PM Bainimarama: Islanders don’t have luxury to tip-toe around climate issues

Adi Cakobau School students perform meke during the 3rd Climate Action Pacific Partnership conference at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva on Monday, May 13, 2019. Picture: JONACANI LALAKOBAU

PEOPLE in the Pacific have never had the luxury of tip-toeing or dragging their feet when it comes to climate change.

Instead, their steps forward are bold and they are loud for the world to hear, and they are not shackled to big industrial interests “whose reckless actions have driven the world to the brink of catastrophe”.

Fiji’s Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama made these comments in his official address at the Third Climate Action Pacific Partnership Meeting (CAPP III) at the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva this morning, where he called on Pacific islanders to speak boldly and directly for the sake of their survival.

Without many pleasantries, he said Pacific people did not speak for corporate interests but for the interest of the people.

“Our voices are raw, uninfluenced by persuasion of deep-pocketed parties who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. Change is costly, they say. But we in the Pacific know that not changing is even costlier,” Mr Bainimarama said.

“And as the years have gone on, the consequences of their timidness are becoming clear, backed by the overwhelming weight of an ever-expanding body of scientific evidence,” he added, citing the most recent United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report, which noted that even warming of 1.5 degrees would carry even deadlier consequences for our region and the world.

“It gives me no pleasure to say that we were right in insisting on 1.5-degree target from the start. I wish we had been wrong. I wish that we had overstated the situation.

“In fact, we now know that our current commitments put us on track for warming of three degrees, which is unthinkable.

“And less than a fortnight ago, another scientific report warned us that a million species may be at risk of extinction, mostly due to climate change and other causes that are directly tied to human activity.

“But, while we are seeing greater global recognition of this crisis, appropriate action has yet to follow. The response so far has been limited to mainly speeches, rhetoric and pleasantries – and in some cases, outrageously out-of-touch statements from public officials.”

Mr Bainimarama cited comments from Australian politicians who said Pacific islanders could not expect them to act on climate and instead move to higher ground, but islanders know some island nations did not even have higher ground to move to.

He noted others’ comments that vulnerable people could go and live in their country, and in exchange give up their seas and be economically exploited.

At that Carbon Market Institute’s Australian Emission Reduction Summit in Melbourne, Australia, the Fijian PM called out those statements as insensitive at best and new age colonialism at worst.

“I have to say, I was no shining example of traditional Pacific politeness. When I’m speaking for people whose homes and livelihoods are being destroyed by rising seas, I don’t have time to be quaint or cute.

“We need to adapt if we’re going to survive in this struggle for global action.

“We need to be bold. We need to be direct.

“And as we have done throughout this journey, we need to speak together, in one voice, for sake of all of our people. Because, make no mistake, the journey ahead of us is as urgent and perilous as it has ever been.”

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