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Infusing the bula spirit

Dr Joseph Veramu
Thursday, September 14, 2017

FIJI created history in November 2016 when it became the first Small Island Developing State to be selected to preside over the conference of parties as President of COP23.

With the UN climate conference taking place in Bonn, Germany on November 6-17, it is good news that the US Senate appropriations committee, which is led by Republicans, has voted to give $US10 million ($F20.19m) to the UN treaty organisation that oversees the Paris climate agreement.

Readers will note that the financial situation reached crisis point after President Trump announced in early 2017 that he would stop US contributions to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The US had given nearly a third of the panel's income since it began and 45 per cent of its funds in 2016. Although Mr Trump has described climate change as a hoax, there is a view that he will have a change of heart and support reductions in carbon emissions.

Mr Bainimarama had described Mr Trump's action as "very regrettable" and that his actions set the American Government on a collision course with the rest of the world over this issue.

"The door is always open for (Trump) to rejoin the rest of us in staying committed to the reductions in heat-causing greenhouse gases we all agreed to in Paris.

"But in the meantime, those of us who remain committed and are leading this campaign, including me as incoming COP president, are going to stick together. Because we simply cannot afford to drop the ball on decisive climate action. Our very survival in the Pacific depends on it, as I have said so many times before," Mr Bainimarama said.

Hurricane Irma with wind speeds of 300km/h has caused devastation in Cuba, the Bahamas and Florida. It came soon after Hurricane Harvey caused never-before-seen flooding on coastal parts of Texas in late August.

They have telltale signs of global warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions that come from burning coal, oil, and gas.

These fossil fuels increase world temperatures and result in energy being created for stronger tropical storms.

The hurricanes coming so soon after each other will have a positive impact in that policy makers in the US will appreciate that climate change issues cannot be ignored.

While the US with its immense resources will be able to pay for relief and rehabilitation work, the same cannot be said of small island nations such as Fiji that suffered extensive damage from STC Winston.

In January 2017, Mr Bainimarama promised to use the COP23 presidency to highlight the interests of lowlying and vulnerable nations.

He has been advocating Fiji's vision for climate action which is for all nations to work toward putting a cap on global temperature to within 1.5C above preindustrial levels.

This is necessary for small island states and all vulnerable nations as temperatures above this would be disastrous

Fiji's notable contributions

Fiji's climate ambassador and special envoy to the UNFCCC, Deo Saran said, "Fiji has a Green Growth Framework and has aggressively pursued and implemented policies to promote sustainability in the country, all while partnering with the private sector and international organizations to elevate the issue on the global stage."

On another note the COP23 narrative has been infused with the "Bula spirit" of constructive engagements.

Mr Bainimarama noted in June in New York that "to be able to hold a yaqona ceremony and tabua presentation before the main podium of the UN General Assembly was a very special moment. Every Fijian in that great auditorium swelled with pride at the sight of the UN Secretary General downing his bilo in one hit. And also hearing him praise Fiji for its rich cultural tradition and its service to the world."

Mr Bainimarama added "when we go to COP23 in Bonn in November, we will also be stamping the event with the Fijian bula spirit as well as the concept of talanoa, of the world coming together to discuss the challenges we all face in the Pacific way, in a spirit of genuine dialogue, co-operation and mutual respect.

"We are going to need all the collective strength we can muster to keep these negotiations on track.

"To preserve the multilateral consensus for the implementation of the Paris Agreement for decisive action on climate change that was agreed at the end of 2015."

* Joseph Veramu is a policy analyst consultant. He can be contacted on or Facebook or twitter

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