05/11/17

The Earth is Our Home, We Must Protect It – Incoming COP23 President

Prime Minister and incoming COP23 President’s speech at the the opening of the Climate Planet in Bonn, Germany on 5 November 2017.

Bula vinaka, Guten Morgen and a very good morning to you all.

What a magnificent structure! And what a powerful reminder of the fragility of our planet and of our obligation to protect and nuture it for all time.

What we are opening today is a very powerful symbol of the need for us all to gather in Bonn for COP23 to talk, to listen and to act on climate change. And as the president of COP23, I’m delighted to be with you all on the eve of COP to open this space that many thousands of people will pass through over the next two weeks.

My warmest congratulations and thanks go to all those who have made this structure possible. We must ensure that there is a connection between this space, the people who pass through it, and our formal negotiations at COP.

Friends, now that I am here and can see for myself how much work has gone into creating the extended Bonn Zone, I want to pay tribute to the German Government, the German people, the city of Bonn and the UNFCCC for what you have created along the banks of the Rhine.  

Since I was last here in May, I can see just how much hard work has gone into creating the Bonn Zone. And I’m especially delighted to see Fiji displayed on so many street signs and posters, just as I am to see so many citizens of Bonn and local businesses – big and small – embrace the spirit and purpose of COP23.

For our part, the Fijians who have come across the world to Bonn intend to honour your commitment and hard work by bringing you something of our Bula Spirit. You will see our dancers and musicians at locations all over the city in the next couple of weeks, And if you visit the Fijian Pavilion, you will also gain an appreciation of our way of life, our diversity, the energy of our people and our beautiful surroundings.

Friends, we are deeply grateful as a nation that the German people have had the generosity to host COP23 here in Bonn with Fiji as president and the UNFCCC in support. It is truly inspiring to see what is possible when you combine the interests and resources of nations of vastly different sizes at the opposite ends of the earth.

With the scale of this event over the next two weeks – and I’m told more than 20,000 people are expected – there is no way we could have staged something like this in Fiji. And I especially want to thank the German Government for the way it has supported us all through this process.

Friends, I will be opening the formal COP proceedings tomorrow. But at this time, in this place, I want to emphasise my commitment to the Grand Coalition we are building together.

Right from the start, Fiji has been convinced that we simply cannot rise to the challenge of climate change without involving everyone. Every level of government, civil society, the private sector, faith-based organisations and as many ordinary people around the world as possible, no matter where they live and what they do.

As people come into this space over the next two weeks and absorb the messages here, I very much hope that they will be inspired to join this Grand Coalition. Because everyone has something to offer.

We all have the power to change the world. The power of ideas, the power of organisation, the power that your vote can wield.

That’s where the authority to take decisive action at every level of government comes from – from you. And in the private sector, you also have power through your shares or your pension fund. If you are a young person, your ability to use social media to organise is a source of power. And, of course, consumers have the power of choice every time they buy something.

We need all this power to influence the transformation we must make. And rather than be depressed about the state of the world, we should also be positive and optimistic about the future we can create together.

In the Bonn Zone over the next two weeks, you will see a great number of innovations – many of them made in Germany – that have the potential to change the world. In clean energy, efficient transport, green buildings, in agriculture, infrastructure and how we manage our forested land.

I urge you all to visit these exhibitions, look around and be encouraged. Because in so many ways, this transformation is already underway. We have already set sail on the journey to a better way of living that treads more lightly on the planet.

Friends, for all the disasters we have witnessed and the suffering of people around the world – and believe me I know what it feels like coming from one of the most climate-vulnerable regions  – I remain optimistic. Humanity already has the ingenuity, the innovation and the financial resources to be meet this challenge. What we need is the political will.

And that’s what COP is all about. Forging the political will to act at every level. From the formal negotiations between nations in the Bula Zone to all the other decisions made by the non-state actors in the Bonn Zone.

Friends, when we see this space and the vulnerability of our planet, we are reminded of a very simple truth. We are the main threat to the health of the planet.

Just as the Apollo astronauts looked down on earth from the moon and found a deeper connection with the blue planet far in the distance, we should look at this globe and feel the same connection.

Have a look around us. So much of the Blue Planet is ocean. That is why we have made oceans a centerpiece of Fiji’s presidency. And you’ll be hearing a lot more about this in the coming days.

When you feel that connection with the planet, it’s only human to want to care for it. It’s our home. And we know that unless we lift our ambition to deal with the source of threat, our home is at risk, along with all that we hold dear.

That is why we want to encourage everyone in Bonn over COP – whether you are in the Bula Zone or the Bonn Zone – to commit to raising ambition to deal with the reality of the climate problem effectively. We owe it to ourselves and to future generations. And we owe it to our planet – this magnificent and fragile home that you have so wonderfully represented in this space.

Vinaka vakalevu. Danke schön. Thank you.