What Fiji is Doing to Prepare for the Escalating Climate Threat – President’s Speech at the Launch of Fiji’s National Development Plan

Fijian Prime Minister and COP23 President’s Speech at the launch of Fiji’s National Development Plan.

Bula vinaka, guten Morgen, and good morning to you all. And thank you for being here as we launch Fiji’s Five-year and Twenty-year National Development Plan.

We have chosen to launch our plan at COP23 because global warming and the threat of climate change were fundamental factors that informed our research, guided our work and helped define our priorities. Adaptation, resilience and mitigation are not just a part of our development plans, they form the very core.

This development plan provides a forward-looking vision for transforming Fiji into an even more progressive, vibrant and inclusive society. Our vision for Fiji builds on the theme of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals: “A Universal Push to Transform our World.” It brings all of us in the global community together to end all forms of poverty, fight inequality, tackle climate change and leave no-one behind, wherever they live on the planet. We do this through collective global action, but also—and in no small measure—through intelligent and well-managed development programmes in each country.

When we complete the work demanded of us in our new plan, which includes Fiji’s first-ever long-term 20-year Development Plan, we will have met both our Sustainable Development Goals and our commitments under the Paris Agreement.

A crucial national undertaking like this one is too important to be developed exclusively in the upper floors of government ministries. It cries out for as much public participation as possible. And so we went to the people of Fiji. We carried out an extensive consultation process. We held more than 800 public forums all over Fiji and including every possible community of interest because we wanted to be certain that the plan meets the consensus aspirations of all the Fijian people.

We began this process in 2015 by asking our people one question: What type of country do you want to live in 20 years from now?

And I must say that the Fijian people responded with wisdom and foresight. Of course, they told us that they wanted better services and economic opportunities, now. But, they also showed us that they are deeply committed to building our resilience to disasters and taking strong action to address the adverse impact of climate change. Our new development plan therefore sets out a comprehensive agenda that also requires Fiji to continue to foster partnerships and forge new ones to address climate change.

This will involve exploring innovative ways of mobilising resources for mitigation and adaptation and gaining access to climate finance. We have already started this by issuing our own Fijian Government green bonds. The funds generated by these bonds will finance projects and programmes under the new development plan that are aimed at building the resilience of our communities, our economy and our society as a whole.

Let me now highlight some of the key national actions we plan to take in this regard.

All Fijians will have access to clean and safe drinking water in adequate quantities by 2031. We plan a major push to increase accessibility to 92 percent of the population from the current 78 percent in the next five years. Climate resilience is now a major component of water and sanitation infrastructure projects. We have scheduled projects to protect our freshwater sources and agricultural lands from saltwater intrusion and protect our communities and critical national infrastructure from climatic events. This will be complemented by education and awareness programmes to improve water conservation and rural-housing and water-supply programmes that emphasise the harvesting of rainwater.

We will ensure that all Fijians have access to electricity by 2021, with the renewable share of electricity generation reaching almost 100 percent by 2030. In the next 5 years, we plan three major hydro projects to boost renewable electricity supply on our largest island, Viti Levu, which is home to 70 percent of Fiji’s population.

We are not just a small-island nation, we are a nation of people who inhabit more than 100 small islands, and we rely heavily on small-scale production to generate electricity on many of these islands. We have another 178 potential sites for renewable energy from sources like bio-mass, hydro, solar, wind, geo-thermal and ocean waves. We will also encourage and incentivise energy conservation by raising our building and fuel-emission standards. This is the major component of Fiji’s Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement, which seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30 per cent by 2030 from a business-as-usual scenario, using our 2013 greenhouse emissions as a baseline.

Our population is projected to exceed 1.1 million in the next 20 years, and the vast majority will live in our towns and cities. Future development will be balanced to ensure a sustainable rural economy and vibrant, highly liveable urban centres with modern facilities and services. We will implement climate-change adaptation measures to ensure greater resilience to disasters. We will strengthen our existing capacities in areas like early-warning systems, weather-forecasting services and urban planning and development. New building standards and innovative traffic-management plans that ease congestion will be major components in urban planning. We will make our rural communities more resilient to the threats of climate change and natural disasters by improving infrastructure and providing adequate utilities.

We have a strategy to provide Fijians with affordable and adequate housing. We will need to improve the skills of our rural carpenters through focused training programmes to enable them to build back better. We will also continue to explore opportunities for disaster insurance schemes with bilateral development partners and multilateral financial institutions.

We will improve our food security through the promotion of organic farming and increase production of traditional crops under programmes for niche agricultural and fisheries products. Increased funding will be directed towards agriculture research into crop varieties that are more resilient, and extension training to ensure our farming practices are equipped to adapt to changing weather patterns and climate change.

These measures form a major component of our new 20-year Development Plan, which sets out a broad strategy to guide our development focus over the next 20 years. The Five-Year Development Plan, which is aligned to the long-term strategy, contains a properly sequenced comprehensive plan of action for the period 2017 to 2021.

Our new 20-year development plan envisages a fourfold increase in GDP per person, reducing and maintaining unemployment at less than 4 percent, eliminating extreme poverty, and reducing the number of Fijians living below our poverty line to less than 10 percent of the population.

While we are on the front lines in dealing with the threat of climate change, Fiji’s economy is strong and expanding. Our institutions, infrastructure and skills in the labour force are improving, and we are expanding our digital connectivity. Around 69.4%  of our population is under the age of 40. We are a young nation with a sound platform for future prosperity, and we are well-positioned as a modern regional hub of the South Pacific and a centre for business, transport, communications and other services. Our new plan seeks to harness the opportunities available to us and build on our strengths and advantages to expand the development frontier to further transform Fiji, and we will work with all of our partners and stakeholders to achieve this. But how will we do it?

First, we will develop a world-class skilled workforce to drive economic growth by investing in our teachers, modernising our schools and maintaining universal access for all levels of education, including early childhood, vocational and higher education.  

We are raising the standard of health and medical services by building modern healthcare facilities and recruiting more qualified healthcare professionals. We plan to have 1 doctor per 1,000 Fijians by 2021.

We are improving transportation within the country and connectivity to the outside world through the continued modernisation of our air, maritime and land-transport networks.

We are working to ensure that all of Fiji has access to wired and wireless network coverage, with increased broadband capacity, by 2021. We will nurture the creation of new business sectors and the growth of established sectors in order to create more high-quality jobs.  And we will have continuous uptake of technology to have greater efficiency, sustainability and create economic and employment opportunities.

We will put a priority on developing the skills of our poorest and most vulnerable Fijians in order to help them graduate out of poverty. We will also give our young people the preparation they need to work in a modern economy, ensuring that they can take the quality jobs that we are creating.

This especially includes empowering women, maintaining adequate child protection programmes and building our institutional capacity to effectively tackle violence against women and children.

This ambitious long-term national development plan certainly will require substantial funding, skilled and dedicated people, modern technology and support from our partners and friends. To realise our vision of transforming Fiji, we will rely on strong coordination, cooperation and productive partnerships with all our stakeholders. I know we will have that, and it makes me even more optimistic for the future.

With these words, it gives me much pleasure to launch Fiji’s National Development Plan.

Thank you and Vinaka Vakalevu.