two days.

Vinaka vakalevu.  Thank you.