All Generations Must Come Together to Tackle Climate Change – Incoming COP23 President

Prime Minister and incoming COP23 President’s speech at the Conference of Youth (COY13) in Bonn, Germany on 4 November 2017.


Bula vinaka and a very good afternoon to you all,

I’m delighted to be here with so many young people who have come from across the world to demand that the leaders attending COP23 redouble their efforts to tackle climate change.

Any leader worthy of that title should know that they have a responsibility to take decisive action on your behalf and the many millions of young people you represent.

It’s wonderful to see the diversity of faces in this room from the 114 nations taking part in COY13. And I’m especially pleased and proud to see our Pacific young people from Fiji and the rest of the region playing their part in your deliberations over the past few days.

I’m also extremely proud and grateful that you have adopted a word full of meaning from the Pacific that we intend to make a central theme of our presidency of COP23 – Talanoa. In the case of COY13, you have said Talanoa Mada – let’s talk. And that’s precisely what the whole world has to do over the next two weeks.

But, friends, it’s not good enough to merely be talkers. As you all know, when it comes to climate change, we have to be doers. And we need many doers in the world right now to respond to the magnitude of the challenge we face.

I’m especially pleased to be with you as you close your conference just before COP itself begins. Because it is our young people – no matter where they live in the world – who have the energy and commitment we need for the transformation we must all make.

I want to tap your energy and commitment – your passion and drive – to make the changes we need to make the world a better, cleaner and safer place. Because, believe me, life will get better if we have the courage to solve this problem.

Life will get better if we replace dirty energy with clean energy. Life will get better if our soils are more productive. Life will get better if our oceans are healthy and less acidic. Life will get better if we can protect our forests and plant more. Life will get better if we have green buildings, not inefficient ones. And life will get better if we can finally experience success by working together – the success of reducing the risk to us all from climate change.

Friends, the generations – old and young – need to come together to tackle this crisis. We need to learn from young people like you how to take advantage of new technology. We need you to demand changes to the way we do things – in politics, business and the running of all our societies.

I’ve often spoken of building a Grand Coalition for climate action. And let me tell you, you are in it. Every single one of you in this room. And all the young people you represent back home. Together, we are going to make a difference. And let me tell you how:

We are going to use our political power. We are going to use our power to organise. We are going to use the power of ideas. And we are going to persevere. Because to get the changes we need, it isn’t going to be easy. We have to work for it. We have to get people to sit up and take notice of what needs to be done; we must marshal all of these powers with skill and determination.

Friends, Fiji is going into next week in Bonn determined to bring a sense of urgency to this process. I understand more than most how impatient you are. Because I come from a part of the world where we are particularly vulnerable to inaction. We simply cannot afford any further delay.

I want you to know that when I commence my term as COP23 President on Monday,  I will be carrying the message you have sent from here. That we have no time to waste. We must be a lot more ambitious. We must move further, faster, together.

Certainly looking around this room, I’m filled with a great sense of optimism. I look forward to meeting as many of you as possible this afternoon and over the next two weeks. So if you see me around the Bonn Zone – please come up and say Bula!  

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.