“We need five times more action if we are to cap global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius” – COP23 President’s Remarks at Launch of Fiji’s Climate National Adaptation Plan

Bula Vinaka and a very good morning to you all.

Nothing is more important to us as climate-vulnerable nations than to have the means to adequately adapt to the frightening new era that is upon us – the extreme weather events, rising seas and changes to agriculture caused by climate change.

As COP23 President, I repeatedly called on the industrial nations to free up the many billions of dollars needed for adaptation purposes through the Green Climate Fund. And while some of that has now started to flow, we need to do a lot more and to have that finance more focussed on where it is needed most.

Of course, we all need to focus as nations on our own adaptation measures. So I’m delighted to welcome you all here this morning for the official launch of Fiji’s first National Adaptation Plan.

Firstly, I want to acknowledge and thank Dr. Adrian Fenton and the National Adaptation Plan Global Network for providing us with the technical and financial support to develop this blueprint for our adaptation efforts.

As I said in our National Statement to the COP last week, this involves a continuous and progressive process to ensure a systematic and strategic approach to adaptation in all government decision-making. We are placing a particular emphasis on agriculture, fisheries, biodiversity, health and a range of adaptation action in all of our communities, from our cities to small rural and maritime communities.

These range from building sea walls and relocating communities threatened by rising seas to strengthening our infrastructure through improved building codes to withstand the extreme weather events that are becoming more frequent and intense.

In the Talanoa Dialogue yesterday – one of Fiji’s key COP legacies – I spoke of the devastating effect on Fiji in February 2016 when we were struck by the biggest tropical cyclone ever to make landfall in the southern hemisphere. As many of you know, Cyclone Winston killed 44 or our people, left many thousands homeless, devastated our infrastructure and caused losses equal to one third of our GDP.

Even almost 3 years on, we are still to fully recover. But above all, Winston has taught us all a lesson and has had an indelible impact on the national psyche. We know that because of the stronger and more frequent storms caused by climate change, it is only a matter of time before Fiji is struck again. And every year, our people share a deep sense of foreboding as they scan the horizon and listen to the weather reports.

We were fortunate that Winston spared much of the country, including most of the vital tourism areas on which our prosperity as a nation depends. But we are acutely conscious that were a similar storm to score a direct hit on Fiji, all that we have built up over many decades could be destroyed in the space of a few terrifying hours.

The threat to our people and our fragile economy is  now an ever present danger even outside the traditional cyclone season.  So we know that we must be prepared for any contingency. And that also applies to the rising seas that are forcing us to relocate entire communities and the changes to agriculture – like increased salinity – that pose a threat to our food security and the livelihoods of our people.

Friends, we have some hard copies of the National Adaptation Plan available here today, should you require one, or you can access it on the Net at our Ministry of Economy website www.economy.gov.fj.

What you will find there is a comprehensive document emphasising a whole-of-economy approach that aligns with our National Climate Change Policy and other key strategies such as the National Disaster Risk Reduction Policy, the Climate Vulnerability Assessment and Green Growth Framework. Above all, it places our adaptation strategy at the core of Fiji’s five and 20 year National Development Plans. So it is a holistic approach to reducing risk and stresses the critical importance of our response to the climate threat being as efficient as it can possibly be.

Mr President, none of this can be done without improving the responsiveness of our institutions and our processes of governance. So the Fijian Adaptation Plan stresses the importance of improving efficiency across the whole of government to provide better coordination and increase our ability to mobilise our resources.

Friends, formulating this Plan has been an inclusive exercise involving a wide range of stakeholders in government, civil society and the private sector. And I want to use this opportunity to thank everyone who took part and the great contributions you all made.

We now have a blueprint that is not only comprehensive and holistic but that we can build on as time goes by. And we can be sure that as the climate threat increases, we are going to learn by bitter experience what works and what doesn’t and be able to adapt our plans to meet whatever contingency emerges.

In closing, I want to repeat the consistent appeal that I have made as COP23 President for the world to do much more to address the root causes of climate change and the ultimate reason we are so much in the firing line through no fault of our own.

We need a fivefold increase in climate ambition – five times more action – if we are to cap global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius above that of the pre-industrial age and achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. So I appeal to the world to follow the lead taken by Fiji and the Marshall Islands as the first two nations to commit to increasing their NDCs by 2020. As I keep saying, if we can do it, so can you. I’m very pleased to see that Canada and Jamaica are already committing themselves to raising their own NDCs. And I very much hope that this will become an unstoppable force by the time we all gather in New York next September to review our collective ambition at the UN Secretary General’s Climate Summit.

Thank you for your attention this morning and I now have the great pleasure to formally launch Fiji’s National Adaptation Plan.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.