“Oceans Must Be Front and Centre in Our Response to Climate Change” – Climate Champion’s Speech at the Opening of Ocean Action Day

Honourable Inia Seruiratu, Minister for Agriculture, Rural & Maritime Development, National Disaster Management, and Meteorological Services & High-Level Climate Champion of COP23 Presidency remarks at the Opening Plenary of COP23 Ocean Actions Day.


Yadra vinaka; Guten Morgen; and a very good morning to you all

It is my pleasure to be here with you this morning.

As high-level champion for global climate action and on behalf of the Fiji COP Presidency, I warmly welcome you to the Oceans Action Day.

We are gathered at an important moment in the international response to climate change. We have just been informed that 2017 was one of the hottest years on record. We are seeing more severe and frequent natural disasters and extreme weather events.

Much of our attention has been focused on the land – on our energy systems and industry. But some of the most pronounced impacts of climate change are being felt in our oceans.

Our oceans are warming and acidifying at an alarming rate. Some estimates suggest that about 80 percent of the heat added to Earth’s systems have been absorbed by the oceans.

We are seeing coral bleaching in many regions of the globe. Aquatic animals are migrating long distances in search of habitable conditions. Others are finding their growth fundamentally altered by acidification. This is fundamentally disrupting entire food chains and aquatic ecosystems. In many cases we are only gradually becoming aware of the impacts this is having.

The impacts on human lives and welfare are also pronounced. Many coastal communities depend on fishing for their livelihood. As reefs degrade and aquatic species migrate, fishing communities will have to resort to finding alternative livelihood options. Vulnerable coastal villages are driven to relocate because of sea-level rise and the threats it poses to their socio-economic security.

The effects are particularly pronounced in Small Island Developing States.

I have seen this first-hand in Fiji and the Pacific. Climate change is already affecting our people, their livelihoods and their way of life. For these individuals, the impacts of climate change on the oceans is not an inconvenience or disruption – it is a real threat to their way of life.

In recognition of this urgency to act, the Fijian COP Presidency, together with partners in the Pacific, initiated the establishment of the Ocean Pathway. The Pathway will serve to bring coherence and enhance effectiveness of various initiatives by pulling together key alliances and creating synergies to ensure strong common outcomes.

The partners of the Ocean Pathway will work to give prominence to the role of the ocean in the UNFCCC process and to ensure that momentum for ocean continues beyond COP23.

On 16th November, the Ocean Pathway Partnership will be launched at the Fiji Pavilion and I hope to see you there.

It is important to recognise that the Ocean Pathway will build on current initiatives and coalitions that are already working successfully around the world.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The Marrakech Partnership recognizes that national governments alone cannot achieve the Paris goals. Success will depend on concerted action from all levels of government, the private sector and civil society.

This is perhaps more true of oceans than any other sector. They are a public good. They are beyond national boundaries and jurisdictions. No single government, company or NGO can address this problem on their own. Nor can they do so through isolated, uncoordinated actions. Partnerships, coordination and joint initiatives must be at the core of how we respond to this challenge. This has been a key focus during my time as High-Level Champion.

I have seen growing recognition that oceans must be front and centre in our response to climate change. The Fijian COP Presidency have been promoting this message far and wide. This recognition is reflected in the prominence of oceans at COP23, and in the UNFCCC process more broadly. Oceans events and stakeholders are more prominent at this COP than at any other.

The Oceans Action Day will produce important insights and lessons from which we can all benefit, and which we can integrate into our work back home.

We will learn more about the potential for oceans energy and offshore renewable energy to mitigate climate change while supporting economic development in SIDS.

We will learn about advancements in the area of Blue Carbon.

We will hear about success stories in building the climate resilience of fisheries and aquaculture in countries across the globe, as well as the potential for ecosystem-based adaptation in oceans and coastal zones.

We will also gain insights into the progress made in mobilizing financial resources for investments in the Blue Economy.

I look forward to these discussions, and hope to draw on these insights for the benefit of Pacific Island communities. I trust you will do the same.

Vinaka vakalevu – Danke Schoen – Thank you.