While I have some reservations, I welcome the agreement this morning of the Conference of Parties.
I am glad that almost 200 Nations have finally agreed that the age of COAL has ended. It is not clear whether the Prime Minister, who was supposed to be “leading the charge” for small island countries to reach an acceptable agreement, was present when the final deal was agreed.
The agreement is signed. Implementation is now needed.
So let us ensure that Fiji is one of the nations that define the success and victory in the Paris COP 21 Agreement. We should immediately start tackling pressing local issues of pollution that are turning Fiji into a giant rubbish dump and a despoiler of our own precious natural resources.
Fiji should also allocate land specifically developed and financed for climate refugees. These parcels of land should not be sold or leased. In my traditional capacity, I will look into the option of calling the Great Council of Chiefs to meet so we can discuss this.
As the Indigenous community in Fiji, we have been welcoming immigrants and settlers’ since-pre European contact.
Many chiefs and their people genuinely care for our Pacific neighbours. It would honour our ancestors to free up parcels of ancestral property for Pacific neighbours displaced by climate change from their homelands.
It is time to challenge the Fiji Government to do a few things immediately to meet provisions of the Paris Agreement. Fiji should now invest in improved technology and help Fiji citizens and Pacific regional partners deliver on the ambitious goals in the agreement.
I hope that the agreement will encourage more funding for scientific climate research in Fiji.
Fiji should also decrease their INDC carbon cap to about 50%, or even 80%, and prepare the nation to move into a development cycle based on renewable and sustainable energy.
The Paris document sets the goal of limiting the world's rise in average temperature to "well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius."
It is clear that negotiators appear to have opted for the weakest language around a long-term goal for phasing out fossil fuels. Before this, the text had options for specific dates for carbon cuts, and even specific percentages relating to cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.
On “loss and damage” and whether the agreement should recognise some countries will suffer irreparable harm from climate change, the United States opted for a protective provision which was not necessarily in the interests of the Pacific Islands.
The US insisted any wording about loss and damage should not suggest liability or compensation or open any possibility of legal action against US companies.
Vulnerable island states like Fiji and Kiribati and many countries that support the idea of an ambitious agreement, are insisting that climate science requires global warming to eventually be contained below 1.5C immediately. I am very pleased with the support from nations like Canada, Brazil and St Lucia’s who made it clear that the inclusion of a 1.5C target was non-negotiable.
The COP 21 Paris Agreement is also the result of a far-reaching effort by nations, businesses, and citizens to reorganise the global economy on a journey of low-carbon growth, signalling the age of CARBON IS OVER.
This historic agreement makes it mandatory to firstly, leave no one behind. It calls for policies to protect the poorest people and the most vulnerable of nations, by calling on all to hold the increase in temperatures to well below 2C and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5C.
Secondly, the agreement sends a much needed signal to empower provision of massive sums of public and private sector investments needed to drive economies towards a carbon neutral world whilst ensuring that there is the necessary finance to provide resilience for developing countries like Fiji.
Thirdly, it changes the global ethos of development. The agreement makes it mandatory that nations accept that there is no development without tackling climate change.
I agree with Climate Reality founder and former Vice President of the USA, Mr Al Gore when he says “No agreement is perfect, and this one must be strengthened over time, but groups across every sector of society will now begin to reduce dangerous carbon pollution through the framework of this agreement.”
I have a copy of the Paris Agreement, and I will make it available at the Fiji Opposition Office in Parliament and will be providing copies to NGOs and relevant stakeholders.
Ro TEIMUMU KEPA
Leader of the Opposition