“We must ensure that the Talanoa Dialogue leads to more ambition in our NDCs” – COP President’s Closing Remarks at Talanoa Dialogue Wrap Up Session

Excellencies, distinguished delegates, the preparatory phase of the Talanoa Dialogue will continue until we meet [in Poland] at the end of the year.

Until then, I would like to encourage you all to continue to be actively engaged by organising national and regional meetings and submitting additional inputs into the online platform. For this, there is a deadline of October 29, so time is of the essence.

The stories and inputs that you have shared, and will share – together with the IPCC Special Report on 1.5 Degrees – will form the primary basis of the synthesis report of the preparatory phase. It will contain key messages on the questions of where are we, where do we want to go, and how do we get there, to be brought to the attention of Ministers.

It is therefore important that in the next few months you reflect on what kind of conversation you expect your Minister to be engaged in, as well as what issues she or he should be addressing.

I also urge all of you, once you have arrived home, to make every effort to encourage and motivate your Minister to participate and come prepared for a conversation about ambition. Because ambition is what we need most of all. We will not have another opportunity for such an exercise for another five years. And by then it may already be too late.

Can I end by telling you all my personal story from the last month, as I toured the areas in Fiji that were struck by back-to-back cyclones within the space of eight days. First Cyclone Josie and then Cyclone Keni.

Sadly, I have become used to surveying the devastation of these extreme weather events, and trying to find the right words to comfort those of my people who have lost loved ones, or their homes, possessions or businesses.

Two years ago, we were struck by the 300 kilometre-per-hour winds of Cyclone Winston, a Category 5 storm that was the biggest ever to make landfall in the Southern Hemisphere. 44 of our loved ones died in that event and we are still rebuilding.

But we are now in a frightening new era in which these cyclones are becoming almost a yearly event, and even a Category 1 cyclone is capable of killing our people and causing massive destruction to our infrastructure. Sometime it isn’t the force of the winds, but the torrential rain that accompanies these events that is the killer.

We lost eight people in Josie even though it was a Category 1. And the torrential downpour flooded several of our main towns.

We do what we can, as a government, to alleviate the suffering of our people and I am pleased to say that our Care for Fiji Program, which we formulated in record time after Josie. The Fiji Care initiative is a co-ordinated response across the whole of government to provide funds and other support for those in need in the affected areas and is already making a huge difference.

But what do I say to those who are being pounded by these events time and again? What hope can I give them that the punishment they and millions of others in climate-vulnerable countries are receiving will come to an end?

Friends, this is why I eagerly embraced the Presidency of COP23. Because without an effective global response to climate change, the truth is that my people have little hope other than looking to my government to do what we can to build our resilience on the ground.

I took this job to make a difference. Because our lives and livelihoods depend on it. And I know I speak for every person from a vulnerable nation in this room, many of whom shared similar stories on Sunday, when I make the following plea to the developed nations. Please do more to tackle the fundamental causes of this suffering. Please do more to raise the ambition of your Nationally Determined Contributions for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Please make it easier for us to gain access to the finance we need to build our resilience. Please do more to embrace the opportunities that will flow for your own people and the whole world from the transition to net-zero emissions economies. Work with us as members of the great human family to confront this challenge once and for all.

Fiji’s Presidency of COP23 will come to an end when we pass the gavel to our Polish friends in December. And we look to them to continue the struggle we have had the privilege to lead as the first small island state to do so.

But now is the time for action. Now is the time to commit to making the decisions the world must make. We must complete the Implementation Guidelines of the Paris Agreement on time. We must ensure that the Talanoa Dialogue leads to more ambition in our NDCs.

That is the plea I convey to you on behalf of the people I met last week in the cyclone affected areas of Fiji. It is the plea of billions of climate-vulnerable people around the world. And as time goes by many more billions of people will find themselves on the front line like we are. I repeat, we are all in the same canoe and time is running out. Please show the leadership that the world so desperately needs.

Thank you and this meeting is adjourned.