Christiana Figueres Oration at the 7th Australasian Emission Reduction Summit
Pacific Islands Forum SG, Dame Meg Taylor.
Thursday 3 December- 2020 at 6.00 – 7.15pm (Fiji time)
Thank you, Katharine (CMI Director Katharine Tapley) for those introductory remarks- and I send our warm greetings from the Pacific to you all.
Ladies and gentlemen.
I thank you for inviting me to join you all this evening and deliver this address, established in honour of a key architect of the Paris Agreement, Ms Christiana Figueres. Indeed, her efforts, coupled with the political commitment and support from global leaders, including the strong and vocal support of our Pacific Leaders, delivered for the world and humanity an ambitious global climate agreement in 2015.
The onus lies with us all to follow through on the commitments made in the Paris Agreement. It is our roadmap for survival, as we battle against the climate change crisis.
I accepted this opportunity to address this summit because I am convinced that true and meaningful climate change action can only be achieved if we all work together. It has to be a collective responsibility – and the private sector has a key role in ensuring that there is ambition in achieving climate targets.
If there is any chance left to save ourselves from this climate crisis, we are going to have to act now.
I acknowledge and am grateful that all States in Australia have committed to net-zero emissions by 2050.
I come from and speak on behalf of a region that is 96% ocean – what we refer to now as the Blue Pacific Continent, comprising 18 Members who are stewards of over 40 million square kilometres which is defined by our exclusive economic zones and underpinned by UNCLOS.
Despite our negligible contribution to global emission levels, we are at the forefront of the battle against climate change. Our Leaders define this climate crisis as the greatest threat to the region which is an existential threat.
Ladies and gentlemen, for us in the Blue Pacific, the Kainaki Lua Declaration for Urgent Climate Change Action Now settled in Tuvalu in 2019, represents our political commitment to urgent climate change action.
In this context, I wish to highlight three key messages this evening:
To begin with, 2020 is on track to be one of the three warmest years on record globally, ending what has been the hottest decade in human history.
Today, we are already at 1.2 degrees of global warming. On this current trajectory, some of our low-lying atoll islands will be uninhabitable within our lifetime.
The very impact of global warming is being felt on a daily basis in all our countries. Our sea levels are rising and impacting coastal societies. The increased intensity and frequency of extreme weather patterns and events are inflicting unprecedented damage and destruction on our countries and economies, and Ocean acidification is reorientating migratory patterns of tuna in our Pacific waters, which will have significant implications on Pacific economies and by relation the global fisheries trade.
In response, Pacific Islands Forum Leaders have consistently reaffirmed climate change as an existential threat to the region. It is the ‘single greatest threat’ to the livelihood and wellbeing of the peoples of the Pacific.
Indeed, the science is clear – it is imperative that we limit temperature rise to 1.5-degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels to ensure our children inherit a safe and healthy planet. Yet, despite what the latest science is telling us, the world continues to increase its greenhouse gas emissions and is fixed on a track that will see a catastrophic temperature rise of 3 to 5 degrees Celsius at the turn of this century.
To bring this into perspective, extreme climate conditions in our region, include: Cyclone Pam in 2015 which wiped out 64 percent of Vanuatu’s GDP overnight. In 2016, Cyclone Winston wreaked havoc in Fiji with damages totalling 31 percent of GDP. In 2018, Cyclone Gita caused destruction in Tonga equivalent to 38 percent of GDP. In 2020, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands was besieged by both Cyclone Harold and COVID-19 which severely impacted local people and local economies.
Throughout these disasters, our private sector in the Pacific were at the mercy of private capital and government support and concessional financings to rebuild their enterprises.
In Australia, the bushfires at the start of this year was estimated to cost the Australian economy $5 billion in direct losses and $20 billion in lost output.
Five years on from the Paris Agreement, we must take stock and seriously ask ourselves – Are we keeping our promises? Are we honouring our commitments in the Agreement? Are we doing enough to influence positive behavioural change?
Regional action on climate change
Kainaki II Declaration
At a political level, we are guided by the 2019 Forum Leaders Kainaki II Declaration which I referred to earlier –the strongest climate change declaration issued by all eighteen Forum Members. The ten calls of the Declaration remain at the heart of our Pacific advocacy, and guide us towards COP 26 next year.
The Kainaki calls on all countries and non-state actors to join with the Blue Pacific in taking bold, decisive and transformative action to address the ever-present challenges of climate change.
As a Forum family, we continue to use the Kainaki Declaration to call for urgent climate change action now and we will do so again when our Forum Leaders meet with our 18 international Dialogue Partners next week, on the fifth anniversary of the Paris Agreement.
Innovative regional solutions
At a practical level, we continue to pursue initiatives to secure the future of our Blue Pacific, including innovative solutions to combat climate change and build resilience.
Yes, mitigation is critical, but for those of us at the forefront of climate change, it is no longer enough. Adaptation is now critical for us to remain in our homes.
It is, therefore, concerning to note that from the global climate finance mobilised only 5 percent is targeted at adaptation.
However, addressing climatic impacts is not the role of Government alone – it is everyone’s responsibility.
The private sector is the engine room of our economies. We need the private sector to commit to working with Governments to fight climate change – we need private sector investment in green initiatives such as innovation and renewable energy.
We need to move away from ‘business as usual’, broaden our outlook and be innovative in our approach.
We see increasing examples of successful public-private partnership arrangements on resilience projects across the Pacific: The Tina River Hydropower project in the Solomon Islands; the renewable energy electrification project in Tuvalu; and the Vanuatu National Green Energy Fund. Fiji has progressed some very innovative financing solutions including the issuance of a green bond in 2017, raising USD 50 million to support climate change and mitigation.
Indeed, these examples are just a few of note – we need more in the Pacific region and we wish that you could be part of it.
At the regional level, we have been working towards the establishment of the Pacific Resilience Facility.
This is a unique Pacific owned and led initiative aimed at mobilising up to $1.5 billion. The Pacific Resilience Facility will allow the region to invest in high impact community-level resilience building and disaster preparedness projects. A global pledging conference is planned for 2021 and any support from the private sector and the international community is welcome.
Blue Pacific 2050 Strategy
Looking forward, the region’s ambition in all its priority areas will be articulated through the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent. Central to this strategy will be the issue of climate change and how we can drive our region’s development priorities, partnerships and financing modalities towards a region where the political and economic sovereignty of our Pacific nations is safeguarded and strengthened.
What do we want to see from the rest of the World?
So, what do we want to see from the rest of the world? What we want to see is
Commitment – we want to see real and tangible commitment to uphold the Paris Agreement. The Paris Agreement is not just a political tool – it is a roadmap for our very survival.
In recent months, we have seen a range of ambitious climate change commitments, statements and targets. Indeed, more than 110 countries have committed to carbon neutrality by 2050.
China’s bold announcement on its climate change targets and plans for tackling emissions is welcome. As the world’s largest emitter, this political commitment of achieving net zero carbon by 2060 may not be the strongest, but is necessary to reinvigorate global momentum on the fight against climate change.
It is heartening to know that by early next year, countries accounting for more than 65 percent of global emissions will have made ambitious commitments to carbon neutrality.
What do we want to see from Australia?
Before closing, I wish to reflect on the support required from Australia.
I acknowledge Australia’s ongoing support to the region. It continues to play a critical role in supporting Pacific Island countries’ responses to climate change impacts, particularly during times of cyclones. Its support for COVID-19 preparedness, including support to gain access to COVID-19 vaccines.
I welcome the efforts of the Australian Government on greener technologies and the recent launch of its Technology Investment Roadmap – and the positive implications this will mean for transitioning the Australian economy and mobilising up to $50 billion of new private sector investment.
Indeed, the commitment of Australian state governments to net zero carbon by 2050 is a win for humanity and we look forward to that same ambition at the federal level.
I would also go as far as to reaffirm our collective call as outlined in the Kainaki Declaration for a just transition from fossil fuels, including the phase-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies.
To the business community, I encourage greater public and political push for an Australian national commitment to net zero emissions by 2050 – our Pacific region is the most impacted by climate change and we need to be leading from the front. I also encourage greater investment in renewable technology, with opportunities for technology transfer to the Pacific.
In closing, I wish to, first and foremost, reaffirm and endorse the United Nations Secretary General’s address on the State of the Planet that was delivered today.
For Forum Island Countries, the situation is dire. We need urgent, ambitious climate change action, at scale. Without this, we will lose our homes, our way of life, our well-being and our livelihoods.
As a Blue Pacific continent, we are taking decisive action to build our resilience. We are committed to the Kainaki II Declaration and are developing a 2050 Strategy to protect our people, our place and our prospects. We are developing Pacific-led solutions, like the Pacific Resilience Facility, and look forward to your support to deliver that.
Each of us, our business, our organisation, our country has a moral duty to reduce global emissions and ensure COVID-19 recovery efforts are climate smart.
As one Blue Pacific, I believe it is crucial that we maintain our collective solidarity, to influence the much-needed behavioural change at the global level to reduce emissions and ensure we are on track to deliver a 1.5 degree Celsius pathway.
Collectively, we must achieve a legacy outcome from COP26 that our children can be proud of and live with both now and for their future generations.
Having said that, I thank you all for listening to me and I look forward to the discussions we will have later. Thank you very much.
CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY, December 3, 2020