“We have the tools to do what we must do. We must find the will” – COP23 President at the Opening of Bangkok Negotiating Session

Bula Vinaka and welcome to you all. Please forgive me for dispensing with formalities and getting right down to the important message that I want to deliver as President of COP23.

In three months’ time, we will be in Katowice, and frankly, we are not ready. I don’t think that statement should surprise anyone in this room.

Our main task at COP24 is to agree on a package of decisions that will ensure the full implementation of the Paris Agreement.

Our work in COP23 and throughout this year is essential to that goal. It is our responsibility—and I use that term purposely—to agree on implementation guidelines. They form the roadmap that will allow us to get to those decisions. I think we all know that we have not progressed far enough, which is why we are here in what we are calling an “additional” negotiating session. But it is not just an additional session; it is an urgent session.

Without implementation guidelines that everyone can live with, we risk chaos at Katowice and the possibility of yet another delay in the urgent work of combatting climate change.

Would any of us like to return to our people and tell them that we had the chance to do something truly great and truly necessary for the world we will pass to our children, but we lacked the will to get it done?
Could we face them and say that in this critical moment, when our collective challenge is so great, we gave fodder to those who prefer to go it alone?

In these few days in Bangkok, we will have an opportunity to put the Paris Agreement on the path from words to action—to make it fully operational—and in doing so to build a springboard for the urgent additional climate action we need.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have been talking since Rio, a full quarter-century ago. In that time, nine new nations have been created, and we have experienced a digital revolution. And also in that time, the warming of the earth has accelerated, and the seas have continued to rise.

In our effort to confront climate change, tens of millions of words have been spoken, and nearly as many promises have been made to the people we represent. If all the noble intentions of all the good people who have built this process since 1992 could be converted to clean energy, we could resolve the crisis now. But intentions are not actions.

So here we are.

We have been calling for more ambition, and we will ask you to take more ambitious action. But ambition can be a very gentle word. Like much of the language of diplomacy, it is designed to encourage but not offend. So let me tell you what ambition means to me, and what it should mean to all of us.

Ambition means total commitment—commitment to persevere and do all that must be done, here and back in your capitals. It means being focussed and energetic. We must attack the causes of climate change now, and we must throw ourselves into the attack without holding back one ounce of energy. And it means abiding compassion—compassion for our world and every person and living thing that inhabits it.

We all see the news and read the scientific reports. Around our world, the effects of climate change are becoming more evident and more severe. No country or region is spared, and the effects in one region are felt in others.
Friends, we all know our NDCs collectively are insufficient for the goals of the Paris Agreement, and that is why we must not shrink from the task of completing these guidelines and making them a springboard for the greater action we need.

The guidelines must enable Parties to communicate, report, review, and strengthen climate action in line with their capabilities, and do so in a way that is transparent and accountable to the international community.

Clear guidelines will give us all greater predictability. They will build confidence that we will transform to a net-zero-emission world—a more resilient world—and that we can all cooperate with each other. And they will reassure us that we can support countries and communities that do not have the means to do what they know they must do.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is hard work. Every nation needs to make 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, and defend them.

As an elected leader, I have to defend policies and decisions that I know some people disagree with. But I gain strength and courage when I know in my heart that a decision was not just good policy, but that it was morally right. And that is where we are today.

We have a few days here to put us on the path to success at COP24. We have the tools to do what we must do. We must find the will. Failure is simply not an option. Just as we did in Paris, we CAN come together to complete the task before us.

So I encourage you: Work in good faith with each other. Reach out across natural divides. Find common ground. Let us keep our eyes firmly on the common good. And then let us come together to reach consensus. If we do all those things, we will leave Bangkok proud that we have come closer to fulfilling our responsibility.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.