Ladies and Gentlemen;
Bula Vinaka and a very good morning to you all.
I am very pleased to be here in Kumi Village to commission a major milestone for your community’s development – this new seawall and concrete walkway to keep the land and the people of Kumi protected from the surging tides that threaten your community.
Kumi is one of many villages across our islands threatened by rising seas – an extremely dangerous consequence of climate change. And any of you who have spent your lives in this community can testify that – over the years – rains have become more torrential, the sea rises higher and your village faces unprecedented threats from severe weather events.
The story of Kumi, and that of many of our villages and settlements, is one that I tell often on the international stage when alerting nations to the peril we face in the Pacific. Because when I go to the world, I take the struggles faced by ordinary Fijians with me. I take the pain and suffering we endured in Cyclone Winston. I take the fear we live with every day, knowing that another storm could strike. And I take the concern we share for our neighbours in the Pacific, some of whose very existence is at risk from rising sea levels.
It is your stories and your experiences that are driving international efforts to end global warming and limit the devastation from climate change. And I will continue to be relentless in my own efforts to halt the destructive and selfish behaviour of polluting our planet.
I’ve already told nations about the millions dollars we have already had to invest to boost the resilience of our vulnerable communities. I’ve already told them about the over 50 villages and settlement communities that must be relocated to high ground due to rising seas. And I’ve repeatedly told them that I have a responsibility to protect the future of the Fijian people, and that Fiji will never stop fighting to spare this world from the ravages of climate change.
My fellow Fijians, as you may know, the global community is listening. And the efforts of my Government have led Fiji to be chosen as President of COP-23 – the United Nations climate negotiations to reduce carbon emissions and arrest the rate of global warming, the root cause of extreme weather events such as Cyclone Winston and the rising seas this new seawall will hold back from your village.
So Fiji is poised to assume an even larger role in this global struggle, and vulnerable nations will have an even greater voice to demand strong action on climate change – bringing us one step closer to saving this world for the sake of our children, and our children’s children.
In our fight against climate change, one of your own – the Minister for Agriculture and National Disaster Management, Honourable Inia Seruiratu, is together with me in rallying the global community to our cause. Honourable Seruiratu will also join me on the frontlines to make sure that Fiji, and all of the people of the Pacific, are not forgotten.
Our position today has taken considerable time and effort to achieve, and I was very grateful to spend time with my family this holiday season, as I am grateful to be with all of you here today. But as we look to next year, the fight must continue. Because the effects of climate change are already here, and they are only projected to get worse.
So not only am I demanding an end to the irresponsible behaviour, I am also demanding increased international attention and assistance towards climate adaption. So that we can protect ourselves from the climate-related events already upon us. That requires greater access to climate finance, so that projects such as this seawall can be constructed wherever they are needed and families and communities can relocate to higher ground. And so that all of us are prepared for the cyclones yet to arrive at our shores.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am confident that this new seawall will serve you well. You can build up your community, develop your village and forge a better world for future generations with the knowledge that your progress will not be washed away by rising seas. And that peace of mind is something no one can put a price on.
I assure you all that my Government will continue to find ways we can work with your community to help you succeed, and that we will be unyielding on the global stage in our efforts to protect Fiji, and the entire world, from the consequences of climate change.
Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.