“Take Action That is Relevant to People’s Everyday Lives” – President’s Speech at the Meeting of Parliamentarians during COP23

Prime Minister and COP23 President’s speech at the meeting of parliamentarians during COP23.

Bula vinaka, guten morgen and a very good morning to you all.

I’m delighted to join you all at the midway point of our COP deliberations in Bonn. And equally delighted to report that things are going well. All in all, it’s been a good week. And when the ministers arrive for the final week tomorrow, they should generally be happy with the progress their delegations have made.

I have every expectation so far that we will fulfill the objectives that I set out for our Presidency back in May and that I reasserted at the Pre-COP in Fiji last month.

As any parliamentarian knows, it’s possible to get stuck on procedure rather than substance. To obsess about the detail and miss the big picture. To continue to fight personal or party battles over parts of text and lose sight of the interests of everybody. In the case of climate change it is clear that we cannot afford to do any of this. We must combine our resources – all of our political capital – in the interest of everyone we represent and make a practical difference in the real world.

I’m pleased to report that in the first week of COP, we have achieved a great deal of substance.  Clear progress is being made on the implementation of the Paris Agreement. The beginnings of a text are emerging.  There is general agreement on the need for greater ambition. And certainly the mood at COP is a lot more positive than some might have expected given the challenges to the multilateral consensus on decisive action of which you are all aware.

I certainly believe there is a growing appreciation that the only way for every nation to put itself first is to join hands with every other nation and tackle this problem head on. And as I keep saying, the door is always open to those who are holding back to join us on our mission and move forward together.

Friends, Fiji certainly thinks we have brought something to these negotiations that is both distinctive and effective. Many delegations are now referring to the “Bula Spirit” and the “Talanoa Dialogue” – two concepts we brought with us to Bonn that seem to resonate widely and have captured the imaginations of even the most cynical delegates.

The Bula Spirit is simply a Fijian way of bringing our own tradition of friendliness and joy to what is a pretty sober process – working together as nations and people to tackle the most serious challenge of our age. Talanoa – a Pacific word for story telling – has a more substantive purpose. It is to bring the Pacific tradition of decision-making based on respect and understanding to a negotiating process that has often lacked both.

The “I win, you lose” style of negotiation is not what we need at COP. Talanoa is about arriving at outcomes that are for the common good. It is not about merely being nice to each other. Free and frank exchanges are encouraged. But we want those exchanges to take place in an atmosphere of respectful cooperation, devoid of finger pointing, that makes it easier to reach solutions in the interests of us all.

The other thing that Fiji has brought to COP and I think has been appreciated has been our idea of building a Grand Coalition to move this process forward. Right from the start, we realised that national governments alone cannot solve this problem. And so we have been helping to bring governments at every level into the process, together with civil society, the private sector, faith- based organisations and ordinary men and woman throughout the world.

As I keep saying, we are all in the same canoe when it comes to climate change. We all have something to offer. And as an example of the power of non- state players, I have had a series of encounters here in Bonn with those representing America’s Pledge and the Under2 Coalition – Governor Jerry Brown and a number of other governors, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and a host of other mayors, former US Vice President Al Gore and the Terminator himself – former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

These are just some of the people giving weight to our Grand Coalition and it doesn’t stop there. Last weekend, I spoke at the World Youth Conference here in Bonn. And from the young people from 114 countries, I got a real charge. A real sense of optimism. The young people of the world are definitely in our Grand Coalition. And so, my friends, are you.

I’m constantly encouraging the MPs of the party I lead in Fiji to reject short-term political expediency and look beyond our noses to what we can all achieve in the long term to benefit our people.

And when it comes to climate change, parliamentarians have a special duty to connect our understanding of this complex challenge with the needs and interests of their constituents. To take action that is relevant to people’s everyday lives.

You all know that climate change is relevant to housing, infrastructure, transport, energy, air pollution, public parks – virtually all aspects of government. But too many politicians wait for their mailbox to be filled with their constituents’ demands before they act.  They are passive when they should be proactive. When they should be going out and explaining what actions are necessary to deal with climate change in ways that make sense to the immediate needs of those they represent.

And so I ask you all as members of our Grand Coalition to embark with me on a mission to explain. To be principal agents for change. We have a duty to those we represent to meet this challenge. It is about showing leadership. And we must use our authority to lead the debate on how we make this transformation in the interests of those we represent.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.