19/03/19

Statement by the Prime Minister of Fiji and President of COP23 on the Outcome of COP24

“The next steps are clear. In 2019, dialogue must give way to action”

We can all be proud that the global community came together at COP24 to ensure the Paris Agreement enters into force in 2020. While not perfect, the agreement on the Paris Rulebook is a big win for the majority of us who still believe that global challenges require a global response. It marks an important step forward in our efforts to combat climate change.

I am particularly gratified that the world has embraced the tradition of Talanoa and that all 196 nations at COP24 thanked the people of Fiji and the Pacific for introducing this inclusive and participatory process into the realm of global climate diplomacy. The formal Talanoa Dialogue process concluded at COP24 with the launch of the Talanoa Call for Action by the Fijian and Polish COP Presidencies.

I am also pleased that COP24 has acknowledged the critical role that financial, technology and capacity-building support must play in helping developing countries enhance their ambition by 2020; and that it has provided more clarity on both the predictability and transparency of finance in the period after 2020. 

However, in other important areas, COP24 has fallen short of our expectations.

We are extremely disappointed that countries were not able to agree to welcome the IPCC Special Report on 1.5 Degrees and its findings. The inability of some to accept the science and draw a direct link to the action that now needs to be undertaken is a massive failure of leadership. These countries are putting their own citizens at risk, as well as all 7.5 billion people on earth.

Furthermore, with many communities already facing impacts from climate change that are beyond their ability to adapt, we are very concerned that the issue of “Loss and Damage” made such little progress.

And given the urgent need to send a clear signal to the private sector to unleash the innovation needed to scale up climate solutions, our collective failure to agree on robust, environmentally sound rules for the cooperation mechanism under Article 6 of the Paris Agreement is unacceptable.  We need to redouble our efforts on this front in 2019.

We are also disappointed that the COP did not underscore the absolute imperative to increase the ambition of our Nationally Determined Contributions by 2020. Clearly, there are still some countries that fail to fully comprehend the scale and urgency of the crisis we are in. 

But those pushing for more ambition need not be constrained by these shortcomings. In fact, we should all take heart from the leadership shown by various climate vulnerable and high ambition countries. There is no doubt that momentum is growing as more and more governments announce their intention to review their NDCs by 2020, including the Marshall Islands, Fiji, Canada, Jamaica, Costa Rica, the Maldives, Chile, Ukraine, Vietnam, Norway, Qatar, Lebanon and Barbados.

Fiji is also very proud to have delivered a declaration on behalf of the Pacific Small Island Developing States that included a call for OECD countries to phase out coal by 2030 and for all other countries to follow suit by 2040 at the latest. We are very pleased to see that the ranks of the Powering Past Coal Alliance, launched at COP23 last year, also continue to grow. 

The next steps are clear. In 2019, dialogue must give way to action. The Talanoa Dialogue must give way to the Talanoa Call for Action, which acknowledges the importance of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees, of halving global emissions by 2030 and of achieving net-zero-emission, climate-resilient economies.

All governments must now return home and launch or ramp up domestic review processes to prepare new or enhanced NDCs, and develop long-term emissions strategies. To achieve this, they must work closely with all members of the Grand Coalition, including sub-national governments, the private sector and civil society. We expect all countries to come to the UN Secretary-General’s summit in September 2019 prepared to show concrete progress and stronger NDCs. As a global community, we cannot accept anything less.

Guided by the Talanoa Call for Action, in the coming year, Fiji will use our chairmanship of the Pacific Small Islands Developing States and our co-chairmanship of the Ocean Pathway Partnership – as well as our involvement in other important alliances such as the High Ambition Coalition and Climate Vulnerable Forum – to continue to press for the most ambitious action possible. By sharing our experiences and coordinating our efforts, we will form the vanguard for climate action. If we can do it, so can others.

I will also continue to join my voice to the growing chorus of leaders from climate vulnerable countries who have had enough of the political cravenness that seeks to slow down or hinder the unprecedented transformations we must now make to our systems. Together with President Heine and others, we will ensure that the voices of the vulnerable are not drowned out by the arguments of the irresponsible and selfish.

We wish to extend our great appreciation to the UN Secretary General for his commitment to moving the climate agenda resolutely forward, and in particular for his great support for the Talanoa process. Fiji stands ready to assist with the summit next year in any way we can.

We would also like to express our appreciation to the Polish Presidency for all the efforts it undertook to deliver a successful outcome, and for working closely with us as the co-chair of the Talanoa Dialogue.