Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama brings a sobering message as he presides over UN climate talks in Bonn this week — climate change is real, it’s already having disastrous impacts on his people and only urgent action can address the problem.
Germany is hosting the talks and asked Bainimarama to act as president to highlight how the issue is affecting Pacific island nations on the frontline of global warming.
As incoming president of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP23), Bainimarama has criss-crossed the world in recent months voicing islanders’ fears.
“Rising seas, extreme weather events or changes to agriculture… threaten our way of life, and in some cases our very existence,” he said.
“We who are most vulnerable must be heard.”
Scientists warn some low-lying island nations risk being swamped entirely as sea levels rise.
Farmland and sources of drinking water have been rendered useless by seawater and even graveyards have been lost to rising tides in the Marshall Islands.
Bainimarama said Fiji, an island nation of about one million people, was left reeling when Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston hit like a wrecking ball in February last year.
It left 44 people dead, destroying 40,000 homes and wiping out a third of Fiji’s economy. Such super-cyclones used to be a once-in-a-decade occurrence, but only a year before Cyclone Pam slammed into neighbouring Vanuatu, killing at least 11 people.
Bainimarama said Fiji now had to live with the threat that such tempests could flare up “out of nowhere, at any time”.
He said the experiences of Fijians and people around the world meant there was no longer room to question the scientific consensus on global warming. “This says that man-made climate change is not a hoax, it is frighteningly real,” he said.
Bainimarama said his top priority at the Bonn meeting was “to build a grand coalition of governments, civil society and the private sector” to implement the Paris Agreement on climate change.
Under the deal struck in the French capital in 2015, more than 190 countries agreed to limit global warming to “well below” 2.0 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels.
Bainimarama’s comments come just days after the UN’s environment chief warned there is a “catastrophic” gap between national pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and the actions needed to meet that target. — AFP