Bainimarama warns of catastrophic consequences of Climate Change

Fiji’s Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama addressing the UN General Assembly on September 26, 2021

Venkat Raman
Auckland, September 29, 2021

Fijian Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama has warned the international community of the dire consequences of ignoring the global warming phenomenon and the precipice of climate catastrophe on which the world is perching.

“Despite all the talk we hear of saving the planet, the world’s collective commitments are paltry, akin to spitting into the strengthening winds of climate-fuelled super-storm,” he said, addressing the General Assembly of the United Nations on September 26, 2021.

Like many other leaders, he did not travel to New York but took to virtual participation.

Devastation from Nature’s fury

His speech covered the problems exacerbated by Covid-19, inequity of vaccination, rising poverty and other issues.

The climate is on track for 2.7 degrees Celsius of global warming, which would ensure the loss of entire low-lying nations in the Pacific and huge chunks of global coastlines, he said.

“It guarantees frequent devastation from floods, cyclones, coastal inundations, and wildfires. It spells climate-driven conflict, mass migration, and the collapse of food systems and ecosystems. It is appalling. It is unimaginable. But it is where we are headed,” he warned.

Fiji has been subject to three cyclones since March last year, two of which were categorised as Five intensity. Mr Bainimarama said that as strong people, Fijians endured will continue to endure. But true resilience is not just defined by a nation’s grit but by the ability to access financial resources. 

“Resilience is seawalls. It is parametric insurance for those most vulnerable. It is a nature-based solution. It is systematically relocating communities from the rising seas. Fiji is using every fiscal tool in our kit to do these things. And we are doing everything within our means to reduce our emissions. We have submitted an NDC (Nationally Determined Contribution) that commits Fiji to net-zero emissions and harnesses nature to lead that transition, commitments that will soon become law through a comprehensive Climate Change Bill. In recognition of the ocean-climate nexus, Fiji hopes to secure a blue bond next year in support of a sustainable blue Fijian economy. But Fiji can’t halt climate change by itself,” he said. 

Australian doctors and nurses are in Fiji to provide Covid-19 medical support

Mr Bainimarama said that Small Island Developing States (SIDs) are able to access less than 2% of the available climate finance. To build a truly resilient Fiji, the country should be able to access fast-deploying targeted grants, long-term concessionary financing and, financial tools and instruments established through public-private collaboration and partnership.  

Healthy Oceans imperative

Mr Bainimarama said that Fiji’s economy depends on a healthy ocean and hence the government is taking steps to reverse its current decline. The country has committed to 100% sustainable management of Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and 30% declared as marine protected areas by 2030 and has increased investments in sustainable aquaculture, seaweed farming, and high-value processed fish. 

“But we cannot do this alone. We look to the global system to stop illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing. We look to the Member States to agree on a new treaty to preserve marine in waters beyond national jurisdictions. We need global greenhouse gas emissions to fall dramatically and quickly. At COP26, we expect the oceans pathway will be locked into the UNFCCC processes. Fiji seeks a decision in “one slash COP 26” reflecting this change,” he said.

The COP26 Package 

Stating that Fiji will participate in the Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland between October 31 and November 12, 2021, Mr Bainimarama said that he would advance the mission of the Pacific to keep the 1.5 target alive. This would warrant drastic emissions cuts by 2030 that put large nations on a path towards net-zero emissions before 2050, he said and had a few harsh words for non-compliant countries.

“Leaders who cannot summon the courage to unveil these commitments and policy packages at COP26 should not bother booking a flight to Glasgow. Instead, they and the selfish interests they stand for should face consequences that match the severity of what they are unleashing on our planet. We do not tolerate war between our Members States. So, how can we tolerate war waged against the planet, on the life it sustains, and on future generations? That is the firm red line Pacific nations will draw in Glasgow. We are demanding net-zero emissions and accepting zero excuses,” he said. 

Police in Fiji have been issuing infringement notices for violation of regulations

Adverse effects of Covid-19

Referring to the adverse effects of Covid-19, Mr Bainimarama said that the pandemic has led to the loss of hundreds of millions of jobs, hundreds of millions of hungry people and disruption to life and death. The wounds of this crisis will cripple us for years if left untreated, he said and added that Fiji’s experience shows how an equitable recovery can begin.

“It starts by getting jabs in arms, fast,” he said. 

“After one full year with zero local Covid cases, the insidious Delta variant crept into our country and sparked a deadly second outbreak. After a slow start, while we scrambled to acquire enough vaccines, we are winning the battle. More than 98% of adults across our 110 populated islands have one jab of the vaccine, and more than 67% are fully vaccinated. We thank India, Australia, New Zealand and the United States for helping us secure the doses we needed. Our mission now is to recover the more than 100,000 jobs lost to the pandemic and to recoup a 50% loss in government revenues,” he said.

Fiji will reopen to tourism and regional and international business, he said.

“We will look to accelerate investment trends, like increased digitization, that will modernise our economy and help it recover. But Fiji’s victory over the virus will be short-lived unless the global community can accelerate vaccinations everywhere,” he said. 

“It is appalling that wealthier countries are already considering third doses or boosters for their citizens while millions of people – including frontline healthcare workers – in the developing world cannot access a single dose. Globally, thousands of lives are still being lost every day to the virus. The majority represent our collective failure to make vaccines available to developing countries,” Mr Bainimarama said. 

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