“Talanoa is storytelling for a purpose” – COP23 President at the Global Climate Action Summit

Bula Vinaka and good morning to you all.

I would like to speak today to the national and regional leaders in the room, and around the world.

We all know that the levels of ambition in our national plans need to be ramped up because we are not on track to meet the targets of the Paris Agreement.

That’s why this year of Talanoa is so important. The Talanoas being held around the world are producing thousands of good ideas and a torrent of valuable information that can put us back on track. Yesterday we had a very productive Talanoa here, with representatives of regional government, business and civil society—truly a microcosm of the Grand Coalition we are harnessing on the global level.

As you’ve probably heard, Talanoa is the Pacific way of sharing stories. But it’s not just talk. Talanoa is storytelling for a purpose. And the stories we’ve heard in yesterday’s Talanoa – and the scores of others that have taken place around the world – aren’t just talk, they’re tools. Tools that can be used by political leaders to increase climate action at the national level.

The stories of what is happening in cities, in board rooms, in places of worship and schools, and in local communities provide political leaders with the arsenal we need to increase ambition.  These stories speak of the urgency for action, but also show us the wealth of possibility offered by new innovations and solutions.

One of the simple and ironic truths about climate change is that the more we want everything to stay the same, the more we are going to have to change. Loss of land, degradation of our oceans, extreme weather and the other certain effects of warming will rob us of community, culture and livelihood. So there is no hiding from the consequences, but there are ways to help shape our own destiny. We need to help people embrace that hope.

So, my fellow leaders, I can only say this: We were elected to lead, not to pander, not to follow, and not to hold up a wet finger to the wind. So let’s lead. Let’s marshal our forces and move to the front, because as we say in the military, you cannot lead from the rear. Ask yourself: “If I could solve this climate crisis knowing that it would come at the cost of my political career, would I do it?” As far as I am concerned, there is only one answer.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.