PRESS STATEMENT FROM THE OFFICE OF THE PRIME MINISTER ON PARIS AGREEMENT

Fiji welcomes the new climate change agreement adopted in Paris late in the evening of Saturday 12 December at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21). This deal represents a huge step forward for humanity in combatting climate change.

The Paris Agreement was adopted by consensus among the 196 signatory states to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and was the result of intense negotiations and compromises made by all parties involved.

When I made my statement at the start of the conference two weeks ago, we made clear that the Suva Declaration formed the basis of what Fiji expected the Paris Agreement to reflect. The key elements that Fiji and the Alliance of Small Island States pursued throughout the negotiations included the need for a legally binding agreement, limits that brought the global average temperature increase to below 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and the establishment of a stand-alone loss-and-damage mechanism.

I’d like to thank all of our Pacific Islands leaders for their support during the negotiations – by remaining united in the face of opposition, we together brought our collective plight the global attention it deserves. I would also like to thank our development partners, such as the European Union for helping prepare us for COP21 and providing us moral support in our efforts to secure the best deal possible

Many of the positions supported by Fiji have been adopted in the new Paris Agreement, including, for the first time, language on loss and damage. This establishes a framework for Fiji and other small island states to ensure the survival of our islands.

The agreement sets global temperature increase at well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, and it commits signatory states to efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius. This is not exactly what we called for, but it is a realistic and tolerable target that satisfies a wide range of interests.

This agreement will require every nation to participate in serious efforts to lower greenhouse gas emissions by providing a new set of diplomatic tools to monitor and confirm emissions cuts.

Under the Paris Agreement, starting in 2020, countries will reconvene every five years to monitor their public plans to cut carbon emissions and supply updated plans to tighten their emissions cuts. Starting in 2023, countries will also be legally required to publicly report on their progress in cutting emissions in relation to their stated targets, as determined by a universal accounting system on emissions levels and reductions.

The language on financial mobilization for vulnerable countries has also been strengthened in the new climate agreement. Developed countries now are required to provide financial resources to assist developing countries in adopting clean energy and adapting to the impacts of climate change.

As citizens of a small island developing state, we in Fiji are doing what we can to make a difference in the battle against climate change. We have committed to reducing our own carbon emissions by 30 per cent by 2030. We will harness the power of water and solar energy to meet our current and future energy needs and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. So when we go to the world and ask for a strong commitment, we do so with full knowledge of the sacrifices that entails. We are not asking any country to do what we are not prepared to do.

Our Green Growth Initiative becomes even more important now, because it will help us meet our commitment and it will show the world what one small country can do—and maybe what larger countries can do if they face facts and display the wisdom Fiji has shown in taking positive steps to solve complex problems. But most of all, it is good for us.

While the text of the new agreement has been agreed upon, it will not enter into effect until 55 parties, accounting for 55 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, have ratified it. The document is structured to also allow for elements and language to be strengthened before the next commitment period of 2020.

I am satisfied that many of our demands were met in Paris and that the global community has taken meaningful action to address the threat of climate change. However, this agreement will mean nothing if we simply sit back and rest on our laurels. Without proper monitoring, none of what was agreed to will matter. I know that Fiji will be there every step of the way, to make sure that words become actions, and that those actions are drastic enough to save our planet.

While this agreement was probably the best we could negotiate among so many countries, we must remain very clear-headed about the fact that our work is just beginning. An agreement is only as good as its implementation, and it will be up to us to make sure that all nations live up to this agreement. Fiji has already taken the lead among our Pacific Island neighbors, and we will accept no compromise on implementation. The time for compromise was during the negotiation; now it is time for commitment.

The agreement—and more importantly, the battle to reduce and eventually stem the growth of global warming—will be a policy priority for Fiji. We will not compromise on our future or the future of our planet and its inhabitants. It will be an important criterion for determining which nations are truly committed to a future for all and the rest of the world must show a commitment to meet their obligations and find ways to do more.

We are ready to do our part. We have given budgetary allocations to boost our climate resilience and developed the legal framework to meet the challenges and effects of climate change.

I believe the Paris Agreement is a step in the right direction, but it is only the first step. More work remains to be done to implement the terms of this new agreement, and Fiji will remain engaged in the process to ensure that our world is protected for future generations and small island states are not left out of the equation.

Thank you.