Message to the Nation from Prime Minister and COP23 President, Frank Bainimarama

My COP23 team and I are leaving our shores to embark on the most important mission we have ever undertaken as a nation for the entire world. And as we do so, we seek God’s blessing and the prayers and support of every Fijian to make a success of our presidency of the upcoming UN climate negotiations in Bonn.

With me, I am taking a team of more than 50 people, including our Chief Negotiator, Ambassador Nazhat Shameem Khan, our Climate Champion, the Honourable Inia Seruiratu, our Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Climate Change, the Honourable Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum, plus a host of other negotiators, experts and support staff. In addition, Fiji will be represented at COP by members of civil society, faith-based organisations and the private sector – the critical Grand Coalition we have been forging to move the climate agenda forward.

We are putting a special emphasis on ensuring that the voices of our young people are heard. These include Timoci Naulusala, the Year 7 student from Naivicula District School who will be performing at the High-Level Opening on November 15 and who carries with him the best wishes of every Fijian boy and girl.

Throughout the two weeks of COP23, the more than 20,000 people expected in Bonn will be left in no doubt that this is a Fijian event. We are stamping the world famous Bula Spirit on the occasion with our cultural performers, including the entire Fiji Police Band. And as well as performances all over the city, we will be highlighting our own experiences with climate change with continuous audio visual presentations and speaking events in the Fijian Pavilion, along with a broad range of other activities.

As a symbol of our presidency, we have placed a spectacular drua in the main foyer in Bonn, which has been floodlit for maximum impact. It is a message to the world that all 7.5 billion people on earth are in the same canoe. We are all affected by climate change and we all need to act. And we must fill the drua’s sail with a collective determination to curb the global warming that is causing the extreme weather events, rising seas and changes to agriculture that pose such a threat to more vulnerable nations like those of us in the Pacific.

We are also determined to infuse the formal negotiations with the Talanoa Spirit of respect, understanding and consensus building. I am especially proud and gratified that so many nations have begun referring to the “Talanoa Dialogue” as something we must all embrace, especially if we are to meet the more ambitious target of the Paris Agreement that Fiji is championing, which is to keep the global average temperature to no more than 1.5 degrees above that of the preindustrial age.

My fellow Fijians, we undertake this mission with pride and humility. As we leave for Bonn, we are deeply conscious of our duty to the Fijian people and other Pacific Islanders to make a success of COP23. And we are deeply conscious of our duty to humanity as a whole and especially the more vulnerable, wherever they live on our planet.

May God grant us the strength and wisdom to be worthy of the historic challenge that has been bestowed on our beloved nation and to fulfil the trust that has been placed in us to lead the world.

Vinaka vakalevu.