“We need unequivocal message about the need to raise ambition by 2020” – COP23 President’s Speech at Opening of COP24

Your Excellency the President of Poland,

My distinguished fellow panellists,

Bula vinaka and a very good morning to you all.

It has been a great privilege for Fiji to have been the first Small Island Developing State to preside over the COP negotiations and lead the world in tackling the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced.

I want to thank all those nations, organisations and individuals who have assisted our Presidency. And especially the government and people of Germany – whose generosity made it possible to hold COP23 in Bonn – and our Pacific brothers and sisters whose courage and leadership is a constant source of inspiration.

Vinaka vakalevu to you all.

As I have said right from the start, we are all in the same canoe in confronting the climate threat. And the responsibility now falls to Poland to build on the legacy of Fiji and all those nations before us who have steered that canoe.

We look to Poland as COP24 President to continue to fill its sails with a determination to move the climate action agenda forward. More ambition, more urgency. Because as the scientists have just told us, the window of opportunity to act is closing fast. Time is running out and we must move quickly to have any hope of capping global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial age. In fact, the recent Emissions Gap Report released by the United Nations Environment Programme says that we need to increase our current commitments fivefold to achieve this target. Five times more ambition. Five times more action.

As outgoing COP President, I again appeal to my fellow leaders to heed the science and summon the political will to tackle this crisis head on. The choice before us all has never been so stark. Act now with courage and resolve and we just have time to protect our climate and our way of life. Or, God forbid, ignore the irrefutable evidence and become the generation that betrayed humanity and our responsibility to future generations.

To those who are dragging their feet, I say: please just do it. Short term expediency will cost you and your people ever more dearly the longer you delay. The long-term, medium term and even short-term benefits become clearer each day. There is a place for you in our canoe and smoother seas ahead for everyone on the planet when you join us on our voyage.

I also want to say as COP23 President that I support the Polish theme of a “Just Transition”. We should not only have a just transition for those workers, regions and economies affected by the move from dirty energy to clean energy, we must have a just transition for all. And especially the most climate vulnerable.

Because it is only just that those human beings who are facing extreme weather events, rising seas or changes to agriculture also be given the opportunity and the means to properly adapt. To make the transition to a more secure future in a frightening new era that, in many instances, they have played no part in causing.

As the window of opportunity to save the planet closes, other windows of opportunity are opening, including new technologies that enable us to effectively make the transition. And I also appeal for a renewed effort to free up the many billions of dollars needed for that transition and make these technologies more accessible and more affordable around the world.

I’m very proud that Fiji’s COP legacy includes the Talanoa Dialogue for ambition, which has seen hundreds of talanoa sessions held throughout the world. As many of you know by now, these exchanges of ideas and best practices are based on a Pacific concept of decision-making that is inclusive and respectful.

And we look forward next week, with our Polish friends, to co-chairing the Ministerial Talanoa here in Katowice.

The primary aim of the Talanoa Dialogue is to take stock of our collective efforts and inform our current Nationally Determined Contributions. And I ask you all to put the maximum effort into making next week’s Dialogue a success. And this means sending an unequivocal message about the need to raise ambition by 2020.

I’m also proud that Fiji and our Pacific neighbour – the Marshall Islands – have become the first two nations to commit to raising the ambition of our NDCs by 2020. We are appealing to all nations to do the same. If we can do it, so can you.

So let’s talanoa for more ambition and make the move to net zero emissions by 2050 an unstoppable force.

Friends, I want to close by thanking our Polish hosts and especially the people of Katowice for keeping out the winter cold with the warmth of your welcome.

I congratulate Michael Kurtyka on assuming the presidency of COP24 and assure him of Fiji’s support. I thank the UNFCCC Secretariat and all those who have given strategic advice. I thank the members of our Grand Coalition at the core of Fiji’s Presidency – the cities, states and regions, the private sector, civil society and billions of people around the world. And I want to thank you, the Parties to the UNFCCC for the progress you have made under Fiji’s Presidency and urge you to complete the work before us here.

Vinaka vakalevu, thank you.