HON PM BAINIMARAMA SPEECH AT THE LAUNCH OF THE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS EXHIBITION

Your Excellency, the United Nations Resident Co-ordinator
and other UN staff in Fiji,
Your Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Representatives of civil society and the private sector,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Bula vinaka and a very good evening to you all.

When we talk about the importance of implementing the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs, it’s very easy to see them as someone else’s agenda. A set of targets agreed to by the member nations of the UN in far-off New York that have little bearing on our day-to-day lives here in the Pacific. And that’s the importance of this exhibition that I have the pleasure to open tonight – that it brings home to all of us the relevance of these SDGs to everyone living in vulnerable parts of the world such as Fiji. And their critical importance in sustaining all 7.5 billion people on Planet Earth. Ensuring our very survival.

I want to congratulate the organisers at UNDP Pacific and urge as many Fijians as possible to come to the Fiji Museum to see it. Because it transforms the 17 SDGs from words on a page – a bold statement of principles – into compelling images to which we can all relate. We can all appreciate.
And these images underline why the comprehensive plan of action the SDGs entail to improve the state of our world is so important for every Fijian.

I had the great privilege last month to be co-host – with the Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden – of the World Ocean Conference in New York. This was a gathering of the nations of the world to put the spotlight on the importance of implementing SDG 14 – to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources”. And to take urgent steps to combat the pollution and over-fishing that is degrading our oceans and seas the world over and poses such a threat to our planet and the livelihoods and well-being of our people.

It was a wonderful conference, not only because we achieved so much agreement on the need for decisive action but because, as co-host, we brought the special Fijian “Bula Spirit” to New York.

To be able to hold a yaqona ceremony and tabua presentation before the main podium of the UN General Assembly was a very special moment. Every Fijian in that great auditorium swelled with pride at the sight of the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, downing his bilo in one hit. And also hearing him praise Fiji for its rich cultural tradition and its service to the world.

Diplomats at the UN are usually a pretty unsentimental bunch. But a distinct wave of emotion also swept the vast room at the end of the conference when the entire Fijian delegation invited our Swedish partners to come forward and join us in the singing of “Isa Lei”.

The UN auditorium has seen many memorable moments over the years. The Russian President, Nikita Khrushchev, banging his shoe on the lectern. Yasser Arafat waving his pistol in the air. Fidel Castro giving the longest speech in UN history – Four hours and 48 minutes. But those present had never seen dozens of Fijians singing their hearts out and others joining in with them. And it was a special moment that none of us who witnessed it will ever forget. And, of course, made us all very proud to be Fijian.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the reason I am telling you this story is that SDG 13 also commits the global community to “take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts”. As you all know, Fiji has the privilege to be the incoming president of COP23 – the ongoing UN negotiations on climate change. And when we go to COP23 in Bonn in November, we will also be stamping the event with the Fijian “Bula Spirit”. As well as the concept of talanoa – of the world coming together to discuss the challenges we all face in the Pacific way – in a spirit of genuine dialogue, co-operation and mutual respect.

As the incoming President, I can tell you that we are going to need all the collective strength we can muster to keep these negotiations on track. To preserve the multilateral consensus for the implementation of the Paris Agreement for decisive action on climate change that was agreed at the end of 2015.

As you all know, President Trump has – very regrettably – decided to withdraw from the Paris Agreement and has set the American Government on a collision course with the rest of the world over this issue. I’m still hoping that the President will change his mind. And as I’ve said before, the door is always open for him to re-join the rest of us in staying committed to the reductions in heat-causing greenhouse gases we all agreed to in Paris.

But in the meantime, those of us who remain committed and are leading this campaign – including me as incoming COP President – are going to stick together. Because we simply cannot afford to drop the ball on decisive climate action. Our very survival in the Pacific depends on it, as I have said so many times before.

I was in Kadavu early on Friday morning when I got a phone call from President Macron of France. And in that call, he gave me the heads-up and sought my support for the announcement he made this past weekend of a special summit of global Leaders, which will be held in Paris on December the 12th to mark the second anniversary of the Paris Agreement.

The President invited me to be there and of course, I will be. Because it will be concentrating on one of the issues that is of most concern to me as COP President – access to finance to do what vulnerable nations need to do to adapt to the terrifying new world that awaits us. To build our resilience to the rising seas levels, extreme weather events and changes to agriculture caused by climate change.

It will be just over three weeks after COP itself in Bonn. But I agree with President Macron that we need to keep up the momentum. And the more we can focus global attention on this the better. Because as the new French Leader has said: There is no plan B other than decisive climate action because there is no Planet B.

I very much appreciated President Macron telling me that he fully supports me in the Presidency of COP23. And that France fully supports Fiji as it builds a Grand Coalition of governments at all levels – civil society, the private sector and global citizens everywhere – to keep this process on track. I regard the new French Leader as a very important partner and we hope to forge a much closer relationship with France in the lead-up to COP and beyond.

As Incoming President of COP23, I welcome the statement by the G20 Leaders who have just met in Hamburg that whatever the position of the US Government, the “Paris Agreement is irreversible” and must be fully implemented. Pacific Island Leaders’ meeting in Suva last week for our Climate Action Pacific Partnership event were looking for a strong statement from the G20 and we were pleased to get it.

Because we cannot afford to give any ground at all on our collective plan of action, which is to limit the global average temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level and pursue efforts to keep it to 1.5 degrees.

To do that, we need net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 at the latest. So among other things, this means every country striving to emulate France’s lead in banning petrol and diesel powered vehicles after 2040.

But, Ladies and Gentlemen, as I keep saying, national governments alone cannot achieve the transformation needed. Which is why the Grand Coalition that Fiji is leading is so important. Because decisive climate action must also come from state and local governments throughout the world, from civil society, from business and citizens everywhere. We all have a role to play and we must play it.

We must also put a human face on the impacts of climate change and the other SDGs. This is not some abstract thing that exists in charts and graphs. It is a real-world challenge affecting the lives and livelihoods of people around the world. Which is why an exhibition like this is so important in highlighting the urgency of implementing all of the SDGs and especially SDG 13. Because as I have said repeatedly: no sustainable development is possible without decisive action of climate change.

As I urge every Fijian to try to see this exhibition, I also want to use the opportunity to announce a photographic competition of my own specifically related to climate change.

At COP23 in November, we want delegates to be confronted with powerful images of the impacts of climate change on our region and on our people.

And so the incoming Presidency is launching a competition for both professional and amateur photographers to submit photos that show the human and environmental impacts of climate change, and how individuals and groups are mobilising to counter this threat.

To enter, participants must be over the age of 18 and reside in the Pacific. The full details, including the rules of the competition, are available on the COP23 website. And I encourage all those who are passionate about this issue, and have an interest in photography, to consider entering to help us tell our stories to the world.

And with that shameless plug of my own, Ladies and Gentlemen, I now have the great pleasure to again thank the organisers at UNDP Pacific and formally open this exhibition on the 17 SDGs.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.

HON PM BAINIMARAMA – PARLIAMENTARY ADDRESS IN REPLY TO THE 2017 BUDGET

Madam Speaker, I rise to make my own response to the 2017 Budget. And I do so with great pride. Because the FijiFirst Government has kept its promise to the Fijian people to govern in the interests of everyone. To manage the economy responsibly. And as I also shared with the people from Kadavu last week, that as the economy grows, to share the benefits as widely as possible and especially with those who need them most.

With this budget, we have again kept the faith with our people – every Fijian worker and especially the young, the elderly and the vulnerable. We have produced a blueprint that is in their interests above all else. And I want to pay tribute to the Honourable Attorney General and Minister for Economy and his hardworking team for their dedication and commitment. Because I think the 2017 Budget isn’t just imaginative. It is brilliant. It is a brilliant budget. And because so many people are telling me the same thing, I know that much of the nation shares that view.

Madam Speaker, before I continue, I especially want to congratulate the AG and his wife, Ella, on the arrival on Friday of a new member of their family – a baby girl called Iman. It is obviously the happiest of times for the entire family and I am sure that every member of Parliament joins me in wishing them well.

That family includes the new baby’s grandfather opposite, the Honourable Viliame Gavoka, who has an even bigger grin on his face this morning than usual. Hopefully his excitement will mean that his own contribution to the budget debate will be a lot more positive than usual. But also Madam Speaker, we also want to wish him a happy birthday. He celebrated his birthday last Saturday. So, congratulations. So, I understand Madam Speaker the Attorney-General was full of celebration because of the two events.

Madam Speaker, our political opponents are saying this is an election budget. But Madam Speaker, every budget is an election budget. Because, Madam Speaker, we govern at the behest of the Fijian people. And we are in the business of being re-elected to continue the transformation of our beloved nation to take its rightful place in the world. Everyone knows Fiji required true transformation and this transformation must continue.

Madam Speaker, our people are already standing tall and proud in the knowledge that their living standards are better than those of their forbears. And they want this transformation to continue so they can be sure that the living standards of their children and grandchildren will be better than theirs.

This is not on the back of one budget but successive budgets over the past decade. Each of them building blocks that we are putting in place year by year to achieve our vision of eventually becoming a fully-fledged modern nation state. You see Madam Speaker, we have a vision. The other side of the House don’t have one. We have a vision for our country and the direction we should take to become a fully-fledged modern state. The other side has no vision at all. If they have one Madam Speaker, its only at the end of their noses. Because their vision Madam Speaker is to move from there to here. And when they get here Madam Speaker, God will help us all.

We are not fixated on short-term political gain like those opposite, except those on the opposite right corner. We have a plan to place Fiji in the best possible position to achieve greatness. And we have been doing that. One nation, one people, moving forward together and leaving no-one behind. And I will again be going into the next election with the AG and Minister for Economy by my side with the rest of the 49 candidates asking the Fijian people to enable us continue to lead that journey.

It is the same successful team that has produced the transformation of the past decade. Stability, confidence, consistency, innovation, genuine progress and empowerment. And, of course, our success in managing the economy will be a cornerstone of that campaign.

Madam Speaker, when the Fijian people put their trust in us again in 2018 it will be because each year, the budget has built on the achievements of the last. And they can look back over the past decade and see that the government’s reforms have made a real difference to their lives, the lives of their families and the life of our nation.

We have now had eight successive years of economic growth in spite of the natural disasters that have caused so much heartbreak for ordinary Fijians. Eight years in which the national pie has grown steadily bigger so that we can give everyone a larger slice. We are set to grow the economy this year by 3.8 per cent. And we are on track for a record decade of growth, something that has never happened before in post independent Fijian history. But that can only happen if FijiFirst wins the next election.

So, yes, Madam Speaker, when that election eventually comes around, I will be going to the Fijian people and saying: Don’t take my word for it. Look at the facts. The evidence all around you. And decide for yourselves when you cast your vote who is best placed to ensure your future economic security. Who is best placed to guarantee a viable future for our nation in an uncertain world. Who is best placed to move Fiji forward.

Madam Speaker, we have united our country after decades of uncertainty and turmoil. We have given everyone a common identity, a sense of belonging. We have guaranteed the rights of everyone under a constitution that is a model for other nations. We are empowering more Fijians than ever before, building a more inclusive society.

We have provided free schooling and scholarships and tertiary loans for our young people to achieve their full potential. We have strengthened the safety net for the disadvantaged, the sick, the disabled, our pensioners, our women, our children and our youth. For the first time, individual iTaukei landowners are assisted to develop their own land. For the first time.

Madam Speaker, we are transforming our infrastructure – our roads, ports and airports. Access to electricity and water systems has increased exponentially. We have enhanced our mana in the world and are leading the fight to save our oceans and the campaign of global action on climate change.

And underpinning all of this is the responsible management of our economy. Because as Bill Clinton – the former US President – once said when someone asked him about the key to political success: “it’s the economy, stupid”. Without sound economic management, without economic empowerment of individual citizens, no nation can function properly and achieve its full potential. And the main reason Fiji is functioning better now than in the entire period since independence is that this government has the economic settings right.

Madam Speaker, we understand how a modern economy works. We understand finance. We understand commercial potential and realities. And we are eager to draw on the best possible advice of others. Because global conditions are changing all the time and small nations can be very vulnerable to those changes. So we are also working closely with all our development partners. And they have endorsed our general economic direction, including the level of our national debt.

Our opponents say that debt is too high. Well it is not. And this is also according to many including the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the ratings agency, Moody’s. These are experts in such matters, not those from the opposite side or the Fiji Times, the Opposition Times as it is called now.

Madam Speaker, unlike previous governments in Fiji, we are only borrowing to build for the future. We are borrowing to invest in new infrastructure or improve the infrastructure we already have. And all over the world, targeted infrastructure spending is acknowledged as a key generator of economic growth.

Madam Speaker, I will leave it to the AG and my other ministers and parliamentarians to respond in detail to the Opposition’s sniping at aspects of the Budget. The inconsistencies in their arguments. The irrelevancy of their arguments. Their unrelentingly negative approach. But as I’ve witnessed the responses of opposition figures over the past nine days, I’ve come to realise that they just don’t get it. They have no idea how a modern economy works.

All they can do is home in on the inconsequential with no appreciation for the bigger picture. Picking out small things to quibble with instead of viewing the Budget as a whole. And understanding how every moving part relates to the other and contributes to the effectiveness of one big machine moving our nation forward.

Madam Speaker, it’s a bit like someone who looks at a beautiful baby girl and says “oh her left eyebrow is crooked”. So what? She’s still a beautiful little baby. These critics pick at the margins and contribute nothing in the way of constructive input about how our economy could be managed better. No alternatives. And instead of examining their own abysmal records as economic managers or their proposed economic policies, their supporters in the media and, I’ve heard on the blogs slavishly parrot their complaints.

That’s OK, Madam Speaker. That’s democracy. You can’t legislate against stupidity. But all I ask the Fijian people to do is to examine our record. Examine the facts.

I’ve said it before and I say it again. Unlike my political opponents, I have a fundamental respect for the intelligence and common sense of the Fijian people. I don’t lie to them. I don’t spread false rumours or prey on their fears. I don’t seek to divide and rule. I trust their judgement. And I know that when it comes to choosing who is best to govern them next year, they will exercise that judgement and make the right choice.

When they read the details of this budget or have it explained to them honestly, they can form their own opinion. But the one thing I respectfully ask them to ask themselves is this: Am I better off now than I was ten years ago? Do I have more opportunity now than I had ten years ago? Do my children have more opportunity now than ten years ago? Is Fiji in a better position than ten years ago? Are we all being treated equally and with dignity? And I believe the resounding answer to that is a big“yes”.

Madam Speaker, there are so many positive aspects in this budget but let me concentrate on a few. What we have done as a government to directly improve the lives of ordinary Fijian families. The hard-working men and women who are the backbone of our nation. As well as their children – the many tens of thousands of bright-eyed young people striving to reach their own potential and in whom the hopes of all us rest for a better Fiji.

Madam Speaker, with this budget, we have put more money into the pockets of ordinary Fijians – ordinary households – than at any other time in our history. And we have done it by raising the tax threshold – the point at which people pay any income tax at all – from $16,000 a year to $30,000 a year.

This almost doubling of the tax threshold dramatically improves the disposal income and consequently the living standards of our lower income earners. I don’t know if they understand that. It means that a single income household can keep every cent of any amount up to $30,000 that the breadwinner earns. And in two income families, every cent up to $60,000. No tax. All yours.

More money in peoples’ pockets to spend as they choose. And as they use that spending power to buy more goods and services, the positive effective multiplies. The demand they generate generates more power in the wider economy. More demand, more growth, more wealth. More small to medium businesses. Which also means more people leaping over the income tax threshold, contributing to the nation’s coffers and enabling us to expand our social programs to assist those who are most in need.

Madam Speaker, to meet our social obligations, we require greater social responsibility on the part of some of those on higher incomes. So we are saying to those who earn more than $30,000 a year – and especially our top earners – that we expect you to meet your tax obligations to enable us to fund our programs. Very simple.

Whether you are an individual or a business, you must pay your rightful share. And if you want to rip off your fellow Fijians – whether by avoiding tax or charging more than you should be the items you sell – we intend to hold you to account. Which is why I am especially proud of those measures in the budget that are designed to protect ordinary consumers from the predatory practices of selfish and dishonest business owners.

When a supermarket chain is penalized for $53-million dollars for tax evasion, it says a lot about some people’s values. But it also says a lot about this government’s values when those people are brought to account for ripping off their fellow Fijians.

Because above all, Madam Speaker, we believe in fairness. A fair go for every Fijian, no matter who they are or where they come from. And at every level, we are striving for fairness in the system so that people aren’t ripped off. They aren’t disadvantaged.

Madam Speaker, no-one would like to see the basic hourly pay rate for unskilled workers rise more than me. In this budget, we have taken it from $2.32 an hour to $2.68 an hour. The sectoral wages in other areas have also been increased. These figures, Madam Speaker, have been arrived at after widespread public consultations, the input of professionals and taking into account the numerous types of direct and indirect assistance my government provides to low income earners. These minimum rates are what we can afford as a nation at our current stage of development.

Madam Speaker, raising the minimum wage too much would actually result in a loss of jobs, as well as higher inflation. Many people might not be able to afford domestic help, for example, and small businesses may not be able to retain staff, let alone hire new ones. It would also drive up costs for many self-employed people and the 130,000 Fijians in the informal economy – those who drive taxis, own micro-enterprises, sell goods in the markets or sell coconuts and other produce by the roadsides. They have no way to offset those costs and raising the minimum wage too much would actually do them great harm.

Madam Speaker, a responsible government must be concerned with the effects of a wage rise on everyone in society and try to do what benefits the most people and disadvantages the fewest. And that is what we have done.

Again, ordinary Fijians understand this even if some of the opposition parties don’t. Ordinary Fijians also know that many are now paid way above the minimum wages in the different sectors due to the high demand, for example, in the construction sector. And they can also see the great things this government has also provided to relieve some of the cost of living pressures on ordinary people – the free schooling, increased subsidised electricity tariffs, free water, the free medicine, the subsidised bus fares and all those things that weren’t there when this government took office. But that people now take for granted.

Even if they haven’t had the benefit of a proper education – as their children have been able to get for the first time- our unskilled workers have always had common sense and the ability to think for themselves. And they certainly know the difference between a handout and a leg-up. A handout that doesn’t have a lasting impact. And a leg-up that does. Your government providing you and your family with opportunities to improve your living standard as well as encouraging you to capitalise on your own sense of enterprise. Your own hard work. This is the key to moving Fiji forward and we intend to continue this approach all the way to the next election and beyond.

It is the philosophical principle behind our Micro and Small Business Grants Program. That by giving many thousands of ordinary Fijians a leg-up to start their own businesses or improve the ones they already have, we are building an enterprise culture in Fiji. We move away from the idea that government exists to provide handouts and replace it with the notion that government exists to help people help themselves. And having lit that flame of enterprise with these grants, ordinary men and women all over Fiji are responding. Eager, with the assistance of government, to work as hard as they can to improve their lives and those of their families. And contribute to the growth of the Fijian economy.

Madam Speaker, I’m very proud that in this budget, we extend that leg-up to our energetic young people, with the $2-million allocated to assist enterprising young Fijians with their businesses. YES – or the Young Entrepreneurship Scheme – will offer grants up to a maximum of $20,000 to Fijians between the ages of 18 and 30 to develop or expand innovative business ideas.

These applications will be determined by a panel headed by the CEO of the ANZ Bank and I am very pleased to see the private sector partner with us in this venture. As the AG says, we want young Fijians to be job creators not just job seekers. And this is yet another example of the government empowering our young people, as we have also done in this budget with our Commercial Agricultural Scholarships and the recruiting of youth community workers through the Ministry of Youth and Sports.

Madam Speaker, another breakthrough I want to highlight are the pay increases for civil servants – some of them very significant – that are part of our civil service reforms. We are increasing the pay of civil servants because we want to make a career in government service an attractive option for a lot more gifted Fijians. Those who might otherwise go into the private sector or civil society, where pay scales have often been more attractive.

And Madam Speaker, it is also about lifting the performance standards of civil servants so that they serve the public better. Now that we have the base salary and the structure sorted out, going forward, pay rises will be dependent on individual performance-based assessments. Anyone on the public payroll will have to demonstrate that they deserve them. They need to be able to behave professionally, to perform their duties to the highest possible standard. Non-performance will not be tolerated.

Madam Speaker we want those who commit themselves to government service to be treated with the best possible remuneration and with respect. We want them to have a conducive environment to perform to the maximum of their capacity and develop themselves individually through access to increased training and technology. But we are insisting that, in return, they must treat the public with more efficiency and respect as they carry out their duties as servants of the Fijian people, as required by the Constitution.

And so, Madam Speaker, those are some of the values of the FijiFirst Government that underpin this Budget. Above all, the teamwork that we have brought to the governance of our nation, including the great partnership I forged a decade ago with the architect of the budget – the AG and Minister of Economy – whose own commitment and professionalism I salute. Along with that of my entire team.

Just as we passionately believe in fair play as a nation on the sporting field, the government passionately believes in fair play in our national life. And, Madam Speaker, above all this budget is fair. It balances the needs of everyone. It empowers more Fijians than ever before. And it builds on the achievements of previous years, setting us on a path for renewed growth in 2018 and beyond. So that by the time the 50th anniversary of independence comes around in 2020, Fiji will not only have enjoyed an unprecedented period of stability but of prosperity and a fairer deal for all.

I commend this Budget to the House.

Thank you, Madam Speaker.

HON PM BAINIMARAMA CLOSING ADDRESS AT THE CLIMATE ACTION PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP EVENT

Your Excellencies, heads of state and governments, Honourable ministers,
Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Bula vinaka and a very good afternoon to you all.

I apologise for being absent for part of today as much of the nation gathered on the other side of Viti Levu for the funeral of a wonderful lady and one of our most respected chiefs – Adi Laite Koroirua, Na Marama Na Tui Ba.

But as we bring our deliberations to a close, I want to warmly thank all of you for the commitment that you have brought to making this conference a success.

We have been newly reminded of our vulnerability in the Pacific not only to climate change but our transport links. Problems with an aeroplane prevented two important people from joining us – the current chair of the PSIDS, His Excellency the President of Nauru, and the leader of one of the more climate vulnerable of our members, President Heine of the Marshall Islands.

But I’m sure that you will all join me is sending our greetings to them and the people of Nauru and the Marshall islands. And to thank them for their own commitment to the struggle against climate change.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, the feedback that I have got about our meeting has been very positive. I think there was an expectation on the part of some delegates that much of the sessions would be pretty dry and technical. But several people have remarked to me that they were pleasantly surprised to find that they got so much out of the presentations in the way of practical information. Information that was news to them and can really make a difference.

We ranged across many subjects, from climate adaptation funding and insurance to ways in which we can boost our food security in the face of climate change. And I know there was certainly a great deal of interest in the issue of agriculture, such as the way the use of compost can transform our ability to grow crops on even the most isolated and sandy atolls.

So to all of our speakers – no matter what your area of specialist knowledge – vinaka vakalevu, the biggest of thank yous – for contributing that expertise to the bank of knowledge we so badly need in the Pacific as we build our resistance to climate change.

To my fellow island leaders, thank you once again for honouring me with your presence, not only as Fijian leader but as incoming President of COP23. We all bring a particular perspective to these discussions based on personal experience and the experience of our peoples. And there is certainly nothing wrong with having differences of emphasis and even differences of opinion about the best way forward.

What’s important given the immensity of the challenge we face to persuade the world to act on climate change is to stick together. Because we are going to be far more effective if we speak with one voice – the voice of the Pacific, the voice of the some of the most vulnerable, demanding action and demanding to be heard.

I want to thank my fellow island leaders for the sentiments they expressed about the importance of Fiji’s presidency of COP – this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to put our case. And let me close this conference by repeating that I see this as a Pacific presidency and want all of you beside me as we make our case.

I will again see many of you at the Climate Action Week in New York in September and the annual gathering of the UN General Assembly. But the date I would really like you all to put in your diaries is the Pre-COP in Nadi on October 17 and 18.
This is a critical event a month out from COP itself that will refine our collective position and set the tone for our overall approach in Bonn. So I ask you all to be present as honoured guests. We are also inviting a number of leaders from outside the region to join us in a collective act of solidarity with the Pacific and other vulnerable nations. And some of the biggest global names in climate activism have also accepted our invitation to be there.

Excellencies, as you all know, COP23 – unlike previous COPS – does not include the usual gathering of world leaders. Our prime task is to advance the implementation guidelines for the Paris Agreement – the Rulebook – and lay the groundwork for more decision climate action in the Facilitative Dialogue of 2018. Yet right from the start, Fiji wanted Pacific leaders to be the exception. And we were able to secure the agreement of our German hosts for you to all be present in Bonn – the Pacific presenting a united face alongside Fiji as president to remind the global community of what’s at stake. And remind it of its obligations to pursue decisive climate action.

So again, please set aside November 6 to 17 to be in Bonn as honoured guests and to be with me as COP president as we pursue our collective agenda. As I’ve already said, I want to use your mana as leaders individually and collectively. As well as the mana of former Pacific leaders who have been at the forefront of the climate struggle over the years and whose experience and wisdom we also want to tap. And I appeal to all of you to come.

I also want to make special mention as we wind up our conference of our two distinguished guests from our larger neighbours – the Australian Minister for International Cooperation and the Pacific, who is still with us, and the Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand, who has already returned home. As incoming COP President, I very much appreciate the high level engagement of our friends – the Kiwis and Aussies. Geography binds us together in perpetuity. And while we may have our own differences of emphasis and opinion, we have a shared destiny that also binds us together. And the island nations especially look to you for leadership on climate change. Not only to preserve the multilateral consensus for decisive action but to build our resilience.

I want to say to both countries again how much we in Fiji appreciated the way your wonderful servicemen and women came to assist us in the wake of Cyclone Winston last year. We know we can rely on New Zealand and Australia to come to our assistance at times of grave emergency due to the extreme weather events cause by climate change. And we also hope that you can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with us as we work to persuade the world to tackle the underlying causes of those events. It’s been great having both ministers gracing us with their presence here in Suva.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, as you know, we have been working on a joint statement to wrap up the CAPP Event. But right now, it remains only for me to again thank you all warmly for your participation. And until we gather together again in Nadi in October and Bonn in November, to wish you all a pleasant and safe journey home.

My thanks go to the entire team that has dedicated so many hours to making this gathering a success. To the head of the COP23 Fiji Secretariat, John Connor, and his hard-working staff. And especially our Climate Champion – my minister and friend, the Honourable Inia Seruiratu. He has shown great energy and commitment crisscrossing the world pursing the action agenda. And as you know, has played a very important role in these proceedings.

I now have the pleasure to formally close the Climate Action Pacific Partnership Event. And until we continue our talanoa elsewhere,

Vinaka vakalevu. And moce mada.

HON PM BAINIMARAMA OPENING ADDRESS AT THE CLIMATE ACTION PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP EVENT

Your Excellencies my fellow Pacific Island leaders,
The Honourable Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand,
The Honourable Australian Minister for International Development and the Pacific,
The Chair of the CAPP event – our Climate Champion, the Honourable Inia Seruiratu.
Distinguished representatives of governments and regional organisations,
Representatives of civil society and the private sector,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Bula vinaka and a very good morning to you all.

The next 48 hours are an extremely important opportunity for us all, as we come together to do what we can, here in the Pacific, to advance the global climate action agenda.

We face an unprecedented threat to our way of life from the rising sea levels, extreme weather events and changes to agriculture brought about by climate change.

No one living in the Pacific can be left in any doubt about what is at stake. As the incoming President of COP23 – the ongoing UN climate negotiations – I still get some people saying to me: Why are you doing this? Why are you spending so much time travelling the world when you have a job to do in Fiji? And my simple answer is this:

As Pacific Islanders, we are fighting for our very survival. For all we hold dear. For all that God has given us and has been entrusted to us by our forebears to care for and pass on to generations to come. And for some of our number, their very existence as sovereign nations with land and coastlines hangs in the balance.

I want to particularly welcome and honour the leaders of two of our neighbours who are most at risk – President Maamau of Kiribati and Prime Minister Sopoaga of Tuvalu.

Excellencies, you carry the grave responsibility of trying to save your nations and your peoples from existential threat – the prospect of the islands you love and the resting place of your ancestors disappearing beneath the waves altogether.

Of all the vulnerable nations of the world, you are the most vulnerable. Of all the moral force we can muster to remind the world of its obligations, you have the greatest moral force of all. Because to allow sovereign nations to slip beneath the rising seas altogether to preserve the economies and lifestyles of others would be an act of unparalleled selfishness and injustice. And any global citizen who believes in justice has no moral choice other than to side with you in your struggle.

On behalf of everyone in this room, I ask you to convey to your people that we rededicate ourselves to that struggle today. We are with you. We are doing everything we can to stand up for you in the great forums of the world. We will never abandon you, just as we will continue to fight for justice for every single vulnerable person on earth.

And even if the battle to keep your islands above the water is lost, we will continue to stand shoulder- to-shoulder with you. Fiji has offered to give permanent refuge to the people of Kiribati and Tuvalu, our closest neighbours under threat. And we expect the United States to do the same for the people of the Marshall Islands – who share your plight – because of their long-standing historical ties.

In a worst-case scenario, we know that there will be climate refugees throughout the world. But the people of Kiribati and Tuvalu will not be refugees. We Fijians will embrace you and take you into our homes and our hearts. That is our solemn promise to you as Pacific neighbours and friends. And we ask other countries to offer the same hospitality to anyone who is displaced by climate change. Because ultimately, we are one world, one people. And as the new French President said so aptly the other day: there is no plan B other than decisive climate action because there is no planet B.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, I also offer a special welcome to our distinguished guests from our larger neighbours – the Honourable Paula Bennett, the New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Climate Change Issues and the Honourable Concetta Fierravanti-Wells, the Australian Minister for International Development and the Pacific.

I often say that our best chance of achieving lasting change in any sphere is to tap the energy and resourcefulness of our women. So it is wonderful to see the leadership role that these two women are taking on the issue of climate change. We in the Pacific Islands look to Australia and New Zealand for leadership in helping us to highlight our own challenges. And we very much hope that both countries can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the PSIDS leaders by supporting the position we adopt here and throughout Fiji’s Presidency of COP23.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, in this room today are the various Pacific elements of the Grand Coalition I am helping to forge across the world as incoming COP President to step up the momentum for climate action. Representatives of governments, regional organisations, civil society and the private sector – all focused on the huge task that lies before us.

We are not pointing our fingers at the rest of the world and saying “it is your responsibility to solve this problem”. We recognise that it is the collective responsibility of every global citizen to contribute to a solution.

In this spirit of collective responsibility, I was honoured, on Fiji’s behalf, to formally endorse the “Under2 Coalition” and appoint the Governor of California, Jerry Brown, as my Special COP23 Envoy to the States and Regions. This important initiative has mobilised nearly 180 sub-national governments around the world to do their part to tackle climate change. And you will hear from Governor Brown shortly.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, today we bring together some of the best minds, biggest investors, and most committed climate action campaigners in our own region to examine what we can do. A fresh exchange of ideas, a search for innovation, for solutions that we can pursue here in the Pacific that can be part of a global solution. And that can even inspire others to pursue greater ambition and action elsewhere.

As many of you already know, this Climate Action Pacific Partnership Event – CAPP – is part of the program of activities of the High Level Champions appointed under the Paris Agreement. They include our own High level Champion, The Honourable Inia Seruiratu – Fiji’s Minister for Minister for Agriculture, Rural and Maritime Development and National Disaster. And I want to warmly thank him for the energy and commitment he is bringing to this role.

Our agenda over the next two days includes a number of interactive sessions with contributions from Pacific leaders, civil society and the private sector. All of you have a great deal in the way of skills, knowledge and experience to add to our collective ability to design solutions to the challenges we face.

As incoming COP President, I want to stress the importance of three basic principles as we examine the various options.

First, any potential solutions we embrace must be transformative. They must be able to make a real difference and be game-changers.

Second, they must also be practical and affordable enough to be embraced on a greater scale. So that something that works in Fiji can also work across the Pacific.

And finally, they must be able to be replicated. Something innovative that happens in one community can also happen in communities across the region.

After my speech here this morning, I’m going to open something that ticks all of these boxes – one of the biggest companies in Fiji, Coca-Cola Amatil, embracing solar energy to help power its local plant in Nasinu. Almost 4000 solar panels have been installed across almost 11-thousand square metres of roof space to generate 40 per cent of the site’s energy requirements. The plan is to take this to 80 per cent and extend the solar program to plants in Lautoka and Labasa. But already, the company is saving 415-thousand litres of diesel every year, along with 975 tonnes of carbon.

I certainly encourage other companies and investors to follow this lead. Because it’s a practical and highly effective way in which the private sector can make its own contribution to the fight against climate change.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, as we embark on our discussions this morning, I want to emphasise the critical importance of teamwork, not only within nations and regions but the entire world. The various strands of the grand coalition each of you represent must be fully committed to working collaboratively together and be totally focused on the mission ahead.

I have said before that we are all in same canoe, not just the island nations but the whole world. No-one is immune to the effects of climate change. All 7.5 billion people are in the same boat. And to symbolise the critical importance of the “one world” concept, we are going to have an ocean-going Fijian canoe – a Drua – in the main foyer in Bonn when we gather for COP23 itself in November. There’ll be a taste of this when another Drua sails past us here at lunchtime. And I hope you all enjoy the spectacle.

It is to remind everyone that we need to fill our sails with a collective determination to move the climate agenda forward. To not only maintain the course that was set in Paris at the end of 2015 – to fully implement the historic agreement we reached – but speed up the process. Because if we don’t, the world – and especially our precious island homes – face certain catastrophe.

We all know the challenge the world faces because the American Government has abandoned its leadership on this issue. But we must do whatever we can to encourage America to resume that leadership. The door is always open to President Trump. But in the meantime, we must support those Americans who remain committed to climate action. And we must fortify every other nation to stay the course.

So on behalf of us all, I want to send the strongest possible message to the leaders of the G20 Group of Major Economies – including President Trump – who will gather for their summit in the German city of Hamburg later this week.

Please do not abandon us, we in the Pacific who are among the most vulnerable to climate change. Please commit yourselves to showing solidarity with vulnerable nations around the world. Whether it is embracing more decisive climate action. Or giving developing nations readier access to adaptation finance and insurance that builds greater resilience and cleaner economies. Or to work more closely with the private sector and investors to do both.

To the leaders of the G20: We have not caused this crisis, your nations have. As our opening prayer this morning put it, we have trodden lightly on the earth whereas you have trodden heavily. And those carbon footprints pose a threat to us in the Pacific and to all humanity.

The vulnerable nations expect you to genuinely work towards the objectives you agreed to in the Paris Agreement – to keep global temperatures well below 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level and pursue efforts to limit warming to 1.5 degrees.

We expect you to meet the initial climate action commitments you have already made. But we also ask you to go a lot further, because what we have all committed so far is simply not enough to deal effectively with the scale of the crisis the world is facing.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, as COP President, my formal role come November will be to continue to develop the implementation guidelines of the Paris Agreement – the Rulebook – and prepare for more ambitious climate action through the Facilitative Dialogue of 2018. But it has become very clear to me as incoming President that what is considered ambitious now isn’t nearly ambitious enough. We must all make a greater effort, and it is simple logic, basic science, that the biggest carbon emitters must make the greatest reductions of all.

The full implementation of the Paris Agreement is a critical first step and every nation must fulfill the Nationally Determined Contributions or NDCs they have made. But it has become clear since Paris that the pace of climate change is even faster than was thought at the time and its impacts are far more serious.

So let me leave you with some of the very latest information that has alarmed me and ought to be of grave concern for every global citizen, and especially those of us in the Pacific.

The current NDCs fall well short of what is needed to achieve the objective of the Paris Agreement – again – to keep global temperatures well below 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level and pursue efforts to limit warming to 1.5 degrees. In fact, even if all of the commitments are honoured, the global temperature will be on track to be just under three degrees. And this would be a disaster for the whole planet.

It would mean that Kiribati, Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands are doomed, along with a great many other atolls as well. It would intensify the extreme weather events like Cyclone Winston and Cyclone Pam that have caused so much havoc for Pacific nations. And it would make it virtually impossible for our agriculture to be able to continue to feed our people.

The scientists are now telling us that with the disappearance of the summer ice around the North Pole and the eventual melting of the Arctic and Greenland, the global average sea rise would be a terrifying seven metres. Which means this room would be flooded to the ceiling.

Much of Suva, as we know it, would be under water, and so would large parts of every coastal city in the world. And given that 80 per cent of the world’s cities are on coastlines, the global economy would be devastated. And along with that, the living standards of people throughout the world.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, on the best scientific advice, that is the nightmare scenario we face. So to anyone who questions my own commitment to making this a priority I say: What would you do? When the survival of your capital city is at stake, much of your own country and the very existence of some of your neighbours.

That is why I am doing what I have to do. That is why Fiji has taken on the COP Presidency. To show leadership and guide the world towards a solution to undoubtedly the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced.

On the best advice, we must by 2020, fundamentally turn the current position around. We must not abandon our Paris target of 1.5 degrees above the pre-industrial age however difficult it may be to reach. We must also achieve net zero emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gasses within a few decades. That means shifting away from fossil fuels altogether and embracing renewable energy. As well as taking carbon out of the atmosphere through such means as planting forests and mangroves.

I must also be very frank with my own people and other Pacific islanders that in some instances for us, it is already too late. We are already one degree above the temperature of the pre-industrial age. And with that, we are already seeing the destruction of some of our reefs through coral bleaching, with all that entails for our food security, our tourism, our entire way of life.

And so Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, there is an urgency about the task ahead that cannot be overstated. I ask you all to use these next two days to continue to put the Pacific on a leadership footing as we alert the world to the challenges we face. Help make the Pacific story one of investment and innovation, not one of destruction and despair.

I have said all along that Fiji has taken on the role of incoming President of COP23 on behalf of all Pacific Islanders, as well as the citizens of vulnerable nations everywhere. This is very much a Pacific Presidency, an inclusive process in which you all have a role to play. So I thank you all for honouring us – honouring me – with your attendance. I wish you well in your deliberations and as always, encourage our visitors to enjoy your interaction with our people, our environment, and our world famous Fijian hospitality.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.

HON PM BAINIMARAMA AT THE LAUNCH OF THE COCA-COLA AMATIL (FIJI) SOLAR ENERGY PROJECT AT LAUCALA BEACH IN NASINU

The Group Managing Director Coca- Cola Amatil Ltd
The General Manager – Coca-Cola Amatil Fiji
The Director of Sunergise,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I have just come from the opening of an important Pacific event that is part of the climate action agenda of Fiji’s Presidency of COP23. And at that function at the GPH, I was able to stress the importance of why I am with you all today – to launch and commission Coca-Cola Amatil’s first solar powered plant in the Pacific.

I was able to provide a briefing on what you have done here in Suva to my fellow Pacific leaders, the Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand, the Australian Minister for International Development and the Pacific and the leaders of civil society and the private sector from throughout the region.

We are all meeting to discuss ways in which we in the Pacific can embark on some of our own solutions to the challenge the entire world faces from climate change. And in my opening address, I said that any project had to meet three basic tests:

First, any potential solutions we embrace must be transformative. They must be able to make a real difference and be game-changers.

Second, they must also be practical and affordable enough to be embraced on a greater scale. So that something that works in Fiji can also work across the Pacific.

And finally, they must be able to be replicated. Something innovative that happens in one community can also happen in communities across the region.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I was delighted to be able to tell everyone that this project by Coca-Cola Amatil – one of Fiji’s biggest companies – ticks all of these boxes. You have embraced solar energy to help power your installation here in Nasinu. And in doing this, you are taking a key leadership role in persuading private enterprise throughout the Pacific to do the same. Because we all know that embracing renewable energy is the key to solving the challenge of climate change, which poses such a danger to our way of life in the Pacific.

I salute the company for its vision on behalf of every Fijian and encourage every other Fijian business and investor to consider following your example. Because what you have done here is a practical and highly effective way in which the private sector can make its own contribution to the fight against climate change.

It really is a potential game changer; solar technology is becoming increasingly more efficient as well as affordable; and this is something that can be replicated throughout the region.

As I told my fellow Pacific leaders this morning, almost 4000 solar panels have been installed across almost 11-thousand square metres of roof space to generate 40 per cent of this site’s energy requirements. The plan is to take this to 80 per cent and extend the solar program to plants in Lautoka and Labasa. And already, the company is saving 415-thousand litres of diesel every year, along with 975 tonnes of carbon.

So this is a wonderful project and an example of how a multinational company – working with Sunergise and the Fijian Government – can make a real difference in the fight against climate change. Helping to protect our environment now and into the future.

Vinaka vakalevu Alison Watkin, Roger Hare, Ajay Raniga and the entire team at Coca- Cola and Sunergise for a great effort. As incoming President of COP23, I have been doing everything possible to encourage more private sector involvement in the climate change issue and I very much appreciate the lead you are taking.

I don’t need to tell you what is at stake here – the very survival of Pacific island nations. As I explained to my fellow leaders this morning, the latest scientific information we are getting is highly alarming. The impact of global warming is much more serious than we even appreciated when the nations of the world signed the Paris Agreement at the end of 2015.

This is not someone else’s problem. It is our problem. There are predictions that with the melting of the ice in polar regions, the sea could be as much as seven metres higher. Yes, seven metres. Which would put much of Suva under water, along with 80 per cent of the world’s capitals that are also coastal cities.

So the urgency of dealing with this cannot be overstated. I have to say I get a bit frustrated with some small minded people in Fiji who ask why I am spending so much time on COP when we have other issues to deal with in Fiji.

My simple response is that nothing else will matter in the least if we can’t secure our future in the face of climate change. It is the number one issue in Fiji and the entire world. And having been asked to lead that fight by the global community, I am going to do it and do it to the best of my ability. Because everything we hold dear as a nation depends on it. Our way of life, the future of our children, the future of our beloved Fiji.

So ladies and gentlemen, let’s all get behind this struggle. Keep cheap politics out of the need for urgent action on climate change. Let’s work together as a nation to do what we can to make a difference. To get the world to understand that our very future hangs in the balance.

Again, thank you Coca-Cola- Amatil for making a difference yourselves. And I encourage every Fijian company to embrace alternative energy in the same way.

I also want to acknowledge and thank you for your efforts to recycle some of the millions of plastic drink bottles that pose such a threat to our environment. Coca-Cola Amatil is the only local beverage maker engage in recycling PET bottles. And again, I urge other manufacturers to follow your lead.

And with those words, Ladies and Gentleman, I now have great pleasure in launching the Coca-Cola Amatil Fiji Solar Energy Project.

Vinaka vakalevu, thank you.

HON PM BAINIMARAMA GROUND BREAKING CEREMONY OF THE ITAUKEI LAND DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS

The Members of the Korokula Land Owning Unit,
Ladies and Gentlemen.

Cola Vina and a very good morning to you all.

I’m delighted to be here today as we celebrate a project that marks the beginning of a new era of prosperity and empowerment for the iTaukei people, as we break ground on the first-ever Government funded development of iTaukei land.

The motivation for this project, along with that of so many others that my Government is carrying out across our islands, is rooted in my deeply held belief to assist all Fijians without discrimination and recognise the ability and ingenuity of all our citizens. All over Fiji, we have people – men and women with limitless potential – who simply need the means to find success – the means to build better lives for themselves, and uplift those around them to do the same. That is the vision we are working to realise for every Fijian. Yesterday I was giving out micro-finance grants to assist Fijians to participate in small businesses and today we are here to assist iTaukei landowners to directly capitalise from their landownership.

This afternoon I will also attend a similar ground breaking ceremony for three other such developments in Vuda, Saweni and Wairebetia.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the iTaukei people today, operate from a position of strength unrivalled by any other time in our history. The land and rights of the iTaukei are protected and enshrined for all time in the Fijian Constitution – the supreme law of the land that governs every action of my Government.

Of course, even in the midst of such protections and achievements, we’ve seen time and time again, the usual suspects in the Opposition go through the same tired charade of spreading fear and spinning lies – all in their attempt to deceive the iTaukei people to further their own political and personal ambitions. But, Ladies and Gentlemen, the facts speak for themselves. And the fact is, not one inch of iTaukei land has been lost under my Government, and today around 91 per cent of the land in Fiji is owned by the iTaukei.

Never have the iTaukei been more secure, never before have they had more opportunity to improve their lives and the lives of those around them. And never before have young iTaukei men and women had a better shot of realising their dreams and aspirations for the future. Indeed never before have all iTaukei people been treated equally amongst themselves. My Government assists all iTaukei people equally. In providing Government service and assistance we don’t make a distinction between chief and commoner.

All iTaukei people are also entitled to the rights my Government has always fought to uphold for all Fijians, including the right to and access to free education, scholarships, tertiary education loans and access to roads, water, electricity, subsidised bus fares, free water and subsidised electricity to name a few.

But even with these unprecedented guarantees, my Government wanted to do more. We didn’t only want to protect the ownership of iTaukei land and the rights of the iTaukei, we wanted to do one better by providing a solid foundation for growth that would empower iTaukei people and that is what this project is all about.

iTaukei people in Fiji have long faced the issue of being asset-rich but cash poor. Of course one of the reasons this has been is because the politicians of the past and some even today politicise land ownership. Rather than assisting iTaukei people to benefit economically and financially from the landownership, they simply did nothing about it. Rather than telling landowners that if they developed the land themselves and they will not only become cash rich but also create more wealth and opportunities for the country, they sought to only look after themselves.
I am here to tell you that my Government thinks differently. We want you to realise benefits from your land. We want you to become more economically and financially powerful. We want you to lease your lands for long term leases and get the right rental paid for it. And we will as we are doing today give you the funding to develop your land so you will do precisely that. My Government is a practical government. We know that many landowning units don’t have the upfront funds to carry out such developments. I also know that because of the non-availability of such funds many landowning units were vulnerable – vulnerable to interests with far deeper pockets that sought to lease their land, add value through capital investment and make a killing, leasing that same land out to other parties.

Through this initiative of my Government that will no longer be the case. We will build the roads and connect your subdivision to water and electricity so you can directly sell the leases yourself to make a financial gain.

This subdivision project at Yadua is one of the first four projects to benefit under this grant, with the development of 13 residential lots at a total cost of nearly $2.5 million.
When you lease this land after the development is completed it will benefit every Fijian. It will benefit you as the developer, it will provide economic opportunities to small and medium sized businesses in this area, there will be more construction thereby providing more jobs and it will give confidence to investors to invest more through security of 99 year leases. This subdivision will create more economic opportunities for Fiji and all Fijians.

I am very excited to watch this land develop and serve the people of Yadua, and many more Fijians in the years to come. To the people of Yadua, this is your land today, and it will be your land for all time. Take this opportunity to make the best possible use of what is yours, and build something that will support your community for generations.

Vinaka vakalevu – Thank you.

HON PM BAINIMARAMA REMARKS TO PSIDS LEADERS AT BREAKFAST MEEETING ON COP23 UPDATE

Your Excellencies, my fellow Pacific Island leaders,
Honourable Ministers and officials,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Bula vinaka and a very good morning to you all.

I have said all along that Fiji has taken on the role of incoming President of COP23 on behalf of all Pacific islanders, as well as the citizens of vulnerable nations throughout the world. So I’m honoured to have the opportunity to give you a progress report on what we are doing to make our leadership of the ongoing UN climate negotiations an unqualified success.

I very much see this as a Pacific presidency – an inclusive process in which I ask you all to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Fiji as we give voice to the concerns of our own countries, our own region. And because we are among the most vulnerable to climate change, to also lead the fight on behalf of every vulnerable person on earth.

As you all know, the stakes for all of us are extremely high. And especially for our friends from Tuvalu, Kiribati and the Marshall Islands, whose very existence is threatened.

It is an absolute imperative for all of us that the Paris Agreement of 2015 is fully implemented. And that we try to persuade the rest of the world to embrace even more ambitious action in the years to come. Because we all know that even the current national contributions to the Paris Agreement are not enough to save us.

We are all, quite naturally, bitterly disappointed by the decision of the Trump Administration to abandon the Paris Agreement. Not only because of the loss of American leadership on this issue of critical importance to the whole world. But because it may also encourage other nations to either back away from the commitments they have made or not implement them with the same resolve.

But something wonderful is also happening. The American decision is galvanizing opinion around the world in support of decisive climate action. Other nations and blocs like China, the European Union and India are stepping forward to assume the leadership that Donald Trump has abandoned. And within America itself, there is a widespread rebellion against the decision the President has taken. Dozens of state governors and city mayors are banding together with leaders of the private sector, civil society and ordinary citizens to redouble their efforts to meet this challenge. So while the Trump Administration may have abandoned its leadership on climate change, the American people haven’t.

Next week, I will go to California to meet the Democrat Governor Jerry Brown and sign up to the climate action initiative that he is spearheading. I am also in contact with his Republican predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who shares Governor Brown’s commitment. The point is that on both sides of American politics, we have friends who are standing with us in this struggle. And I am inviting both Governor Brown and the famous Terminator to come to our Pre-COP gathering in Fiji in October, where we hope they will join us in a gesture of solidarity with the vulnerable just before COP23 itself in Bonn the following month.

Excellencies, my message to all of you today – my kai vata as we say in Fiji, my Pacific brothers and sisters, is this: As incoming president of COP23, I want you by my side all year at the big events leading up to Bonn in November. This is not just about Frank or about Fiji but every Pacific leader, every Pacific nation, every civil society group, every private sector body, everyone who represents the ordinary men, women and children in the Pacific who look to us for leadership on this issue of critical importance to our collective future.

I want your input. I need your input. And I want every Pacific leader beside me as we demand decisive action to protect the security of our people and those in other vulnerable parts of the world.

I want to issue a warm personal invitation to you all to come to Suva next month – on July 3 and 4 – for our Climate Action Pacific Partnership event. This is where Pacific leaders will join members of civil society and the private sector to hammer out an agenda that we can collectively pursue as the year progresses. And that we can take to our Pre-COP in Nadi in October and to Bonn the following month.

We will also be discussing a number of legacy items – programs and projects that can be of lasting benefit to the Pacific after COP23 has ended. And we also seek your input on that. We have the funding to pay for the attendance of all PIDS leaders plus one other official and I appeal to you all to set aside those dates to be with us in Fiji.

I also invite every Pacific leader to again join me in Denarau for the Pre-COP on October 17 and 18. This is a critical event a month out from COP itself that will refine our collective position and set the tone for our overall approach in Bonn. As I mentioned, we are also inviting a number of leaders from outside the region to join us in a collective act of solidarity with the Pacific and other vulnerable nations. Again, we have the funding to bring every PSIDS leader plus one official to Nadi.

Excellencies, as you all know, COP23 – unlike previous COPS – does not include the usual gathering of world leaders. Our prime task is to advance the implementation guidelines for the Paris Agreement – the Rulebook – and lay the groundwork for more decision climate action in the Facilitative Dialogue of 2018.

We will not have the usual round of speeches from world leaders because they won’t be there. Yet right from the start, Fiji wanted Pacific leaders to be the exception. And we have secured the agreement of our German hosts for you to all to be present in Bonn – the Pacific presenting a united face alongside Fiji as president to remind the global community of what’s at stake. And remind it of its obligations to pursue decisive climate action.

Again, please set aside November 6 to 17 to be in Bonn as honoured guests and to be with me as COP president as we pursue our collective agenda. I want to use your mana as leaders individually and collectively. As well as the mana of former Pacific leaders who have been at the forefront of the climate struggle over the years and whose experience and wisdom we also want to tap. Again, funding assistance is available through the UNFCCC to enable you to be in Bonn. And I appeal to all of you to come.

In the meantime, please use your influence to get your own climate-related stories told. Fiji has set up a dedicated website – cop23.com.fj – to promote our presidency and we are especially keen to get contributions from our Pacific neighbours. Just go to the contact page on our website to begin the process.

Excellencies, let me briefly explain how we intend to run the Bonn event from Fiji’s perspective. It will be very much a team effort – Fiji’s presidency, not just my own – and I will be relying heavily on the great team we have already assembled – our Chief Negotiator, Ambassador Nazhat Shameem Khan, our Climate Champion, Minister Inia Seruiratu and our Climate Ambassador, Ambassador Deo Saran. Plus a wider team of officials and advisors, most of them Fijian and others with globally acknowledged expertise in climate policy and experience of previous COPs.

The way I see the Fijian team operating in Bonn on a day-to-day basis throughout the proceedings is this: Our Climate Negotiator, Ambassador Shameem Khan, will do the detailed negotiations in the plenary sessions. And as President, I will have a roving brief, presiding over the main events and having the ability to intervene at other times. To give encouragement where needed and especially to use my authority and powers of persuasion to iron out any impasse. To keep people focused and hold the show together.

At the same time, I seek the assistance of all Pacific leaders to enable me to fulfill an important undertaking that I have made. To bring the two zones in Bonn closer together – the Bula Zone where the formal government-to-government negotiations take place. And the Bonn Zone some distance away, which will be the climate action zone for non-state actors. Whether they be representatives of state or local governments around the world, NGOs, other civil society organisations and interfaith groups, the private sector and ordinary citizens.

I want you to join me in spending a great deal of time in this climate action zone, interacting with the various players and ordinary people. We will have a pavilion in which you can base yourselves. And we can take our inclusive Pacific way of doing things – of listening to others and genuinely respecting their views – and transpose it onto the global scene to advance the cause of climate action.

In Fiji’s case, we intend to bring our Bula Spirit to Bonn – to showcase our unique culture and way of life. And we are also harnessing the Talanoa Spirit – a word we share with our Tongan and Samoan neighbours – to promote the concept of dialogue on climate change that is inclusive, respectful, non judgmental and achieves concrete results.

I was amazed at the recent Petersberg Climate Dialogue in Berlin how much other delegates reacted positively – even with excitement – to my explanation of the Talanoa Spirit. They began using the term in their own speeches. And I am convinced that the world is receptive to some of our Pacific ways of doing things – of genuine dialogue rather than being prescriptive. Of each nation, each person, gaining a genuine appreciation of the challenges faced by others. And working together in a genuine spirit of cooperation to find solutions to undoubtedly the greatest challenge the world has ever faced.

So Excellencies, please join me as we set out on this voyage together. I said in Berlin that we are all in the same canoe. We are all in this together. Climate change spares no-one, not even Donald Trump. We are all affected. We are all at risk. And as a symbol of the challenge we face together and the journey we all need to make, we will be placing a large Fijian ocean-going canoe – a Drua – in the main foyer in Bonn.

Amid all the talanoa, there will also be a great deal of Fijian singing and dancing, thanks to the generosity of our German hosts in paying for our cultural branding of COP23. And I would encourage all of you to also bring your own performers, if you can find the means, to give the entire event a wider Pacific stamp.

One word of caution. It’s going to be very cold in Bonn in November. As I told the European media the other day, don’t expect to photograph me without my shirt. But what we lack in terms of the weather, we intend to make up in terms of personal warmth.

So, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, let’s infuse COP23 with the spirit of Pacific friendliness and hospitality and make it the best COP ever. One that will live forever in the memories of those present and showcase our region and its people to the world.

We had a very successful initial session in Bonn last month. Working with the Moroccan Presidency of COP22, we made solid progress on the implementation guidelines and the Facilitative Dialogue. And we agreed that the process should be about confidence building, empowerment and encouragement, not about finger pointing and punishment.

But as I have said to my own people, teamwork is paramount if we are to make COP23 a success. Like our world champion, Olympic medal winning Rugby Sevens team, Fiji cannot afford to drop the ball on climate action. The Pacific cannot afford to drop the ball on climate action. We need to work together as a team to persuade the world to get points on the board if we are to ensure our own security and the security of generations of Pacific Islanders to come.

Now more than ever, given the Trump Administration’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, the whole world will be watching. And I look to my fellow Pacific leaders to get into the scrum with me, get that ball out and move it forward. With a team that includes governments, civil society, the private sector and billions of ordinary people around the world, all trying to win one for ourselves and for our planet.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.

HON PM BAINIMARAMA OPENING REMARKS AT “A BLUE COMMONWEALTH” – HIGH LEVEL ROUNDTABLE AT THE OCEANS CONFERENCE

Your Excellency, the Secretary General of the Commonwealth,
Your Excellency the Vice President of the Republic of Seychelles,
Distinguished participants from other Commonwealth nations,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Bula vinaka and a very good afternoon to you all.

The Commonwealth continues to play a leading role in global affairs and I’m delighted to be given the opportunity to open this important side event – a high level roundtable on what the Commonwealth can do to support the implementation of SDG14.

I particularly welcome the emphasis on maximizing innovation and economic opportunities in the development of blue economies. I made the point when I addressed an event for the ACP countries this morning that many of us are already making great strides in this area.

We may be powerless to prevent the degradation of our seas and coastlines by other nations. But for the areas we do control, some of us have already developed policies that are making a difference. And I urge you all to embrace the principle that Fiji has embraced. That no development on land or at sea must take place if there is any risk to the environment whatsoever. It is a central tenet of our Green Growth Framework and national development plans. And – as I said this morning – we are very proud as a nation to have drawn this responsible line in the sand.

I also welcome today’s emphasis on mobilizing partnerships within the Commonwealth – this unique organisation that binds us all together – and on fairness, equity and the empowerment of women. Because we all know that when women are empowered, they become powerful agents for change, wherever they are in the world and in whatever capacity they are able to direct their talents. They are the backbone of our societies and in many places, are already leading the way to a more sustainable future.
No-one knows this more than our distinguished Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland, who hails from a Small Island Developing State in the Caribbean and is a living embodiment of the leadership women can provide with empowerment. More than most, she also knows the challenges we all face in the SIDS countries because of the steady degradation of our oceans and seas. And we certainly look forward to hearing her proposals for the development of a ‘Blue Charter’ – a set of guiding principles for sustainable, fair and equitable economic development of our oceans based on the Commonwealth Charter. Once again, Baroness Scotland, we thank you for your leadership on this issue and many others.

The wonderful thing about the Commonwealth is the strength we all derive from our ability to share our experiences and learn from each other. And we all look forward to hearing about the challenges and successes of developing blue economies from a range of speakers who also embody the diversity of our organisation. From Bangladesh, Barbados, Cyprus, Grenada and Fiji’s close neighbour and friend, Tonga. As well as representatives of the Commonwealth Foundation and UNCTAD.

Welcome to you all and thank you for your own commitment to the great task before us this week, which is, quite simply, to save our oceans before it is too late.

Our thanks go to the Government of the Seychelles and the Commonwealth Secretariat as our hosts. And I now have great pleasure to declare this high level roundtable on a Blue Commonwealth open.

Vinaka vakalevu, Thank you.

HON PM BAINIMARAMA REMARKS AT ACP HIGH LEVEL BREAKFAST MEETING ON “UNLOCKING THE POTENTIAL OF BLUE ECONOMY FOR THE SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT OF SIDS”

Mr. Chairman,
The Secretary General of the ACP Group of States, The Secretary General of UNCTAD,
Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen.

1. Fiji very much values its membership of the ACP group of countries and I want to begin by expressing my sincere appreciation for the support you have all given us over the years. And especially the support you are giving Fiji in 2017 as we take on the dual but complimentary responsibilities of co-Chair of the Ocean Conference and incoming President of COP23. It is a critical imperative for all of us that we persuade the world to take urgent action on climate change and the deteriorating state of our seas and oceans. As I keep stressing, the two are inextricably linked. So I’m delighted to be able to participate in this important event – to share our experiences on “Unlocking the potential of the blue economy for the sustainable development of Small Island Developing States”. I would like to especially thank Dr. Gomes and his team for organising this meeting.

2. This dialogue on the margins of the Ocean Conference is extremely important for all of us. Never before has it been so critical to speak not just individually but as a bloc as we all focus on the implementation of SDG14. Because acting in concert – speaking with one voice – is the best way for ACP countries to mobilise the rest of the global community to join us in our determination to roll back the tide. To reverse the ever-spiraling decline in the quality and health of the seas and oceans on which so many of our people depend.

3. We all know what is at stake with the simultaneous threat we face. Whether it is the impact of climate change or continuing to degrade a precious resource at sea that has sustained successive generations and that we merely hold in trust for future generations. Simply put, our very survival is on the line. Our ability to sustain our people and ensure their security, not only from the elements – the extreme weather events that threaten our very existence – but our ability to feed ourselves. We cannot continue to have droughts and cyclones destroy our food security on land and continue to degrade an important source of nourishment in our oceans and seas. As well as the principal source of income for so many of our people, wherever we live in the world.

4. As I stressed in my opening statement yesterday, the time to act is now. We cannot afford to delay a decisive response to this crisis any longer. Excellencies, this week is the best chance we have had as a community of nations to develop a consensus on the best way forward. And it is also the best chance for the African, Caribbean and Pacific nations to put their best foot forward and be heard.

5. Individually and collectively, we all have a great story to tell. Because so many of us are bearing the brunt of this crisis – a crisis that affects the vulnerable nations most.

6. We also have a great story to tell about some of our own efforts to relieve the ever-growing pressures on our natural environments. Increasingly, ACP members are not only conscious of the need to act. They are already doing so. And I’m proud to say that Fiji is one of them. We do not believe that putting the health of our environment first in any way jeopardises our development. On the contrary, maintaining the pristine quality of our natural surroundings is front and centre of every development decision we make.

7. In Fiji, no development takes place until we can be sure that it is environmentally sustainable. There is sometimes a price to pay in terms of short-term financial gain. But it is a price that we are prepared to pay. Because the long-term benefit of responsible development that protects the environment far outweighs any short-term economic consideration.

8. We may be powerless to prevent the degradation of our seas and coastlines by other nations on the Pacific Rim who share our ocean but not our commitment. But when it comes to the areas that we do have control over, we are not prepared to compromise. And I repeat: no development on land or at sea in Fiji takes place if there is any risk to the environment. It is a central tenet of our Green Growth Framework and national development plans. And we are very proud to have drawn this responsible line in the sand.

9. Having said that, protecting the environment doesn’t mean sacrificing development. The key phrase is sustainable development. And embracing the ‘Blue Economy’ represents an opportunity to realise the great economic potential of the oceans as well as ensuring their long term sustainability.

10. As we pursue this goal, we very much appreciate the support of development partners like the EU, who recognise the challenges we face and are willing to assist us to strike the right balance. We in the Pacific certainly appreciate the fact that while the EU is the largest fisheries consumer in the world, it is siding with us in our effort to protect our long term interests. It is standing shoulder to shoulder with us in the fight against illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing in the region, to maintain healthy fish stocks for future generations. And it is an example that we ask all nations to follow.

11. For Pacific Small Island Developing States, the stakes could not be higher. With the ocean making up almost 98 percent of our region’s area; with our cultures, heritage and traditions entwined with the ocean; and with its resources serving as a critical source of our food security, prosperity, and well-being, the ocean is central to our way of life.

12. While Pacific nations rightly identify ourselves as stewards of the ocean in our own part of the world, we cannot save our waters on our own. And nor can the nations of the Caribbean or coastal nations of Africa. A collective global effort is required. Which is why we look to the rest of the world this week to side with us in a decisive response to the challenges we face. Not only to protect our seas and oceans but in a decisive response to the impacts of climate change.

13. Excellencies, I have repeatedly made the point as incoming COP President that climate change and the state of our oceans are interlinked. They cannot be separated. Because much of the degradation of our seas and oceans is being caused by climate change.

14. I want to thank the ACP for its support for Fiji’s presidency of COP23 thus far, including a side event at the May subsidiary body meetings in Bonn, where our Climate Ambassador was one of the speakers. And we look forward to our continued collaboration all the way to COP23 in November and beyond.

Thank you Mr. Chairman.

HON PM BAINIMARAMA OPENING ADDRESS AT THE UNITED NATIONS OCEAN CONFERENCE

Your Excellency, my Co-President, the Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden,
Your Excellency, the President of the General Assembly,
Your Excellency, the United Nations Secretary General,
Distinguished Heads of State and Government,
Excellencies,
Distinguished delegates,
Ladies and gentlemen,

We come together at a time of unprecedented challenge for the community of nations in terms of our quality of life.
Climate change poses the biggest threat the world has ever known. And the quality of our oceans and seas is also deteriorating at an alarming rate.

Climate change and the state of our oceans cannot be separated. They are interlinked. Because rising sea levels, as well as ocean acidity and warmer waters have a direct effect on our reefs and fish stocks and the prosperity of our coastal communities.

I have the privilege as the leader of a Pacific Small Island Developing State to preside over our collective approach to meet this simultaneous challenge. I am incoming President of COP23 – the ongoing UN climate negotiations – as well as Co-Chair of our discussions this week with my distinguished colleague from Sweden.

We come from opposite ends of the earth but are united in our determination to meet this challenge head on. And I want to begin by paying tribute to Sweden for the leading role it is playing in the world on both oceans and climate change.

I also want to thank all those nations and organisations that have committed themselves to the agenda that we are discussing this week, along with the billions of ordinary men, women and children who are joining us in our commitment to improving the quality of our oceans and seas.

I particularly want to appeal to young people across the world to do what you can to highlight this crisis and become an agent for change – whether it is collecting plastic bottles from a beach or binding together to clean up our coastal areas. Every single person in the world can make a difference. And remember: you don’t have to live in a coastal area to be contributing to the problem of litter and pollution.

So much of what we dispose of carelessly, finally ends up in our seas through storm water drains, creeks and rivers. Our waterways are choking. Our seas and oceans have become vast rubbish dumps. And the creatures who live in them are suffering acutely – turtles, dolphins and sharks caught in netting, whales with stomachs full of plastic bags and other rubbish. Humankind is slowly killing off one of our most precious resources – the rich bounty of our seas and oceans that generations across the millennia have relied upon for sustenance, and to earn a living.

This degradation must stop. We must act in concert as a global community to role back the tide of neglect and preserve our marine resources, not only for ourselves but for the generations to come. And that effort starts now. Here in New York this week, let us send a clear message to the whole world. That time is running out to save our seas and oceans. Just as it is running out to decisively tackle the fundamental causes of climate change.

In both cases, we are all vulnerable. We are all at risk. And no one country, no one government can afford to ignore the magnitude of the current threat.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, like every Pacific Islander, I grew up with the sea all around me. I have the air of the sea in my nostrils, the Pacific Ocean running through my blood. And it pains me deeply to have witnessed the rapid deterioration during my own lifetime of this precious resource – the economic lifeblood of our people.

Refuse from the countries of the Pacific Rim is making its way down to our waters at an alarming rate. Where there was once abundant fish – where I was able to throw a line overboard and quickly bring in a catch – the haul is increasingly sparse or non-existent. In too many instances, greedy nations and greedy commercial interests are robbing us of our food and our livelihoods. Because overfishing threatens both our food security and our economic base.

Small island developing States like Fiji lack the means to effectively police our economic zones. And in this context, I want to use this opportunity to warmly thank our larger neighbours – New Zealand, Australia, the United States and France – for coming to our assistance with the occasional naval deployment to ward off intruders.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, this week the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14 rockets to the top of the global agenda. And I appeal to every person in this room and the governments and organisations you represent to make the World Ocean Conference a success. The registration on our online portal of more than 600 voluntary commitments to date is very encouraging – governments, civil society organisations, intergovernmental bodies, the private sector and individuals coming together in a concerted effort to address this crisis. But we must do more. Much more.

We seek a commitment from all 7.5 billion people on earth to join our crusade to improve the quality of our oceans. Let us all seize this moment in history to make a difference. To place SDG 14 at the very top of the global agenda alongside decisive climate action. We can do it. We must do it. Because the alternative in both cases is catastrophe.

My warm thanks goes to all of you who have worked so hard to prepare for this gathering – the permanent representatives of Portugal and Singapore and their teams, the President of the General Assembly and his team, the conference Secretary General and the UN Secretariat staff, and again, the Government of Sweden.

I also want to pay particular tribute to my fellow leaders in the Pacific, who are playing a key role in placing this issue on the global agenda. We stood side by side at our preparatory meeting in Fiji back in March, and we stand side by side in New York this week.

And with those words, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, I thank you all for your attendance and let’s make the World Ocean Conference a resounding success.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.