06/11/17

“Make no Mistake, Climate Change is the Greatest Threat Humankind has ever Faced” – Climate Champion’s Remarks at Opening of Talanoa Space

High-Level Climate Champion Inia Seruiratu remarks at the opening of the Talanoa Space at COP23 in Bonn, Germany.

Bula vinaka and a good afternoon to you all.

As COP23 Climate Champion, I am especially excited to be here with you in the Talanoa Space, because this is where the voice of the people will be heard. And I am especially grateful to the government of the federal Republic of Germany for working with to create this space.

This space is a symbol of the great partnership and friendship that has developed between our two nations over the course of the year. COP23 has truly been a joint effort between Fiji, the German Government, the UNFCCC and the City of Bonn. So please let me begin by giving thanks to my two colleagues and friends from the German Environment and Development ministries, and to their teams for their kind and energetic support.

Through them, I would also like to thank the German people for the very warm welcome we have received. From the events and banners that have been organised by the city, to the taxi drivers and ordinary people who are already starting to greet us with “Bula,” we have certainly found a home away from home in Bonn. We deeply appreciate this support, and we will surely never forget it.

From the beginning, our idea for the Talanoa Space was to create an area that would be run by civil society organisations, non-profits, and business groups. This is their space—your space. And you have responded to the opportunity. Working together, you have designed a program that spans the earth in its variety of topics.

The real strength of the program, in my view, is that you will hear many different perspectives over the course of the two weeks. You will hear about innovative technologies to reduce emissions here in Europe and also hear from Pacific Youths taking climate action in their small island communities. You will discuss climate change and gender perspectives here in the Rhine and also from the Pacific.

When people of good will come together to listen and share with a common purpose in mind, real progress can be made. This is the spirit of Talanoa. You may have similar experiences in other countries—open discussions where all persons are welcome to express themselves, give their views, tell stories, share experiences, and most importantly, forge relationships. For many Pacific nations, it is an essential part of community, politics and culture. Talanoa is not a debate. It is not a legislature. It is a way for all kinds of people to bond in respect and understanding.

In my role as Climate Champion. I pledge to you that this room will not be an echo chamber. Your presence and participation will have real purpose, real impact. That is because it is my job to take the ideas that emerge from your discussions to the government negotiators who are attempting to agree on the terms for moving the Paris Agreement forward. The agreement must be converted to action, and it is our job—yours and mine—to influence those actions in the best sense of the term. We want to be sure that the experiences, practical solutions, and innovative technologies shared in this room is fuel that powers change.

With half the schedule organised by a Fijian steering committee, and half by a German one, we will be hearing voices from opposite ends of the earth. We will hear voices from parts of world in very different stages of development and from various areas of work. But for the Talanoa Space to really be a success, we cannot let the two halves of the schedule fall into silos. We must attend each other’s events, listen to each other’s stories, share each other’s experiences, and learn from each other’s ideas.

Friends, make no mistake, climate change is the greatest threat humankind has ever faced. Without a truly collective effort, we have no chance of achieving our ambitious target of limiting the rise in global temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius. As our Prime Minister has said before, no-one, no matter how powerful, can solve the climate challenge on their own.

At COP23, we must switch on our collective ambition to do more and to move further and faster. We are in Bonn to save our seas, not to raise them. To protect the vulnerable, not to abandon them. To empower the marginalised, not to ignore them. Let this be our call.

Talanoa is a way to keep the solutions interconnected. So I urge you: Be energetic. Stay engaged. Go to the discussions of sectors which you are not familiar with. Learn. Compare. Connect. See how we can join together to build solutions.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am very optimistic about what we can accomplish here. I encourage you to work through the Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action where your efforts can be showcased, enhanced and, with my support, channeled into the UNFCCC process. Through this process, you will strengthen this collective effort to move climate action forward, in a sustainable manner.

Vinaka vakelevu and thank you very much. Let’s all unite for climate action – further, faster, together.