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By Makereta Komai, PACNEWS Editor in Funafuti
Fiji has assured the people of Tuvalu and Kiribati that it will use everything within its power to marshal the collective strength of the Pacific to restore and reinvigorate the 1.5 degree target and ensure the survival of vulnerable nations here in the Pacific and the world.
“The world must not turn its back on the peoples of Tuvalu, Kiribati or the Marshall Islands – those under direct existential threat now – or on any of the billions of people living in other climate-vulnerable parts of the planet.
“I pledge to you all today that Fiji as current Chair of the Pacific Small Island Developing States will do everything in my power – to marshal our collective strength here in the Pacific to restore and reinvigorate the 1.5 degree target in every global forum, including next month’s Global Climate Summit in New York and at COP25 in Santiago, Chile in December, Bainimarama announced at the high level climate change Sautalaga discussion in Funafuti.
Bainimarama also used his opening address to take a swipe at Forum member countries who are not hearing the plea of survival from vulnerable nations.
“We will not accept, here in the Pacific, any lack of resolve on the part of the community of nations in tackling the climate threat. Fiji is especially unhappy about what happened in Bonn in May when certain fossil fuel producers used their muscle to exclude any further mention in the UNFCCC – the ongoing climate negotiations – of the temperature cap we called for in 2015 in our Suva Declaration on climate change. This is to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above that of the pre-industrial age.
“That was our position in Suva four years ago and it was subsequently endorsed by the world’s scientists on the IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. And we will not stand by and allow that target to be diminished in any way, said the Fijian leader.
Turning his attention to Australia, he didn’t mince his words when he said while the Pacific appreciates the importance of coal in its national economy and national interest, “We respect the fact that you have your interests and we have ours.”
“And just as we don’t expect to be told what to do in pursuit of our own interests, it is not for us to be prescriptive about how you should run your affairs.
“Having said that, I appeal to Australia to do everything possible to achieve a rapid transition from coal to energy sources that do not contribute to climate change. That transition should be just for your own people and just for us here in the Pacific, where we face an existential threat that you don’t face and challenges we expect your governments and people to more fully appreciate.
“You are already providing leadership in renewable energy investment and are leading in research and development across many aspects of it. Please do more. And we would all welcome benefitting from that effort, said PM Bainimarama.
Stamping Fiji’s leadership on climate change in the region, PM Bainimarama reiterated his government’s offer to provide a refuge to the citizens of Tuvalu and Kiribati if rising sea levels and extreme weather events overwhelm the low lying atoll nations.
“But if, God forbid, that effort fails because the industrial nations continue to selfishly put their own interests above our own, Fiji will offer a home to you – the people of Tuvalu. We have made the same offer to your neighbours in Kiribati.”
In the Fijian spirit of loving and open heart, Bainimarama said Fiji is determined not to make citizens of Tuvalu and Kiribati become climate refugees.
“This is obviously not our preferred option or yours. Because natural justice demands that you continue to live in the place you call home, the islands you love, and the islands of your ancestors. We are determined that you not be climate refugees. In a worst case scenario, we will offer you refuge among us so that at the very least, you remain close to where you rightly belong.
Prime Minister Bainimarama thanked the support of Tuvalu and other Pacific countries particularly the leadership of PM Sopoaga as a powerful voice for climate action in global forums.
“It is an influence entirely disproportionate to your size but one that is also acknowledged throughout the world as having established the Pacific Islands as a decisive force for change.
“Your leadership of the climate struggle and the particular vulnerability of your nation was recognised back in May when the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, came to Tuvalu and highlighted your challenges in dramatic fashion. The TIME magazine cover photo of the Secretary General standing in the rising waters in a suit is one of the great images of our time, acknowledged Bainimarama.
The one day Sautalaga will release a climate change declaration.
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