14/11/17

“Billions Suffering from the Effects of Extreme Weather Events and Rising Seas” – President’s Speech at the High Level Event on Risk Sharing

Fijian Prime Minister and COP23 President Frank Bainimarama’s speech at the high level event on risk sharing, during which the Insuresilience Global Partnership and Fiji Clearing House for Risk Transfer were launched.

Bula vinaka, guten tag and a very good afternoon to you all.

People who are protected by their wealth have little idea of the heartbreak of the poor and most vulnerable when they lose their homes and their livelihoods in climate-related disasters. So I am honoured to open one of the most important events at COP23 – the Presidency event that addresses the needs of the poor and most vulnerable across the world.

You will hear throughout this event about the carefully-designed technical responses to the real problem of practical access to insurance. Together with partnerships designed to build greater resilience for vulnerable nations to cope with the impacts of climate change and maintain their development.

One element of our response is the setting up of a clearing house for risk transfer. And I have the great pleasure to announce that the various stakeholders have agreed that this be called the Fiji Clearing House for Risk Transfer. What a great name.

My Attorney General, Minister of Economy and Minister Responsible for Climate Change, Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum, will explain this clearing house later in the proceedings.

Others will tell you today about how these new arrangements will work. But I want to begin by telling you why they matter. Because I have first hand recent experience of what it will mean for my own people and many millions around the world in the same circumstances.

In February 2016 – just 21 months ago – Fiji was struck by the biggest tropical cyclone ever to make landfall in the southern hemisphere. Cyclone Winston killed 44 of our loved ones, damaged or destroyed tens of thousands of homes, schools, health centres and other infrastructure and caused losses amounting to 30 per cent of our GDP.

We are still dealing with the consequences today. And frankly as we enter yet another cyclone season, I constantly worry about how we would cope with another disaster so soon after Cyclone Winston.

Many of our people were uninsured and as well as dealing with the heartbreak, they’ve had to rebuild their homes and their lives with little or no financial means. If you come to the Fijian Pavilion here at COP, you can see it for yourself in virtual reality. But I wouldn’t want to wish the real experience on anyone.

Of course, our experience is far from unique. In recent months alone, the people of the Caribbean and southern United States have suffered a similar fate. And all over the world, billions of people are suffering from the effects of the extreme weather events and rising seas caused by climate change.

The Fijian Government – in common with other governments – has had a great deal of difficulty managing to navigate the current global insurance arrangements. So it is a great stride forward to have a solution emerging from the cooperation we are now seeing between governments, global financial institutions, the insurance industry, academia and civil society organisations.

Important gatherings including Sendai, Japan, the G20 in Hamburg and the V20 in Washington, have prepared the way for this event. And you will hear how we have opened up this unique partnership to provide a platform for the coordination, learning and delivery of climate and disaster risk finance and insurance.

This partnership is a practical response to the needs of those who have suffered loss because of climate change. And I am very proud that it has happened under Fiji’s Presidency of COP. At the same time, it is a means of financing a more resilient form of development for those who will have to adapt to the great challenge of climate change.

Insurance and finance go together in this context. Most of our infrastructure in vulnerable or low- lying states is at the coastal margins and very exposed. Our tourism industries, agriculture, forests and fisheries all require fresh thinking and new means for financing their development in the face of climate risk.

Friends, these brilliant people assembled here today  have got some of the answers to our problems and we all look forward to hearing what they have to say.

I want to close by thanking all the stakeholders in this unique partnership and especially Germany, the United Kingdom, the World Bank, the Ethiopian V20 Presidency and the German G20 Presidency   that have led the way with this initiative.

I can assure you that it is going to be greeted with enthusiasm and relief by the vulnerable in the Pacific and right around the world. And it is truly something of which we can all be very proud.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.