Forging a Grand Coalition to Push Global Climate Agenda Forward

Speech by the Incoming COP23 President Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama

Speaking in front a group of U.S. climate change leaders from the private sector in California, Prime Minister Bainimarama invited every level of government, every section of civil society, all businesses great and small to join the incoming COP Presidency in forging a grand coalition to defend the collective agenda and maintain the momentum for change. Here is his full address:

Bula Vinaka and a very good afternoon to you all,

I’m delighted to be in the “Windy City” among friends who share my concern about the state of our planet. And who are willing to join me in the search for practical solutions to the challenges we all face from climate change.

Friends, my message this year as incoming president of COP23 is that we must stay the course in the implementation of the Paris Agreement of 2015. For the sake of humanity, we must not step back from the undertakings we made. And we must forge a grand coalition to push our collective agenda forward.

This requires strong and principled leadership from everyone. Every level of government — state and local — every section of civil society and especially in this context, the real drivers of economic progress – our businesses great and small. Together, with the support of billions of ordinary people around the world, it is time to take a stand. Individuals empowering themselves to ask more of each other and their leaders. And of course, the philanthropic community so richly represented here today.

Look around this room and you will see the power to change the world for the better. And I am here today to appeal to you all to harness this power in the cause of meeting the greatest challenge the world has ever faced.

As incoming COP President, I ask every one of you to join me in this grand coalition to defend our collective agenda and maintain the momentum for change. I may come from a small country but I have been given a huge task and I intend to fulfill it. Fully implementing the Paris Agreement is a cause worth fighting for. A mission that cannot be delayed or deterred by politics.  For the sake of our planet and all 7.5 billion of our fellow global citizens, we must not falter.  We must prevail.

Friends, my task as incoming president is to represent the entire world. But I bring a particular perspective to these negotiations as the leader of a nation that with our Pacific neighbours, is bearing the brunt of climate change.

A year ago, the biggest cyclone ever to make landfall in the southern hemisphere tore into Fiji, killing 44 of our people and displacing tens of thousands of others. We lost a third of our GDP and our economy was only saved because Cyclone Winston spared our main tourism areas.

But the point I want to make is that Fiji doesn’t need a lesson on climate change. The more extreme weather events and rising seas are a constant challenge. A constant threat.

We are also doing what we can, pledging to reduce our miniscule carbon emissions by 30 per cent by 2030. And we have offered to give permanent refuge to the entire populations of two of our nearest neighbours, Kiribati and Tuvalu, in the event of a worse case scenario in which they are submerged altogether.

So, friends, we are shouldering our own responsibilities and I appeal to the rest of the world to do the same.

As incoming COP President, I don’t see myself as an advocate just for Fiji and the other Pacific island nations but for every vulnerable part of the world. And that includes the United States. The people of states like California and Florida, of New York and other coastal areas.  And of course all parts of America that we know will have to adapt their agriculture to changing weather patterns.

I am reaching out to the governors of some of these states as vital partners in this grand coalition we are building. And I am also reaching out to corporate America – its foundations and its high net worth individuals – as equally essential components of this campaign.

At COP 23 in Bonn in November, the formal negotiations may be confined to national governments. But as President, I want to give equal weight to those members of the grand coalition from the private sector and civil society. I intend to spend a much greater amount of time than previous COP Presidents in the Climate Action Zone, which we intend to infuse with the Bula Spirit of Fiji. So I ask you all to consider joining me in Bonn in a collective demonstration of purpose and resolve.

You will be acknowledged. You will be heard. Because as a Pacific leader, I know one thing. That only by bringing everyone together – governments, the private sector and civil society – can we achieve lasting change. In Bonn, we must forge a consensus to move the global agenda decisively forward. To persuade governments to keep the promises they have made. To develop the rulebook for the full implementation of the Paris Agreement. To harness a collective determination to see this process through.

Friends, that is the challenge before us this year, the great burden that we all have a responsibility to shoulder. And I appeal to you all to do whatever you can to make this mission a success.

Beyond that, of course, we must come up with innovative ways in which we can assist vulnerable nations to adapt to climate change. To build resilience. And it is in this area that I believe the private sector has a huge role to play. Because the private sector not only generates wealth, but importantly, it generates of ideas. And we need those ideas to solve these challenges.

I know many of you will have ideas that you want to share today and I am all ears. I am here to listen.

Friends, Chicago may be the “windy city” and the city of the cold winter chill. But I very much appreciate the warmth of your welcome and the wonderful reception you have given me.

So vinaka vakalevu, as we say in Fiji, thank you. And please come down and see us sometime to experience our own special brand of Fijian hospitality.