“Exchanges between countries, states and regions, civil society, the private sector, and ordinary men and women have the power to inspire action” – COP23 President at the Dialogue on Action for Climate Empowerment

Bula vinaka and a very good afternoon to you all.

We have heard a lot about dialogue here in Bonn over the past week-and-a-half and have embarked on an extremely valuable new addition to the climate action agenda – the Talanoa Dialogue, which has been widely embraced.

I am delighted to welcome you all this afternoon to another dialogue that has been going for some time – the 6th Dialogue on Action for Climate Empowerment.

People ask me why we are placing such emphasis on dialogue when it’s action we need. And my answer is this. Dialogue is merely an important staging post on the journey toward decisive action. It is by telling our stories, and listening to the stories of others, that we can learn how to tackle the climate challenge more effectively.

These exchanges between countries, states and regions, civil society, the private sector, and ordinary men and women have the power to inspire action. We can fire other people with our enthusiasm and ideas, and in turn can be inspired by them. And by bringing our minds and experiences together, we can step up the ambitious action that each and every one of us on planet earth must take to preserve our common future.

So, friends, talk, listen and inspire. Bring to this discussion – just as we brought to the Talanoa Dialogue on Sunday – your best ideas about how working together as one world, one people, we can set ourselves on a new course. Meaningful, decisive and sustainable action that really makes a difference.

Friends, inspired by enlightened leadership, this journey begins at the grassroots in all of our societies. And let me just tell you about my own. The Fijian people don’t need lessons about the impacts of climate change – we have had back-to-back tropical cyclones in the past month that killed eight of our people, left many more homeless, and damaged our infrastructure and economy. And all this on top of a cyclone just over two years ago, which killed 44 of our people and whose 300 kilometre-per-hour winds made it the biggest storm ever to make landfall in the Southern Hemisphere.

So we know about the climate threat because we are on the front line. But like people the world over, the Fijian people still need to understand the reasons for what is happening – the reasons for their distress – and to understand what they can to in their daily lives to alleviate the impacts of climate change.

So we have Climate Week in Fiji in which we educate our people about the impacts of climate change and what they can do about it themselves – whether it is to plant more trees or mangroves, turn off their lights when they leave a room, or the simple act of walking instead of taking the bus.

Getting people interested in this in climate-vulnerable nations is relatively easy. What I find troubling is the lack of awareness that is continually emerging in opinion polls in developed countries. It is undoubtedly part of the reason that the political response in some places to the need for climate action isn’t as great as it should be.

We need to mobilise people the world over and that’s what this session is all about – action for climate empowerment – how we can raise public awareness, public participation, and public access to information.

Many of you will have stories that will contribute to this important discussion, but let me just stress two areas of particular interest to Fiji – empowering our young people and empowering our women.

50 per cent of Fijians are under the age of 27. And like young people the world over, our young people are powerful agents for change. And we are mobilising them as agents for action in our schools, community groups and through the media.

The Global Youth Forum here in Bonn last week brought together young people from about 70 countries. And their input into this dialogue is critical. I am very proud that the Fijian Presidency was able to convene the youth forum together with the youth constituency within the UNFCCC. And that our Climate Champion, Inia Seruiaratu, and our Climate Ambassador, Deo Saran, were there to encourage their efforts.

I also want to make special reference to the role of women as we begin our dialogue today.

I am very proud that we were able to finalise the Gender Action Plan at COP23, because we all know that women are great mobilisers of action at the grassroots of any society. And when they are empowered with information, training and resources, we are all empowered.

And, of course, I was also proud that we were able to mobilise our local communities and indigenous peoples – whose closeness to the land gives them special knowledge about preserving their surroundings.

So, friends, we have a wonderful opportunity in this forum to bring together the many strands of ideas and experiences that can take us forward – that can make a difference.

I want to echo some powerful words from Patricia Espinosa – “Urgency, ambition and opportunity.” This forum is definitely an opportunity to match the urgency and ambition we need with the ideas that can make a difference. And I urge you all to do so in the talanoa spirit – that in many ways you have pioneered over the past few years – and which at COP23 the world decided to take to another level.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.