07/08/19

“Climate Change Act will make sure we deliver climate action and ambition in Fiji” – Minister of Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum’s Ministerial Statement

I wish to inform Parliament and the nation of an important new measure that the Fijian Government intends to implement over the coming months to better prepare us for the challenges we face from climate change. It is a Climate Change Act that will enshrine, in law, our domestic response to the climate threat and the threat to our oceans and place that law at the heart of our national policies and priorities.

Stretching across the whole of government and much of the private sector and necessitating changes to a range of existing legislation, the Act will be comprehensive, holistic and easily understood. It will:

  • provide a framework to guide Fiji’s implementation of the Paris Agreement;
  • co-ordinate our national response to climate change and ocean health; and
  • give us the legal tools to carry out our most important job of safeguarding the Fijian people and their communities from the climate threat now and into the future.

Mr Speaker Sir, work has been underway on this legislation for the past six months and we will soon embark on an appropriate period of public consultation on the draft bill, with further input from international experts to ensure it meets the standard of world’s best practice. We are, in fact, one of the few small number of countries in the world to produce such a bill and right from the start of this process, we have been determined to make it the best.

The climate bill will be introduced in Parliament in the September session before the United Nations Secretary General’s Climate Summit and, with the intention of being enacted into law before COP25 in Chile in December of this year. We hope that other nations will of course emulate it.

Some of its provisions have already been announced in the Budget, including measures to reduce plastics pollution – a key threat to our waterways and oceans.

They include:

  • a ban on all single-use plastic bags including those with and without handles from 1 January next year;
  • an increase in the plastic bag levy from 20 cents to 50 cents on low density polyethylene (LDPE) plastic bags from 1 January next years;
  • a ban on styrofoam from 1 January 2021 following a series of national consultations;
  • and zero duty on non-plastic food packaging such as straws, containers and cutlery.

Put simply Mr Speaker sir, Fijians need to wean themselves off plastic if we are to improve the health of our oceans on which much of our food and livelihoods depend. So we encourage the use, for instance, of reusable shopping baskets and bags made and woven in particular by Fijian women and artisans. Of course before the advent of single use plastic bags which is only a few decades ago, we all used these reusable or nature based bags.

Mr Speaker Sir, before we provide information on some of the other provisions of the Act, we wish to explain its importance, the context in which it is being introduced and the absolute imperative of everyone getting behind it.

The Fijian Government seeks cross-party support and indeed national support for this new legislation in the Parliament, along with the support of every Fijian. Because on any fair appraisal, it is responsible, it is balanced and it is necessary. In the interest of demonstrating Fiji’s resolve and persuading other nations to enact similar laws, for climate change. We must speak with one voice and support the Climate Act.

Combined with the increase we intend to make in our Nationally Determined Contribution – our NDC – to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we will be sending the world yet another powerful message: That our successful presidency of COP23 and the unprecedented mana it gave us in the community of nations was not the end of Fiji’s global climate leadership. Far from it. It was merely the opening round of our fight for survival here in the Pacific in which we intend to keep punching above our weight in the coming years for ourselves and our neighbours.

Mr Speaker Sir, after we surrendered the COP presidency last December, we continued to play a leadership role at COP24 in Poland, where our concept of a Talanoa Dialogue to boost climate ambition was enthusiastically embraced by the nations of the world. In our own region, our leadership of the Climate Action Pacific Partnership in May has set a new standard of inclusiveness and partnership between governments, civil society and the private sector.

Next comes the Pacific Islands Forum in Tuvalu next week in which Fiji re-joins the Leaders’ Summit to make the case for more ambition on the part of the island states and our larger neighbours. Then comes the UN Secretary General’s Climate Action Summit in New York next month, where Mr Guterres has issued a challenge to the whole world: come with plans to increase your 2030 emission targets and achieve carbon neutral economies by 2050.

Mr Speaker Sir, all of us in this Parliament and every Fijian can be proud that we intend to meet this challenge with the revised NDC that we will be taking to New York through the Honourable Prime Minister – a faster transition to renewable energy, more efficient utilisation of our forests and mangroves – nature’s carbon capture – and a range of innovative mechanisms to achieve the net zero emission target 31 years from now.

Then comes COP25 in Santiago, Chile, in December, where the Honourable Prime Minister will again spearhead our campaign on behalf of the Pacific and other vulnerable nations as we know that we are also chairing PSIDS. The Honourable PM has become an acknowledged statesman in the climate arena. He is on the High Level UN Panel put together personally by the Secretary General on Ocean with other heads of state and government across the globe , including those from Australia, Canada, Indonesia, Chile, Mexico ,Portugal and, a number of others. I am also on the Global Commission on Adaptation that is chaired by Ban Ki- moon, the former UN Secretary General, and co-chaired by Bill Gates and the CEO of the World Bank.

Mr Speaker, Sir, we must support the Honourable Prime Minister and the rest of the Fijian climate team as we rise to the challenge before us over the coming months. Because if anything, Mr Speaker, that challenge is greater now than ever before.

July, Mr Speaker, has been the hottest month the world has ever recorded. And all over the planet are alarming signs that the climate threat is escalating at a far greater pace than scientists had predicted. The Arctic ice is melting faster than we thought and the European summer has seen record temperatures across the continent, including the hottest day ever recorded in the French capital and cradle of the Paris Agreement – 42 degrees.

There are more droughts. More floods. More devastating wildfires across the world. Ever more serious impacts on agriculture and the world’s ability to feed itself. And here in the vast Pacific sits our beloved Fiji. Small and increasingly vulnerable as we scan the horizon anxiously year by year for the kind of extreme weather event that three years ago took the lives of 44 of our loved ones and inflicted damage equal to one third of the value of our GDP. And which, God forbid, could be much worse in the event of a direct hit on the whole of Fiji and especially our capital.

Mr Speaker Sir, that is the grave situation in which we find ourselves through no fault of our own and why this Government puts such a strong emphasis on the climate issue. This is a fight for our lives and our livelihoods. There is no room for cynicism, no room for complacency. We cannot afford climate change fatigue to set in Fiji. Because if anything, the outlook is worsening.

Mr Speaker Sir in Bonn in May, we suffered a significant setback when the nations of the world – under pressure from certain fossil fuel producers – set aside the IPCC scientific report endorsing the call for global warming to be capped at 1.5 degrees Celsius above that of the pre-industrial age. Mr Speaker Sir you will recall that the 1.5 degree target has been central to the efforts of Fiji and other Pacific island nations to achieve a greater response to the climate threat. It was first enshrined in the landmark Suva Declaration of the PIDF four years ago before going truly global, embraced by countries around the world. Well, now that 1.5 is off the table altogether at the UNFCCC level – the global climate negotiations, it is a blow to our hopes for more ambition that Fiji regards as grossly irresponsible and selfish.

Mr Speaker Sir, as the impacts of climate change accelerate and attempts are made to weaken global ambition, we must listen more than ever to the scientists, not the climate deniers or those motivated by self interest or political interest. So we will be renewing and reinvigorating our campaign for 1.5 to be reinstated as the benchmark ambition. We will be marshalling those who share our concerns and asking the Chilean Presidency to do everything possible to put 1.5 back on the agenda at COP25.

Mr Speaker Sir, at home, our Climate Change Act will be a legal umbrella to make sure we deliver climate action and ambition in Fiji – to lead by example rather than merely look to others to solve the problem. Let me highlight some of the key features Mr Speaker Sir:

  • The Act will implement Fiji’s commitments and obligations under the Paris Agreement and our enhanced NDC.
  • It will establish a comprehensive framework for Fiji to achieve its long-term emissions reduction target of net-zero by 2050 by establishing a system for the measurement, reporting and verification of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • It will set up a national greenhouse gas inventory and outline pathways for mitigating our emissions.
  • It will legally support key policy documents already issued, including the National Climate Change Policy, the Low Emissions Development Strategy, the National Adaptation Plan and the National Planned Relocation Guidelines.
  • It will provide a framework for adaptation and resilience development, including conducting an audit of existing infrastructure. Decision makers will be required to ensure that new infrastructure has undergone a climate risk and resilience assessment.
  • The Act will require government, public and private actors and other entities to consider climate change risks in making decisions.
  • It will require environmental impact assessments when we build new infrastructure so that where possible, losses from events like Cyclone Winston can be reduced. And where we rebuild, we will build back better.
  • The Act will reward Fijians who develop projects that assist the climate effort and reduce emissions with Fijian carbon credits that can potentially be sold in Fiji or traded internationally. This includes those who provide cleaner transport or protect forests and mangroves and who will benefit from mechanisms in the Act that support this.
  • It will establish principles and procedures for the relocation of communities that are at risk from the adverse effects of climate change and support the Relocation Trust Fund that has already been approved by Parliament. We will be doing an international launch through the Honourable Prime Minister of this Trust Fund at the UNSG Climate Summit next month.
  • And the new Act Mr. Speaker Sir, will recognise the need for a healthy ocean to deliver a healthy climate and establish that the two cannot be separated in an ocean-based nation such as Fiji and indeed for the Globe.

Mr Speaker, Sir. We want to help businesses and our communities manage and adapt to the impacts of climate change. As the first and one of the few governments in the world to combine our Ministry of Economy and the department of climate change, we understand the intrinsic relationship between a strong economy and a stable climate agenda.

Mr Speaker Sir we want to assure Honourable Members that the Government will engage with all stakeholders in the spirit of cooperation and goodwill. Because under pinning the new Act. Mr Speaker is the principle the Honourable Prime Minister has always enunciated both domestically and locally that all of us are in the same drua, the same canoe, when it comes to climate change. We are, in fact, hoping that as many Fijians as possible take advantage of the opportunities the Act will create to undertake projects that reduce emissions. And in doing so, earn carbon credits provided for under the legislation.

Mr Speaker Sir, we hope that our development partners will recognise the importance of this Act and assist us with its implementation, noting that countries like Australia, NewZealand and the United Kingdom all have deep expertise in this area that we have drawn on in designing our own law.

We also need to constantly find innovative and affordable financial products that will assist us to provide sustainable funds to meet our climate and development-related objectives-indeed we say they are the same. We need to be able to leverage off not just our biltateral and multilateral partners but also involve the private sector.

We look to our development partners to assist us with implementing specific provisions that qualify for access to the increasing pool of funding available for climate-vulnerable nations and for improving the state of our oceans.

Our Green Bond launched at the London Stock Exchange by the Honourable Prime Minister last year made history as the first to be issued by an emerging economy. We have plans to bring additional climate finance to Fiji and you will be hearing more about our efforts to attract this investment in the coming months. We must in this respect also ensure that the costs of bonds are attractive and sustainable. We look forward to working with our development partners to assist in crowding in private funds in the climate bond market at attractive and sustainable rates.

  • In respect to that Mr Speaker, Sir we are starting work on the design of a new Blue Bond to attract climate finance to support the restoration, rehabilitation and preservation of mangroves and sea grasses in Fiji and other Pacific countries. As a pilot project under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, this Blue Bond would generate mitigation and adaptation outcomes for investors while at the same time building sustainable fisheries and assisting local communities, for example local fishermen and women etc in meeting compliance and safety requirements and costs.
  • We are exploring, with the Green Climate Fund, opportunities to secure early results-based payments for protecting our forests under the GCF’s REDD+ scheme.
  • And Mr Speaker, Sir we are leading, with the Marshall Islands, the Pacific Blue Shipping Partnership that is working on a blended and innovative finance structure to support the decarbonisation of domestic marine transportation fleets and facilities in Fiji and across the region. This means replacing inter-island ships with more efficient hybrid ships, thereby reducing fuel costs and emissions.

Mr Speaker Sir, as we have already signalled, a key focus of our Climate Change Act is recognising the need for a healthy ocean to deliver a healthy climate. As the Members may know, we made reference in the Budget to the Government’s plan to strengthen the Exclusive Economic Zone around Fiji.

  • We are pleased to announce the development of a National Oceans Policy under which Fiji plans to moves to a 100 per cent sustainably managed Exclusive Economic Zone, with 30 per cent of this being earmarked as a marine protected area by no later than 2030. Fiji will be asking other Pacific nations to join us in this ambitious venture at next week’s Pacific Islands Forum and at the UNSG Summit that will be held next month.
  • Mr Speaker, Sir Fiji is also asking other Pacific nations at the Pacific Islands Forum leaders meeting next week to join us in imposing a 10 year moratorium on seabed mining from 2020 to 2030.This would allow for a decade of proper scientific research of our economic zones and territorial waters.
  • In addition, Fiji and other Pacific countries are seeking funding to develop a world-class Marine Research Centre and Marine Education Programmes at the Fiji National University and University of the South Pacific.

Mr Speaker, Sir in conclusion we ask all Honourable Members to support these initiatives which we have outlined, all of which are part of a considered and holistic response by the Government to the increasing challenges we face from climate change and the pressures of development on land and at sea. We have an absolute and whole-of-government commitment to the 2030 global sustainable development agenda. It is the cornerstone of our national policies as we have the Sustainable Development Goals incorporated into our five and twenty year National Development Plans, with specific targets and policies aligned with the long-term transformation of our nation and its economy Mr Speaker, Sir.

Mr Speaker, Sir we also express Government’s appreciation to those of our development partners who are assisting with this national effort and ask them to do what they can to provide continuous support and assistance for the various initiatives that we have outlined today.

 

Thank you, Mr Speaker.