The Prime Minister of Fiji Frank Bainimarama, as incoming President of the UN Climate Change Conference in autumn in Bonn (COP23, 6-17 November), addressed delegates on the final day of the May UN Climate Change Conference in the former German capital. In his address, he set out his vision for Fiji's Presidency of COP23. During his speech, the new Presidency COP23 website was launched, and a powerful video showing the impacts of climate change on Fiji was screened (see below).
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Bula vinaka and a very good morning to you all,
I’m delighted to join you all in Bonn towards the end of your current deliberations but at the start of a very big year for me personally as incoming President of COP23.
I want to begin by paying tribute to the current President of COP22 His Excellency, Mr. Salaheddine Mezouar, his Chief Negotiator Ambassador Aziz Mekouar and the Climate Champion Hakima El Haite and to say how much the global community has appreciated Morocco’s leadership. It has had a challenging mission as the first nation to assume the Presidency after the historic agreement that we reached in Paris in 2015.
Certainly, the ball is being passed to Fiji this year at a very critical time. But we very much appreciate the way that ball has been positioned to give us the best opportunity to kick it forward ourselves. And as incoming President, I very much appreciate the assistance of the Moroccans to this point and their pledge to continue to support us, just as we will assist Poland when the time comes for us to do so in 2018.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, I also want to acknowledge and thank the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, Her Excellency Patricia Espinosa, and her entire team for the support they are giving Fiji. And, of course, I want to pay special tribute to the Government and people of Germany for their wonderful gesture facilitating COP23 being held here in the beautiful city of Bonn.
This has enabled Fiji to become the first Small Island Developing State to assume the Presidency of this very important process which encompasses the formal negotiations and the partnerships for action.
By extending a hand of friendship to Fijians and Pacific Islanders, Germany is empowering us and giving us a voice that we would never have had without that assistance.
So vinaka vakalevu – thank you – to the people of Germany and the people of Bonn for embracing us in the way that you have. And we look forward very much to working together in a spirit of friendship and collaboration to make COP23 Fiji Bonn an unqualified success.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, I also want to thank you all for the support you have given Fiji in these sessions - to our Chief Negotiator, Ambassador Nazhat Shameem-Khan, our Climate Champion, Minister Inia Seruiratu, our Climate Ambassador, Ambassador Deo Saran and our Pacific Special Representative, Amena Yauvoli. Many of you have already had the benefit of meeting them. But for those of you who haven’t may I ask them to stand. Because you will certainly be seeing a lot more of them in the coming months, along with the rest of Team Fiji.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, as incoming COP President, I will be relying a great deal on my team, and especially Ambassador Shameem-Khan. I see myself more as the team captain, leading from the front, giving encouragement and persuasion where it’s needed. And fulfilling my promise to bring the non-state actors closer to this process by not only spending a great deal of time here in what we are calling the Bula Zone, but over in the Bonn Zone down the road. Because I am convinced that pursuing an inclusive process that ultimately involves every global citizen is the best way – the only way – to move our collective agenda forward.
My role, of course, is to be impartial, to act in the collective interest of all nations. But I certainly bring my own perspective to these negotiations. And it is that of a Fijian, a Pacific Islander, who comes from a region of the world that is bearing the brunt of climate change. Whether it is the rising seas, extreme weather events or changes to agriculture, that threaten our way of life and in some cases, our very existence.
We who are most vulnerable must be heard, whether we come from the Pacific or other Small Island Developing States, other low lying nations and states or threatened cities in the developed world like Miami, New York, Venice or Rotterdam. But together we must speak out for the whole world - every global citizen - because no-one, no matter who they are or where they live, will ultimately escape the impact of climate change.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, many of you have asked what Fiji’s vision is for COP23. The principles that will govern our Presidency. Our aims and objectives. Well, acknowledging the important leadership roles of past COP Presidencies in laying the foundation for a robust COP23, Fiji's vision for COP23 is this:
In summary, Fiji's vision is for a Presidency that is transparent and inclusive of all, advances the Paris Agreement and accelerates climate action for all vulnerable societies, drawing on our own experiences as a Small Island Developing State in the Pacific.
So Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, that is Fiji’s vision for COP23, one that is inclusive and is very much focused on maintaining the momentum for the implementation of what was agreed in Paris at the end of 2015. A diplomatic triumph that I have described as France’s gift to the world for the sake of all 7.5 billion people on earth.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, for a small nation like Fiji with limited capacity and a tropical cyclone last year that wiped out one third of our GDP, this Presidency is a financial challenge.
I would like to warmly thank those nations that have already contributed to Fiji’s Presidency – China, the United States, the European Union and Germany, and organisations such as UNDP and the Asian Development Bank. I also have the great pleasure to announce that during the course of the last few days we have been given a significant contribution from Australia and financial support from NZ. We are extremely grateful for these contributions. We are in discussions with a number other countries and organisations regarding additional financial assistance, but we would welcome any assistance from those who have the means to support us.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, in closing I have the great pleasure to formally unveil Fiji’s dedicated website for COP23. On it, you will find a range of information about our plans for the coming year, as well as information about the effects of climate change on our people and other Pacific Islanders. Plus, of course, general information about Fiji and our engagement with the rest of the world.
Those of you with computer access can log on now at www.cop23.com.fj but I hope you will all eventually access this very important tool for our Presidency. As well as our mission to explain the impact of climate change on our own people and the rest of the Pacific.
Thank you for your attention and I look forward to meeting as many of you as possible, not only during the rest of this session but when we gather together again in Bonn in November. I see myself as very much a people’s President and undoubtedly by the end of this process, a guy called Frank from Fiji will have selfies with people from all over the world.
Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.
These are his remarks as prepared for delivery.
[This content originally appeared in the UN Climate Change Newsroom.]
See the video screened at the beginning of Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama's address: