Fijian Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama has called on Pacific nations to raise a unified voice on the issue of climate change and ocean saying that the lives of hundreds of millions of people in vulnerable parts of the world depends on it.
Speaking at the Pacific Preparatory Meeting for the ‘Oceans Conference’ in Suva on Friday, Mr Bainimarama said it is important that the Pacific presents as a united face to the world at the Oceans conference in June.
“We are gathered here because we face a threat to our very existence. Yes, on the surface we are charting our progress toward the UN’s SDG14, but our real objective is not to simply reach a milestone. Our objectives are to stave off disaster, to save our oceans for ourselves and all humanity – and then to move from surviving to thriving.
“In a very real sense, we are fighting a two-front war. One front is the fight to keep the oceans clean and to sustain the marine plant and animal life on which we depend for our livelihoods and that keep the earth in proper balance. Land-based pollution, waste in the ocean, and growing maritime traffic are all deteriorating the marine ecosystem, and a growing world population with ever-more purchasing power is increasing pressure on the stocks of food fish in the oceans.
“So it is heartening that we will have the first-ever UN Conference on Oceans in June, and I have very high expectations that it will set the stage for our collective action to save our oceans. As you know, Fiji is co-hosting the conference with Sweden because we believe it is important for Pacific Island states to be very visible in the struggle to protect our oceans,” said Mr Bainimarama told Pacific leaders and delegates.
The regional preparatory meeting in Suva will provide the necessary direction for the negotiations, which begin this month – on the call to action on oceans that will be issued in New York in June.
“So this is our chance to reach a consensus that will push the conference to take bold action. We have the facts before us, and we know intimately the way our people, our cultures, and our economies depend on the ocean. We are knitted closely together, and I believe there is very little daylight among us in our positions. So this is no time for timidity, and we can show that one thing we are not is timid,” he stressed.
“The people of Fiji and Vanuatu have had a very bitter recent experience with Cyclones Winston and Pam and realise more than most the urgency of addressing this crisis. And in Fiji, we have already begun relocating villages to higher ground away from the water.
“Of course, we Pacific Island nations are not the only ones affected by the stresses on our ocean and by climate change. The pollution in the oceans is everyone’s problem. Human society is simply producing more rubbish than we can comfortably handle, and every day, disposable items find their way into the hands of people who don’t think twice about tossing them onto the street, into a storm drain or directly into the sea. Add to that ocean-borne refuse produced by tsunamis and other events, and you know why beaches anywhere can look like landfills on any given day. And that goes for our beautiful Pacific Island beaches as well.
“This is not a Pacific problem or an island problem. It is a problem for everyone. But it is a particular problem for us, because most of us sit on the small patches of land that God gave us millions of years ago, when they rose up above the waves from the ocean floor,” said PM Bainimarama.
For the Pacific, Mr Bainimarama said the effects of global warming and stresses on the ocean are immediate and potentially catastrophic.
“That gives us tremendous moral authority to lead the charge on both these fronts—to promote sound global stewardship of the oceans and to slow the rate of climate change.
“When Fiji stepped forward to take on the presidency of the next UN Conference on Climate Change, we did it not only for ourselves but for all Pacific Islanders and all those people living in other vulnerable parts of the world. As COP President, I am obliged to act on behalf of all 7.5 billion people on earth, but I will naturally be bringing a Pacific perspective to the proceedings,” he emphasised.
Mr Bainimarama says Fiji’s COP 23 presidency will represent a consensus effort on the part of Pacific Island nations to lead the world to do what is right.
“So I am making an earnest appeal to you all as Pacific leaders to get behind Fiji’s presidency. I say this not for me or for Fiji, but because this presidency will take OUR case before the world. This presidency will represent a consensus effort on the part of Pacific Island nations to lead the world to do what is right. And necessary. And just.
“I will be counting on your strong support over the coming months—all the way to Bonn in November. We need to present a strong and united front at that meeting—Pacific Island leaders of one mind, with arms locked together to achieve one goal: to save humanity from its ultimate folly.
“I am taking the opportunity that this gathering presents to invite my fellow Pacific leaders to join me in Bonn. We need to present a united face to the world because as you all know, we are bearing the brunt of climate change and desperately need to get our message across.
“So please be in Bonn with me. We owe it to our own people and to every citizen on Earth to take every advantage of the opportunity we have this year to put our case before the world. We have the credibility that goes with living the effects of climate change. And we have the moral authority that goes with the fact that we are bearing a disproportionate risk and a disproportionate burden. We are doing as much as we can right here at home, and we will need help.
“That is why I also intend to place a special emphasis on climate adaptation through financial models and technical solutions, to get the world to focus on developing new and innovative ways to build our resilience to the effects of climate change. This is not a time for continuing arguments about the science. It is time to do more to equip vulnerable nations with the means to survive the extreme weather events, changing weather patterns and rising sea levels that we are experiencing now and are bound to get much worse,” Mr Bainimarama told leaders.
By PAC News, 21 March 2017