Thank you Mr. President,
I have the honour to speak on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States and we couldn’t be prouder to have one of our own, Fiji, leading the first ever Island COP. You are doing a wonderful job and we thank you.
Fiji has wisely drawn on the Pacific’s storytelling tradition to inform our discussions here. We all rely on stories to understand the world and share our experiences with others.
And the stories we tell today are more important than ever: Unimaginably destructive hurricanes in the Caribbean; devastating wildfires in California; tragic floods in South Asia; famine in Africa; and countless other reminders of the reality of climate change coming from every continent.
At the same time, scientists tell us that atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide now exceed 403ppm—the highest level in millions of years—and that our emissions reductions plans are not nearly ambitious enough to avert even worse tragedies in the future.
The climate change stories we hear today are startling, and they should be. They remind us of what is at stake if we fail to act boldly enough or quickly enough. But we also know there is reason for hope.
We sit together today with some 170 parties to the Paris Agreement. A remarkable achievement of international cooperation by any measure.
At the same time, barely a day passes when we don’t hear a story about a country setting a new record for renewable energy use. In fact, our host country, Germany, generated some 35% of its power from renewables in the first half of this year.
And our friends at UNEP, who meticulously study the gap between where we are and where we need to be, tell us with certainty that it is not too late to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, if we rapidly deploy solutions that are widely available to us today.
We know we can’t tackle climate change on our own here. But there are concrete actions we can take that accelerate the transition to renewables around the world, and help communities adapt to the changes that can no longer be avoided.
I’m not under the illusion that this will be easy, and our task has been made all the more difficult with the disengagement of the world’s largest historic emitter from the Paris Agreement.
But political challenges are nothing new to this process and the unfortunate development should be seen as an opportunity to increase our ambition, not retreat from our responsibilities.
Pre-2020 emissions cuts are essential to achieving the global temperature goal and a legally binding international commitment. We hear time and again that the near-term commitments have been fulfilled, yet the emissions gap and the finance gap keep growing wider. If we hope to tackle the climate crisis one thing is for certain: our action must match or rhetoric.
We need to deploy climate solutions faster and at a much greater scale immediately if we hope to keep global temperatures below 1.5 degrees Celsius. Central to our progress next year is the Telanoa Dialogue and countries must work in earnest to ramp up their ambition.
At the same time, as climate impacts continue to worsen, it is more critical than ever that we deliver on adaptation finance commitments. What’s more, just last month Hurricanes Irma and Maria made it clear that loss and damage is a reality for the world’s small island states today.
Finally, the solutions to climate change are widely available and more cost-effective than ever before. But unless we have the appropriate means of implementation to access the financial resources needed to deploy them, the opportunity to tackle the climate crisis before its too late will slip away.
It is altogether appropriate that Fiji, a small island state on the frontlines of the climate change, is presiding over COP 23. Your experience and unique knowledge of the crisis has served us well here and we are confident that if we all continue to work together in the Bula spirit of the Pacific we can tell stories about our accomplishments we can all be proud of.
Vinaka vaka levu.