Saturday, 12 August 2017

Climate change narrative

THERE is a memorable picture of our prime minister sailing in a drua, a Fijian ocean-going canoe, in Suva Harbour with the leaders of two of the most climate-vulnerable Pacific nations, President Taneti Maamau of Kiribati and Prime Minister Enele Sopoaga of Tuvalu.

I have visited both Tuvalu and Kiribati and have found it to be an emotionally draining experience to view the encroaching sea come on to the atolls.
During the Climate Action Pacific Partnership Event in Suva on July 3-4, Pacific leaders had spoken passionately about the importance of environmental sustainability. Fiji has offered to give permanent refuge to the people of Kiribati and Tuvalu in the event that their atoll nations are submerged by the rising sea waters caused by climate change.
Suva Meeting Highlights Key Action Against Climate Change
Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama sits with Tuvalu Prime Minister Enele Sosene Sopoaga and Kiribati President Taneti Maamau on a drua during a recent cruise of Suva Harbour. Picture: FIJI SUN

Fiji's advocacy
Fiji's presidency of COP23 on the global stage provides an empowering voice to the struggles of small island nations who face the effects of climate change on a daily basis. South Pacific nations are some of the smallest contributors to global carbon emissions, yet suffer some of the most devastating results of extreme weather condition. At the same time, our PM provides a robust voice for the 7.5 billion people who call Earth their home.
Mr Bainimarama had said, "Climate change isn't about politics. It's about our existence, our survival and saving something for our children and their children."
Mr Bainimarama's meeting with California governor Jerry Brown was an affirming process for the groundswell of support for environmental sustainability of Americans at all levels.
Our PM had said, "People of all walks of life in America have spoken very loudly, telling the world that America will continue to tackle climate change." Ten US state governors and 61 mayors of major US cities now support the COP 23 initiative.

Fiji's role
Fiji is the economic and technological hub of the Pacific and is also a conduit for sustainable development in the region. Fiji has always punched above its weight in the international arena contributing to international efforts to establish peace and security. A Fijian is also president of the UN General Assembly.
Fiji made history by becoming the first Small Island Developing State to preside over the conference of parties (COP23), the annual round of the ongoing UN climate negotiations, to be held this year in Bonn, Germany, in November this year.
The world saw that despite the devastation caused by Severe TC Winston, we were resilient. With very limited resources and the psychological setbacks we faced, we were still able to prepare a first-class rugby sevens team that won gold at the Rio Olympics.
We are building on the Paris Agreement to push for substantial cuts in the carbon emissions that are causing global warming and leading to the rising sea levels and extreme weather events such as STC Winston.
Fiji co-chaired the UN Oceans Summit with the Government of Sweden. Fiji sees its role as representing all Small Island Developing States and bringing their very special and immediate concerns for efforts to both combat and adapt to climate change before the world.
The effects of sea level rise has seen the identification of 80 villages for relocation to higher ground. Warming seas has also caused changes in fish populations and bleaching of coral reefs.

Working with industrial nations
Fiji is aware that we need to gain the agreement of the industrial nations to keep reducing their carbon emissions and lower the global temperature. The leaders of the Pacific Small Island Developing States called on the international community to take immediate and decisive action to address the underlying causes of global climate change.
One of the huge challenges faced is that US President Donald Trump believes that climate change is a hoax. Nevertheless, the Pacific leaders had urged the US Government to reconsider its decision and to work together to pursue the opportunities that urgent climate action (laid out in the Paris Agreement) can provide.
The Pacific leaders had strongly urged the G20 group of major economies gathered in Germany last week to reaffirm their commitment to the full implementation of the Paris Agreement.
One of the actions is aimed at holding the increase in global average temperature to well below 2C above the pre-industrial level and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5C above pre-industrial level. The Pacific leaders recognised that in our small and vulnerable islands, climate change is happening at a faster rate than was appreciated at the time of the Paris Agreement.
It is imperative for the world to focus on the more ambitious target in the Paris Agreement of limiting warming to 1.5C.

Paris Agreement
For readers not familiar with the Paris Agreement, it is an agreement within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change dealing with greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, adaptation and finance starting in the year 2020.
The language of the agreement was negotiated by representatives of 196 parties at the 21st Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC in Paris and adopted by consensus on December 12, 2015. As of June 2017, 195 UNFCCC members have signed the agreement, 153 of which have ratified it.

G20 meeting
At the G20 Summit last week, German chancellor Angela Merkel admitted that "the discussions were very difficult". Mr Trump was left isolated as every other world leader signed up to a declaration that the Paris climate agreement was irreversible.
The British Prime Minister, Theresa May, said she was "dismayed at the US decision to pull out" of the accord and had personally urged the president to reconsider.
"I have had a number of conversations with him. What I did was encourage him to bring the United States back into the Paris agreement, and I continue to hope that's what the United States will do."
The constructive news is that despite Mr Trump's actions, 10 US state governors and 61 mayors of major cities said they "will adopt, honour, and uphold the commitments to the goals enshrined in the Paris Agreement".
Fiji's prominence on the world stage has seen French President Macron extend an invitation to our PM to a special Paris summit of world leaders in December. France supports Fiji as it builds a grand coalition to keep the COP23 process on track.
It is also good news that Fiji will participate in a roundtable discussion featuring former US vice-president Al Gore at the Ecocity World Summit 2017 in Melbourne, Australia.
Fiji's participation shows the importance of the climate change issue and its impact on Fiji and other vulnerable nations. It also provides Fiji a platform to enlighten the global community on the work it has undertaken as incoming COP23 president.
Joseph Veramu is a policy analyst consultant. He can be contacted on or Facebook or twitter

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