We Must Put Aside Differences to Pursue 1.5° Goal

Fijian High-Level Climate Champion Minister Inia Seruiratu’s Speech at the Inaugural Session of the Business and Climate Summit on 31 August in New Delhi, India.

I am very honoured to be here at this very important event and to be given an opportunity to address you this morning.

First, let me thank the organisers of this year’s business and climate summit – the Federal Institute of India Chamber of Commerce – for all its work in organising this gathering of eminent leaders in the business and climate spheres.

And of course, I would also like to thank the Government of India for its support and for welcoming us into this incredible country.

When I was appointed the high-level champion at the end of COP22 by my Prime Minister, I was honoured by the opportunity and eagerly accepted. Climate change is such an important issue to us in Fiji and to me personally. But to tell you the truth, at the time, I did not realise the enormity and the gravity of the task.

What I very quickly came to understand is that for me to truly deserve the title of “champion,” I need to be actively reaching out, listening, and learning from ALL stakeholders, from ALL regions and corners of the globe – especially those actively engaged in climate action. I then need to take this information, process it, and feed it into various decision-making and policy-making processes.

This is why I am so pleased to be here. I have so much to learn from you – to know more about your climate action efforts, your solutions, and your aspirations.

The first objective of the Business and Climate Summit is to “express business beliefs that accelerate reduction in emissions and that are compatible with the pursuit of human, social and economic development, and their commitment to engage in this direction”.

This objective resonates with small island countries like my country, Fiji. With our relatively small land mass, any small activity will have an impact across the entire island landscape –affecting ecosystems, people, livelihoods and economies.

Therefore, any technology and investment, whether it be on mitigation or on adaptation, should not compromise social, cultural, ecological and economic systems.

I also note the summit is focused on the Paris Agreement’s target of limiting the rise in global temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius and on working toward net-zero economies.

Ladies and Gentlemen, while this is admirable and ambitious, it is important to note Fiji is firmly focused on the target of limiting global warming to within 1.5 degrees Celsius above that of the pre-industrial age. To achieve this, we must reach net-zero emissions in the next handful of decades.

For small islands states like ours, and for all vulnerable nations, this is an imperative and a minimum achievement.

Friends, colleagues, we look to you as business and industry leaders to develop innovations, technologies, and solutions that deliberately include the principles of sustainable development. I know that a number of businesses are already working on climate action initiatives that ensure sustainable development, and I commend these efforts.

Such objectives include a circular economy where clean and renewable energy is used to build long-lasting products that are reusable.

Transformative technologies and approaches like this need to be shared, replicated, and scaled up especially to vulnerable developing countries.

In coming up with sustainable solutions, I encourage you to reach out to other stakeholders, to other agencies, to government institutions, and to communities to plan and together come up with solutions to optimise the impacts of your investments.

Ladies and gentlemen, I was pleased to see that the theme of this year’s summit is – “Building partnerships towards a low carbon world.” as the Fijian COP23 Presidency places very high importance on building partnerships.

However, we also recognise that partnerships can be complex and difficult – we are talking about people after all. It is easy to say that we need to work together, but the reality is that with the many varying agendas and personalities involved, this is easier said than done. Any one of you involved in negotiation processes would know this.

I call on each and every one of you to put aside differences and work towards a common goal – the urgent goal to pursue efforts to keep global temperature increase to within 1.5 degrees Celsius; and the equally urgent goal to strengthen the resiliency of vulnerable communities.

We need to develop a relationship where everyone agrees on the urgency to unite for climate action – Further! Faster! Together!

The private sector needs the support of government to develop conducive policies and open up investment opportunities; government needs the private sector to invest in sustainable technologies and come up with innovative solutions and technologies that are feasible and sustainable for the country. In particular, local communities, especially women, need to be empowered and given the capacity to effectively plan, implement and benefit from climate actions, as well as have ownership over initiatives.

Together, we can find the best path to take us to a net-zero carbon world. But to reach and maintain a net-zero carbon world requires effort from all sectors and creation of synergies between adaptation and mitigation technologies and initiatives. There needs to be partnership and cooperation between the two interventions.

For example – food and water security initiatives should be talking to the renewable energy sector to come up with approaches that strengthen resiliency while reducing emissions. This needs a conscious effort from all actors.

In October, Fiji will be hosting the Pre-COP. Aside from the formal meeting of Parties, there will be a Partnerships Day to showcase initiatives that have been brought together through the commitments of various stakeholders, where the private sector is key. This is an initiative of the Fijian COP23 Presidency to showcase and facilitate the sharing of experiences and lessons from the private sector. This also reflects the high importance the Fiji COP23 Presidency places on partnerships and the role of the private sector.

I look forward to reading the recommendations that will emerge from this summit and to my discussions with the Business and Climate Summit executives on the way forward to accelerate climate action.

I also look forward to seeing you at the climate action days during COP23 in November.

I wish you all productive and enjoyable interactions over the course of the two days.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you