“We are well equipped to lead the climate action struggle all the way to COP24 and beyond” – COP23 President’s Ministerial Statement in the Fijian Parliament

Fijian Prime Minister and COP23 President Frank Bainimarama’s Ministerial Statement in the Fijian Parliament. 

I rise to inform Parliament of the progress we are making in our Presidency of COP23 – the ongoing UN climate negotiations – that continues until we hand over the Presidency to Poland in December.

I want to begin with a detailed briefing of where we now stand, having formally assumed the Presidency of COP23 in November 2017. And of how we intend to proceed for the remainder of our term until we formally hand over to Poland at COP24 in December.

Madam Speaker, a great deal has been achieved by the Fijian COP team since I last briefed the House and I am sure that this will be universally welcomed. Because we have not only carried out the role of COP President with distinction by moving the UN climate negotiations forward. We have also succeeded in branding COP23 in a distinctly Fijian way. And many of the legacy items from our Presidency will continue to benefit Fijians and the citizens of other vulnerable nations for decades to come.

They include historic agreements on agriculture, the importance of women as well as indigenous people and communities in the climate battle; a global scheme to provide access to more affordable insurance for climate-vulnerable nations; and a recognition by many in the global community through Fiji’s Ocean Pathway initiative of the inextricable link between climate change and the health of our oceans. Something that is obviously of critical importance to Fiji, our Pacific neighbours and indeed, every nation on earth.

These are just some of the many initiatives that emerged from COP23 in Bonn in November. And I urge Honourable Members who haven’t already done so, along with every Fijian, to read the full list of achievements on our website – cop23.com.fj.

Madam Speaker, a number of the global climate initiatives we are spearheading through our Presidency actually carry Fijian names.

  • The Fiji Momentum for Implementation decision underscores the importance of making the Paris Agreement of 2015 operational as soon as possible with implementation guidelines to be finalised at COP24. This decision also means there will be a stocktake on pre-2020 action in addition to the Talanoa Dialogue, which I will return to shortly.
  • The Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture strengthens the potential for climate adaptation and mitigation programs to safeguard our food security.
  • The Fiji Clearing House on Risk Transfer connects vulnerable nations with information about access to affordable insurance.
  • And The Suva Dialogue on Loss and Damage will provide an important opportunity to raise awareness about the particular vulnerability of Small Island Developing States and to explore options for mobilising expertise, technology and support.

Madam Speaker, all these are now part of the climate action agenda across the world. They are giving us a global reputation as a motivator for more decisive action way beyond our relative size and influence. And every Fijian can be very proud of our achievement.

Foremost of these initiatives is the 2018 Talanoa Dialogue that will be a centrepiece of COP24 when Poland takes over the COP Presidency from Fiji in December. But Fiji will continue to preside over the Talanoa Dialogue in partnership with Poland even after our formal term as COP President has ended.

Madam Speaker, we are all aware that Talanoa is a word used not only in Fiji but in Tonga and Samoa to describe a very Pacific way of decision-making by consensus and agreement. Of sharing stories and best practices with a view to reaching decisions that are inclusive, devoid of finger pointing and are in the common good.

At Fiji’s urging, the global community has embraced this concept as the best way to reach agreement on what needs to be done to increase climate ambition. For each nation to do more to reduce the heat-trapping emissions of greenhouse gases that are causing global warming. And because the Talanoa concept was Fiji’s idea, we will continue to lead and shape that Dialogue moving forward. And in a way that no Pacific nation has ever had the opportunity to do before.

Through the Talanoa Dialogue, the Grand Coalition for climate action that has always been at the centre of Fiji’s COP Presidency is marshalled into action. And in a manner that is inclusive, respectful and recognises a fundamental truth: that governments alone cannot solve this crisis.

So we are bringing together all the members of that Coalition – governments at every level – nations, states and cities – plus civil society, the private sector and the scientific community – in a genuine engagement with one overriding purpose: To urgently raise ambition to reduce carbon emissions through our Nationally Determined Contributions, our NDCs. In short, to get the world to do more – a lot more – and in the shortest possible timeframe.

Madam Speaker, we must all work with maximum determination to reduce net carbon emissions to zero as soon as possible. As I keep saying, time is running out. And only by pursuing this course and tackling the fundamental cause of climate change can the global community avert catastrophe.

We need – as a matter of urgency – to use all our ingenuity and resources to speed up the transition from dirty energy like fossil fuels to clean energy like hydro, solar and wind. We must scale up investment in the emerging technologies – such as battery storage – that will enable us to significantly reduce carbon emissions while still providing us with the power we need to run our homes and economies. And we must make these alternative clean energy sources more affordable and more widely available throughout the world, and especially in developing countries.

Madam Speaker, all this is essential if we are to place the world on track to meet the more ambitious target of the Paris Agreement of 2015, which is to limit global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above that of the pre-industrial age. I have made the 1.5 degree target the signature of my Presidency of COP23. And my fellow Pacific leaders are with me on this.

I repeat: we need the cooperation and assistance of every nation; every government at state, regional and city level; all branches of civil society and the private sector, scientists and, ultimately, every single person on earth. Maximum ambition. Maximum action.

Madam Speaker, the Talanoa Dialogue takes our Presidency in a new direction this year and it must not fail. Fiji and Poland have been entrusted by the global community to ensure that this process delivers. And we look to our Polish partners at COP24 to work as closely as possible with us to make it happen.

But Madam Speaker, we also needed to refine our own COP23 team to meet the changing demands of the Presidency. And to meet that challenge, I have decided that we need to make a change to the Fijian delegation at COP to have the most integrated and dedicated team possible to maximise the chances of this Dialogue succeeding.

That is why I have chosen Ambassador Luke Daunivalu to assume the job of Chief Negotiator, replacing Ambassador Nazhat Shameem-Khan for the remainder of our term.

I have already expressed my thanks to Ambassador Shameem-Khan for her role in making our COP Presidency the success it has been so far.   But I have come to the view that because we are now moving to a new phase of our Presidency with the Talanoa Dialogue, we needed a rejuvenated team unquestionably willing to work with all members of the COP23 Presidency team.

Ambassador Daunivalu has the personal qualities and experience to shape the consensus for more ambition the world needs to reach.

He is a team player. And I am convinced that he has the leadership skills, patience and perseverance that can bring our Grand Coalition together for this mission and give the Talanoa Dialogue the best possible chance of succeeding.

I have asked Ambassador Daunivalu to co-chair our Presidency Talanoa Dialogue Team with the UNFCCC High Level Champion Minister Inia Seruiratu. While the final dialogue will be between Parties to the Paris Agreement, it is crucial we effectively communicate the views of non-party stakeholders and scientific institutions with whom the Champion has been working.

Madam Speaker, I am sure that every member of this House joins me in congratulating Ambassador Daunivalu on his appointment and wishing him the very best. His new role is critical not just for Fiji but the whole world and especially the more vulnerable nations. And I know that he will have the prayers and best wishes of all of us as he leads this process forward.

So Madam Speaker, we thank Ambassador Nazhat Shameem-Khan for her service and turn our eyes to the future. Our Presidency is in the steady and capable hands of people of the calibre of our Climate Champion, the Honourable Inia Seruiratu, our Climate Ambassador, Ambassador Deo Saran, Luke Daunivala, now our Chief Negotiator, the AG and Minister responsible for climate change, the Honourable Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum and the Head of the COP23 Presidency Secretariat, John Connor and of course I, as President. And behind them is a very effective group of Fijians and advisors from here and overseas – all of them experts in their field.

Madam Speaker, the members of this team – Team Fiji at COP – have already demonstrated their value by earning us the international reputation we now enjoy. Of a small country once again punching above its weight and leading the world in the fight against climate change.

Madam Speaker, God knows our own lives depend on it – the lives of Fijians and billions of people living in more vulnerable parts of the world like our own. As we all know, we recently commemorated the second anniversary of Tropical Cyclone Winston and again paused to remember the 44 Fijians who lost their lives.

It is the loss of those people and many others in previous natural disasters in Fiji that is foremost in my mind as COP President. Not the speeches in the UN and other global forums, however worthy, about the need for something to be done about climate change. But the need to link the global with the local. To turn those deliberations into practical action on the ground. And for me to be able to look the families of those who were killed by Winston in the eye and honestly tell them that I am doing everything I can to make sure their loved ones did not die in vain.

Madam Speaker, every member of this House will join me again today in sending our condolences and love to the families of those who died. And to reaffirm our determination to do everything in our power to address the underlying threat that took them from us. That is the essence of our COP Presidency and I know that I have the overwhelming support of the Fijian people as we complete this mission.

Madam Speaker, we cannot rest as a nation until we can effectively build our resilience to events like Winston. And we owe it to every family who still mourns: every Fijian who lost their homes: every student who was deprived of a classroom; to exert maximum pressure on the global community to take effective action.

We know because we have seen it with our own eyes that these cyclones are becoming more frequent and more intense. We know that along with these extreme weather events, the seas are rising and more communities are being forced to relocate. We know that our agriculture and consequently our food security is threatened as we lose precious arable land to salinity and drought. And at sea, we can see that our coral reefs are rapidly deteriorating because of increased levels of acidity and bleaching.

Madam Speaker, every Honourable Member of this House, every Fijian, will be alarmed by the prediction that our reefs could be extinct by the end of the century. Imagine. No more coral within the lifetime of someone born today. It cannot happen. It must not happen. Or all that we hold dear as Fijians and Pacific Islanders will be lost. A part of us all will die.

As I keep saying, climate change is the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced. And we owe it to ourselves and to future generations to act with urgency and decisiveness to reverse this process once and for all.

Madam Speaker, there is an old saying that God helps those who help themselves. That is also why we have taken on the COP Presidency. We aren’t sitting in Fiji playing victim. We are going out into the world to play a leading role in confronting this challenge head on. Assembling some of the best minds we can muster at home and linking them with experienced outsiders – including some of the most talented people in the climate field in the world.

Madam Speaker, our COP campaign has provided us with definitive proof of the value of a small nation like Fiji partnering with others. Whether it is partnering with Germany to enable us to preside over COP in Bonn in the first place. Or partnering with those non-Fijians in our team, who have not only enhanced our skills but have assisted our fund raising.
These members of our wider support team have helped us gain access to 26-million US dollars in donations from a range of countries and organisations which as COP President, I again want to acknowledge and thank today.

The Asian Development Bank, Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, The Climate Works Foundation, The European Union, Estonia, France, Germany, the German Development Agency (GIZ), India, Italy, Japan, Korea, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Norway, Qatar, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United Nations Development Program and early in our Presidency, the United States.

Some of these nations have also contributed in other ways – Germany with its generous hosting of COP23 in Bonn. Plus the 110 million Euros that Germany has contributed to the InsuResilience Global Partnership, that will bring affordable insurance and other financial protection to millions of vulnerable people around the world. Britain has contributed another 30-million pounds to this important COP23 legacy initiative and Fiji is also very grateful for that.

Madam Speaker, this long list of nations and organisations are truly Fiji’s friends. And I seek your indulgence to ask the House to acknowledge their generosity in the usual manner.


Madam Speaker, I also express Fiji’s thanks to the many influential individuals who are supporting us – people like Governor Jerry Brown of California, who is my Special COP23 Envoy for States and Regions; the former Mayor of New York and climate benefactor, Michael Bloomberg; and the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, Patricia Espinosa.

Then there are the individuals and foundations who are coming forward to assist Fiji with COP legacy projects of our own – tangible benefits of our Presidency to enhance the lives of ordinary Fijians.

We are making it a special priority to bring clean, renewable energy to as many Fijians as possible. One of those partners is the Leonardo Di Caprio Foundation of the United States, which is working with us on a plan to bring solar power to Fijian communities which because of their isolation, cannot be connected to the National Grid in the medium and long term.

I again salute this great actor and humanitarian for his generosity and vision and look forward to welcoming Leonardo Di Caprio in Fiji to launch this project. And I also call on other men and women of means in the world to follow his example.

Madam, in closing, I trust that I have given Honourable Members and through them, the Fijian people, a better idea of the enormity and complexity of the task we took on as COP23 President. And also a better appreciation that with the sound leadership and management of the process we are providing, we have risen to that challenge.

Fiji has had the honour of being the first Small Island Developing State to be entrusted by the global community with presiding over COP. And I am pleased and proud to report to you that we are making a success of the task and will continue to do so.

We now have a fully integrated team that communicates well and trusts each other. We now have a team that is fully committed to ensuring the success of the Talanoa Dialogue and all our legacy projects. And we are well equipped to lead the climate action struggle all the way to COP24 in Poland and beyond.

Thank you, Madam Speaker.