Na Turaga Na Tui Levuka,
Na Turaga Na Ratu Mai Bureta,
Na Turaga Na TuiWailevu,
Na Turaga Na Rokotakala
My Fellow Fijians,
Bula vinaka, and a good evening to you all.
After my opening speech to the Summit this morning, I don’t intend to speak for long tonight except to reinforce once again the importance of our National Climate Change Summit in preparing us all for the extreme weather events and rising seas caused by global warming.
As I said this morning, we need to redouble our efforts to prepare for the disasters that are sure to come because of climate change – the extreme weather events that are becoming more frequent and a lot stronger.
I spoke this morning about my concerns that tropical cyclones are starting to form in the Pacific outside our traditional hurricane season. Which means we have to prepare for a future in which we will need to be on a constant state of alert.
Fiji has a proud record of being prepared for these events. Not a single life was lost in Tropical Cyclone Evan at the end of 2012. But we cannot afford to drop our guard for a minute. And I want everyone – government, civil society, the private sector and ordinary citizens – to work closely together on disaster preparedness in the coming weeks and months.
We are here tonight for a very important occasion – the launch of the i’Taukei translation of the National Climate Change Policy. As you know, this policy was launched back in 2011. It has taken more time than I would have liked to produce an i’Taukei version and we still don’t have one in Fiji Hindi. But this is a welcome step in spreading the message about climate change to every section of the community in every part of the country.
With any major national policy, it is important for translations to be made for those i’Taukei and Fiji Hindi speaking citizens who can’t read English. And that is what we have done so far with our Constitution and also our Green Growth Framework that we launched back in June.
In the translation of the Constitution, the i’Taukei can read for themselves the truth about the protection of their land, way of life and their religion. There is no threat to i’Taukei land or the i’Taukei way of life no matter what the government’s opponents say. And there is no threat to Christianity, because our supreme law guarantees the freedom of every Fijian to follow their religious beliefs.
In the case of the Green Growth Framework, non-English speaking Fijians can also appreciate and be informed about the national policy governing Fiji’s development. In it you can read for yourself that the sustainable use of our resources on land and at sea – our forests and our fisheries – is our number one national priority.
In fact, no future development will take place unless we can be satisfied that it is sustainable and our beautiful environment and its resources are protected for all time.
So these translations of our most important policy documents are an essential tool in getting our message out and living up to our promise to be inclusive. For every Fijian, no matter what language they speak, to share in our information flow and not be left out of our national debate.
Now that we have an i’Taukei version of our National Climate Change Policy, many thousands of i’Taukei who can’t read English can learn about the steps we are taking as a nation to deal with this challenge. And I urge all of you, no matter where you are in Fiji, to read it.
It will give you an understanding of the effect of climate change on our way of life in Fiji. It will give you some idea of the impact it is having and will continue to have on the way we live. You will understand what is causing the world to warm up, the ice caps to melt and why the seas are rising. And you will learn what we are doing as a nation to deal with the swamping of our coastal areas as well as what we are doing to confront the extreme weather events – the storms and droughts – that are accompanying climate change.
As I said in my speech this morning and I also told Pacific Leaders in Suva last week, this is the greatest challenge Pacific Islanders have ever faced. We contribute almost nothing to the carbon emissions – the pollution – that is causing global warming but we are destined to suffer the worst effects, along with other small island developing states and low lying parts of the world.
It is a terrible injustice, but we can’t just sit around complaining about the selfishness of those big, industrial countries who are putting the health of their economies before our welfare. While we make as much noise as we can about what they are doing, we also have to help ourselves.
So that is why I am placing such a big emphasis on building our resilience to climate change in Fiji – to do whatever we can ourselves, and with the help of our development partners, to strengthen our ability to cope and especially strengthen our preparations for the natural disasters like storms and flooding that are bound to come.
My fellow Fijians, it’s wonderful to be in Levuka and on Ovalau – this most beautiful and historic part of Fiji that is the pride of our nation and also the pride of the world now that it has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I trust that those of you who took the field trip this morning enjoyed the experience. And I again urge you to make the most of your discussions over the remaining two days.
It now gives me great pleasure to officially launch the i’Taukei version of our National Climate Change Policy.
Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.