14/05/19

“Unless our climate commitments are met, history will forever remember us as the generation that fell short of our promises – leaders who recognised a crisis, but failed to act.” – COP23 President’s Remarks at the Closing of the Third Climate Action Pacific Partnership Meeting CAPPIII

Bula vinaka and a very good afternoon to you all.

As we close out this third Climate Action Pacific Partnership event, I’d like to thank you all for giving this meeting both the serious attention and dynamic insight it deserved. The open and honest accounts you’ve offered over the past two days have given truth to a deeply sobering reality: the situation we face is more severe than ever, and the world’s current response is woefully insufficient.

But, once again, this meeting and its outcome have given us hope that solutions are within grasp and that we can build on the proud legacy of Pacific leadership in confronting the reality of climate change. For our sake, for the sake of all vulnerable people and, indeed, for the sake of every nation on earth.

What has set this CAPP event apart from years prior, is our collective recognition that the deadly impacts of our changing climate have intensified into a full-blown crisis, the like of which humanity has never before seen. It is a climate crisis. It is an ocean crisis. It is the defining crisis of our time. And if we do not take action, that crisis will soon escalate into chaos that will consume the entire world.

Meanwhile, the response from the collective community of nations has hardly kept pace with this rapidly worsening reality. Almost no nation –– and this is particularly true for the major economies –– have NDCs that are aligned with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

As I said last week in Melbourne, it often takes open recognition of a crisis in order to bring the truth of a situation to light. It takes a crisis to spur action on a global scale. In this case, this climate crisis is one of humankind’s making, and humankind is equally responsible –– and capable –– of its unmaking. How? By adhering to the very theme of this meeting: by decarbonising and building resilience, and by doing it now.

Responding to this crisis requires commitments from countries, companies, citizens and financial institutions alike. I said at the beginning of this meeting that the global aspiration with the Paris Agreement of limiting warming to the 1.5-degree threshold was a victory in itself, a victory that can be credited to the leaders in this room. But at the moment, that victory rings hollow. Unless our climate commitments are met, history will forever remember us as the generation that fell short of our promises –– leaders who recognised a crisis, but failed to act.

Meeting our commitments can only be achieved with increased ambition across global NDCs in pursuit of the 1.5-degree target.

For us here in the Pacific – particularly at CAPP – we’re focussed on setting an example the rest of the world can follow. That is why we have discussed in such detail our region’s unique challenges to implementing our own nationally determined contributions.

We have heard from Australia, New Zealand, the UK and Germany about how they are looking to assist us in implementing these commitments through our innovative Regional NCD Hub. Of course, we welcome that assistance. But we need something more. We need our development partners and private investors to work with those of us strengthening our NDCs in time for the UNSG Summit in September, and certainly before the Paris Agreement starts next year.

Achieving the 1.5-degree target requires that we achieve net-zero global emissions – at least – by mid-century. 2050 is the absolute latest possible deadline, and we heard from Marshall Islands on the importance of having long-term 2050 decarbonisation strategies to ensure we do not fall short of that goal. Fiji recognises the same.

And as we make this transition, Fiji acknowledges it must be a just transition, where economic security is not an after-thought for any nation and reskilling within workforces occurs wherever and whenever possible.

Friends, good work has been happening all around this CAPP Conference, particularly with regards to leading by example in the global campaign for climate action.

Fiji, with Marshall Islands, Samoa, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu, have agreed to work together to reduce fossil fuel use in our marine transportation by up to 40% by 2030 and 100% by 2050.

This demands a transformation of our maritime sectors which will require new kinds of financial partnerships with bilateral and multilateral assistance and, potentially, a regional blue shipping bond. We hope to be able to announce this partnership at the UNSG summit.

We recognise that our oceans are warming and – tragically – that will bring the loss of much of our coral reefs, fish and other marine life. In some places, traditional protection initiatives will not be enough for marine ecosystems to recover due to worsening climate induced stresses. But rather than passively accepting that fate, we will continue to explore new cutting-edge technologies that allow us to replenish at-risk marine life across Pacific ecosystems.

All of these efforts – as part of larger agendas for climate adaptation – cannot be funded by the Pacific alone. We need major economies to strengthen their climate finance investments, including their replenishment of Adaptation and Green Climate Funds. Those funds must support developing countries both in meeting their mitigation targets and in urgently building resilience to the climate impacts already lapping at our doorsteps. As this crisis must motivate global action of this nature, so must it inspire innovation in and among vulnerable nations. And I’m pleased to hear that inventive new mechanisms for climate finance were also discussed in-detail during this conference.

These outcomes – combined with our united call for action in response to this crisis – have been made possible because each of us recognise the magnitude of the crisis before us, and because our shared experiences have sharpened our resolve and strengthened our cooperation.

But our shared sense of urgency in the face of this crisis is not all that binds us. As Pacific peoples, we are connected by threads of geography, culture and collective memory that stretch back millennia. That shared history lends an intimate quality to our discussions that we’ll never find in larger events on the international stage. It allows us to achieve levels of transparency in our discussions that, over the years, have emerged as the single most defining characteristic of these events.

Transparency is the basis of inclusivity, and the inclusive ethos of these discussions is what has allowed them to produce such extraordinary and impactful results. It’s been a point of pride for me to hear, from many in this room, how invaluable this annual CAPP conference has grown to become as a result.

As I have said many times, we are all in the same canoe when it comes to climate change, in the Pacific, that truth carries special resonance. The CAPP Conference has proven itself to be the vessel that we Pacific nations have embarked upon to carry our message to the world.

From the very start of our COP23 Presidency, we committed to make it a Pacific Presidency, and we want the same for the legacy of CAPP. We want it to truly be a Pacific institution. We want as many Pacific Islanders as possible to engage in hosting these events, as so many Fijians have done this week, to spread word of this crisis at the grassroots level. Indeed, we want this canoe to sail into many a Pacific harbour –– and to start that tradition, we have offered half a million Fijian dollars from the Pacific engagement fund, generously committed by Australia, to support another Pacific island nation’s hosting of CAPP 2020.

After discussions among our fellow Pacific nations, it has been decided that the Cook Islands will carry this Pacific-wide legacy as the host for next year’s CAPP conference.

I’d like to end by thanking all those whose hard work has made this event possible. Successfully hosting events of this scale takes a monumental effort, from the performers, to the students, to the Liaison Officers, and of course, to the staff and leadership of our COP23 secretariat: Vinaka for your utter dedication to this event’s success. I’d also like to extend that gratitude to this conference’s financial supporters, including Australia, Germany, the UK and Canada.

Tonight, António Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, arrives in our county. At the end of tomorrow’s Forum session, we will present him with the global call for action that has emerged from this CAPP event. But let’s be clear, this is not a message for one person; it is message for every nation on Earth. Everyone must understand what we’re up against, and every nation must take action in response.

From today onwards, on to New York, and then onto Chile, let us carry this call to action. Let us keep doing the work we know must be done, and let us continue to forge global solutions driven by Pacific energy, Pacific commitment and Pacific effort.

I now have the pleasure to formally close the Climate Action Pacific Partnership conference.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.