Fiji’s Prime Minister says nothing will drive change for the Pacific and the world more forcefully than the changing climate.
Addressing a national consultation workshop on the 2050 strategy of the Blue Pacific continent in Suva on Friday, Frank Bainimarama said every year the urgency of climate action intensifies.
Mr Bainimarama said the climate emergency had taught Pacific islanders hard lessons about the nature of change.
He referenced Hurricane Laura which had been lashing the Gulf of Mexico – a storm forecast by the National Hurricane Centre as “unsurvivable” for many.
“We know it can be sudden. We know it can be unpredictable. At times, we know it can be terrifying,” he said.
“So, as we send our prayers to our friends living along the Gulf of Mexico, let us reinforce those prayers with a commitment to maintain our momentum for climate action. Unmoved from our position to cap temperature rise at the 1.5-degree target.”
He noted the arrival of the coronavirus had revealed strengths in Pacific healthcare systems and border controls but that it had also exposed vulnerabilities in the region’s economies.
The prime minister said Fiji has seen similar storms like Hurricane Laura – most recently Cyclone Harold which hit the country in April and caused widespread damage.
Bainimarama warned each cyclone season, these storms would become stronger.
“In the year since the leaders met in Funafuti, Covid-19 has driven home those lessons yet again as it has claimed lives, closed borders and driven the world economy into its sharpest-ever recession,” he said.
“Like with climate change, its impacts are being felt in every country, every industry, and every community, inflicting suffering and uncertainty everywhere it touches.
“The task has fallen to us to peer through the fog of the duel crises of climate change and the coronavirus, heed their lessons, adapt to their realities, and strive to answer the central question of this consultation: What do we want for the Pacific of 2050?”
Bainimarama said the vision of the blue Pacific continent calls for “a region of peace, harmony, security, social inclusion and increased prosperity so that all Pacific people are leading free, healthy and productive lives”.
“All noble aspirations, surely, but vague. So, let me speak plainly on what Fiji expects of our region over the next 30 years.
“By 2050, every economy in our region must achieve net-zero global emissions – zero excuses and we must have built a resilient Pacific – one that is adapted to the worsening climate impacts we know are headed our way.
“By 2050, our region’s oceans must be secured by powerful protections that preserve their bounty and beauty for all time, and we must call home a continent connected by air, by sea and by technology.”
And Fiji can and should sit at the centre as the hub of travel, trade, ICT and development, he said.
“And that by that mid-century mark, the divide between the developed and developing nations in our region must have given way to a level playing field, one defined by equal outcomes and opportunity.”
Staff from various ministries, private-sector and Non-Government Organisations attended the consultation.
Fiji extends travel lifeline to Pacific neighbours
Meanwhile, Fiji has opened air passenger travel to its neighbours Kiribati, Tonga and Tuvalu amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
As part of the 2050 Strategy of the Blue Pacific Continent Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama said the government had extended a lifeline to the Pacific Pathway scheme at a time when it was needed.
Mr Bainimarama said while borders remained closed due to the Covid-19 health restrictions, Pacific Island Forum nations had been working together to charter flights from around the world including from high-risk countries to safely repatriate their people.
“We have opened Pacific Pathways to Tuvalu, Kiribati and Tonga, extending a lifeline of passenger air travel to these countries at a time when it is badly needed If we harness that spirit of regional collective action, we have good reason to hold faith in our progress for the next 30 years.”
The Fiji PM welcomed Australia’s effort to ensure equitable access to a vaccine to the coronavirus in the Pacific – once one emerges.
Bainimarama said the workshop on the Pacific’s long-term regional strategy was announced by leaders at last year’s Pacific Islands Forum meeting in Tuvalu.
He said the document on the 2050 Strategy of the Blue Pacific Continent has since undergone regional and sub-regional consultations.
“This stage is dedicated to ‘drivers of change’ – forces such as technology, labour mobility and transportation, all no doubt will shape the next 30 years of our region’s development,” he said.
Staff from various ministries, the private sector and Non-Government Organisations attended the consultation.
(Source: Radio NZ 29 August 2020)