Statement at the Signing Ceremony of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change
The Secretary General of the United Nations,
Heads of State and Government,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Bula vinaka and a very good morning to you all. I stand before you as the leader of the first nation in the world to have approved the ratification of the Paris Agreement and to lodge the ratification instruments.
I also stand before you as the leader of a nation that has been among the first since Paris to experience the full force of an extreme weather event attributed to climate change.
Nine weeks ago, the biggest cyclone ever to make landfall in the southern hemisphere slammed into Fiji and devastated a significant portion of the country. Tropical Cyclone Winston killed 44 Fijians and injured dozens more. It damaged or destroyed up to 40,000 homes, 229 schools and other public buildings and infrastructure. And it left us with an all up damage bill estimated at around one billion US dollars.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentleman, I want to warmly thank our many friends in the world who came to our assistance.
But I also make a heartfelt plea to you all on behalf of the Fijian people and the citizens of small and vulnerable developing states everywhere.
We desperately need you to side with us not only to arrest the current state of global warming but to help us adapt to the sea level rises and extreme weather events associated with climate change.
Such setbacks taking many years to reverse. A setback that would give us little or no chance of being able to meet the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, what we agreed to achieve together in Paris is a positive first step. But it is not enough. We are alarmed to hear the scientists tell us that capping global warming at 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels will not save us.
We in the Pacific are seeking a new cap of 1.5 degrees Celsius as part of our Suva Declaration at the last gathering of the Pacific Islands Development Forum in the Fijian capital. But we commend the Suva Declaration to you all as a vital next step for the global community as we confront the biggest challenge of our time.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, I also appeal to the global community for a much sharper focus on assisting small and vulnerable nations to build their resilience to climate change.
The present arrangements for funding climate change adaptation are impeding our ability to gain access to appropriate financial arrangements.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, in the aftermath of Cyclone Winston, the Fijian people know more than most the effects of Climate Change.
We owe it to ourselves and to future generations not only to implement the Paris Agreement but to go beyond it. For our children’s sake and our planet’s future.
Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.