Political leaders are “asleep at the wheel” as the world barrels toward disastrous levels of warming

“It’s time to wake up and correct our course.” This was the message delivered by Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama during the special session of the United Nations General Assembly on climate change on 28 March in New York.

“Following the end of our COP Presidency last year, I promised that Fiji would continue to use our leadership to press for the most ambitious action possible. And today, in front of this host of nations, I reaffirm this commitment. Because never before has there been greater clarity about the scale and urgency of the action we need to take,” the Prime Minister said.

Prime Minister Bainimarama said while many of the solutions to the climate threat already exist, that in far too many cases political will is notably absent. “I am gravely concerned that – more than three years on from the Paris Agreement – we are still recklessly off course from preventing climate catastrophe for our people and our planet. We’re asleep at the wheel and headed for disaster,” he said,

Bainimarama explained that the current commitments countries have made to cut emissions have the world on track for a disastrous 3-degrees of warming by the end of the century, and that unless political leaders “wake up” to the reality of the threat now facing us, the impacts the world is already facing at 1-degree of warming will pale in comparison to what’s to come.  

While highlighting a number of important milestones over the course of the year, the Prime Minister highlighted the upcoming UN Secretary General’s Climate Summit in September as a critical moment for political leaders to plot a new course.

“This means making decisions that might be politically difficult. But that is why we were chosen to lead—because leaders do the hard work, make the hard decisions for the common good,” he said. “By the time we reconvene for the UN Secretary General’s Summit in September, the majority of the world’s countries must come with realistic and concrete plans for three things: for their next round of NDCs in 2020, for halving emissions by 2030 and for reaching net-zero emissions by 2050. We cannot accept anything less.”

Bainimarama reminded the General Assembly that the 1.5- degree target of the Paris Agreement is still within reach. “The Talanoa Dialogue process revealed a profound truth: that many of the technologies and innovations we need to decarbonise our economies aren’t waiting to be discovered in some research facility or think tank. They are already out there. They exist in the markets today. What’s missing is the level of political will needed to take up these tools and utilise them in an unprecedented global effort to halve emissions by 2030 and achieve net-zero-emissions by 2050,” he said.

“Fiji will continue to convene and support talanoas to help countries – together with sub-national governments, businesses and civil society – search for the best strategies and instruments to support these efforts,” he added.

The Prime Minister said that, together with fellow high-ambition leaders, Fiji will work closely with the UN Secretary-General to clearly articulate – both within the climate negotiations and outside of them – what steps need to be taken by governments in the short-, mid- and longer-terms.

Read the full text of the Prime Minister’s intervention on encouraging world leaders to take faster and deeper actions.

Read the full text of the Prime Minister’s intervention on taking the Talanoa Dialogue forward.

Read the full text of the Prime Minister’s intervention on behalf of Pacific Small Island Developing States.