Saturday, 12 August 2017

A voice for all nations

I had not expected to receive many responses after I wrote my article on "Climate Change Narratives" a fortnight ago. Apart from local readers who sent me emails, I received two overseas media queries.

One of the recurring questions that I am regularly asked is how Fiji will effectively push the agenda on reducing global carbon emissions since President Trump has pulled out of the Paris Agreement. Another question I am persistently asked is China's role in Fiji and the Pacific.

Ana Erenaivalu, Zek Maqbool and Joeli Bili of YOUTHS FOR INTEGRITY campaign for a pollution free FIJI

Varying views
Having scanned a number of opinion pieces published regionally and internationally, it is important to correct a misconception. Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama, as president of COP23, is not just representing Fiji.
His brief is to represent the interests of the entire world. He has adopted a posture of being impartial to achieve consensus between all parties on the best way forward.
He also has a special interest in the needs of small island developing states in the Pacific and other regions. In a nutshell, he looks after the interest of small island states and also the 7.5 billion people who live on our fragile Earth.
This is by far the biggest and most important task that we have been given in almost half a century as an independent nation. Fiji was chosen in Marrakesh in November 2016 by almost 200 nations to chair COP23 because of expectations we would maintain the momentum that was set by the Paris Agreement for substantial reductions in the carbon emissions that are causing global warming.
It is expected that we would speak with conviction because of the extreme weather event we have faced such as STC Winston that devastated our nation last year.

Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama will keep the interests of all nations, including those that are low-lying and vulnerable, at the forefront of negotiations.

Loss and damage
It is not true that there is no urgency on the "loss and damage" provisions of the Paris Agreement that would compensate states for the impact of climate change.
Leaders from the 17 Pacific Island nations that met in Fiji in June for the Pacific Islands Roundtable Summit had agreed to redouble efforts to secure agreement for a climate change compensation scheme at UN climate talks.
Discussions on an "international mechanism" under the UN's climate convention, emphasising the "existential threat" posed to Pacific Island communities would continue at the next round of international climate talks in Warsaw.
One of the challenges of President Trump reneging on the Paris Agreement is that he is expected to pull out of the $US3 billion ($F6b) pledge that Obama had initially made. Some developing countries such as Kenya and Bangladesh are not waiting for funds from wealthy states and are starting their own funds to deal with an uncertain future.

Reducing global carbon emissions
Mr Bainimarama is mindful that if we cannot gain the agreement of the industrial nations such as the US to keep reducing their carbon emissions and lower the global temperature, the consequences will be catastrophic.
As incoming COP president, he is working closely with China, India, the European Union, Japan, Canada, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Australia, New Zealand and other states to keep the momentum rolling.
He is also working closely with Pacific nations, international NGOs, civil society and the private sector.

Fiji and China
Within the last week, I was contacted by two large overseas media networks who were very interested in the close relationship between Fiji and China which is predicated on social and economic factors.
China is Fiji's largest source of foreign investment and fastest growing market for Fiji tourism. The growing close relationship has also seen cultural exchanges and the sponsoring of Fiji students to take up courses in technical subjects in Chinese universities.
Fiji was the only Pacific state invited to the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing in May 2017. Since Mr Bainimarama had assumed the presidency of COP23, he had separate meetings with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and President Xi Jinping.
His meeting dealt with defence and the implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change. The Fiji Ministry of Information had released the following statement in May 2017:
"President Xi has publicly committed to protect the global governance achievements contained within the Paris Agreement to curb the effects of climate change."
The Chinese Embassy in Suva Fiji had also released the following statement on 28/1/2017:
"Being a major development partner and sincere friend of Fiji, China actively promotes mutually beneficial cooperation with Fiji under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative and has provided strong and firm support to Fiji's economic and social development, including to its effort to confront climate change challenges and to realise its sustainable development goals."
A number of trade and investment related memorandum of understanding and agreements were recently signed by Fiji and China after the Belt and Road Forum in May 2017. These MOUs and agreements allow for increased co-operation not just the two governments but also at the business-to-business level.

Interest of all nations
Mr Bainimarama will keep the interests of all nations, including those that are low-lying and vulnerable, at the forefront of negotiations.
There is also the need for greater engagement from the private sector, NGOs and civil society in support of Fiji's global effort to boost access to climate finance and reduce climate risks to developing economies.
Fiji will serve as the president of the COP23 negotiations in Bonn, Germany from November 6-17, making history as the first-ever small island state to hold the presidency.
* Joseph Veramu is a policy analyst consultant. He can be contacted on joseph.veramu@outlook.com or Facebook or twitter https://twitter.com/VeramuJoseph

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