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Media Center > Speeches > HON. PM BAINIMARAMA'S SPEECH AT THE OPENING OF THE NEW LABASA METEOROLOGICAL SERVICE OFFICE

HON. PM BAINIMARAMA'S SPEECH AT THE OPENING OF THE NEW LABASA METEOROLOGICAL SERVICE OFFICE

9/6/2018
Honourable Ministers;

Your Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic Corps;

Distinguished Guests;

Ladies and Gentlemen.


Bula Vinaka and a very good morning to you all.

It’s wonderful to be back home in Fiji, and I’m especially glad to be here in the North ahead of our Constitution Day National Celebration tomorrow in Subrail Park.

For decades, Fijians in the North have had to watch national celebrations held in Suva on television, listen over radio, or read about it in the papers. But tomorrow, we’re making history by bringing our National Constitution Day celebration to the North for the very first time – and I look forward to seeing as many Fijian families come out to celebrate our Constitution, and all of the rights and protections it affords us all, as Fijians.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I’m here today after returning from Bangkok, Thailand, where I presided over the latest round of global climate change negotiations as the President of COP23.

The message I carried to the world at this most recent climate meeting is not a message that needs to be driven home here in Fiji. I don’t need to detail the scale of the threat we face from climate change for the Fijian people, because we live through the reality of climate change every day. 

You know – we know – that as I speak to you this very moment, our people are under siege from rising seas, the longer droughts and changing weather patterns. And we’ve all seen first-hand the devastation wrought by the stronger cyclones hitting our country year after year.

It can be frustrating, at times, having to constantly impress the urgency of our situation upon the rest of the world, especially in some countries where the case for climate action faces some seriously selfish and short-sighted interests. But those moments of frustration aside, as COP23 President, I’ve watched some very exciting and promising progress being made. In Bangkok, we made steady progress towards the finalisation of the implementation guidelines for the Paris Agreement. Those guidelines will be our comprehensive game plan – a rulebook – for the global effort to curb global carbon emissions and secure a viable future for Fijians, for Pacific Islanders, and, truly, for every person on earth.

But the truth is, even in the best-case scenario, we still need to prepare for stronger cyclones headed our way. Today, the opening of this state-of-the-art regional facility is another step my Government is taking to protect Fijians from these worsening impacts, giving ourselves a powerful new tool in predicting and preparing for tropical cyclones. And this new facility is part of a nationwide effort to massively step-up our resilience to the reality of climate change; that includes stronger, better infrastructure, seawalls, the relocation of vulnerable communities, evacuation centres, the introduction of climate-resilient seedlings for farmers, and other, new and innovative ways we’re keeping our economic development on track, even in the face of our changing climate. Because of our record, we’ve achieved our nine straight years of economic growth in Fiji, despite the serious challenge of Cyclone Winston, and the other major storms that have hit our country.

When it comes to disaster preparedness, every minute matters; even an extra second of warning ahead of a storm can save a life. That is why we haven’t spared any expense in delivering this new 1.2-million-Dollar facility, which is designed to give us the largest possible window to prepare for any storms that may be headed in our direction.

This new facility will work in co-ordination with the Nadi Forecasting Centre and the Suva MET Office as well, but I’m proud to say this facility will serve more than Fiji alone. It will provide meteorological services to our neighbours in Tonga, Samoa, Niue, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Nauru and the Cook Islands. So this is a truly Pacific project, and we are extremely proud to do our part in bringing a new layer of protection to the entire Southwest Pacific region.

Friends, I want to make a very important point. This facility is bringing the best and latest technology in weather forecasting you’ll find anywhere in the world, but even the best technology won’t always get predictions spot-on. Sometimes, a serious cyclone warning may go out, but all we’ll experience is the light rains of a low-level depression. Other times, storms may intensify over a very short period of time. That is why every Fijian needs to always treat every warning issued by the Ministry of Disaster Management and Meteorological Services extremely seriously. I know making storm preparations can be time consuming, but it’s far, far better to celebrate a near-miss after undertaking the proper preparations than it is to be caught unaware and unprepared for a serious cyclone. So please, listen to Ministry officials and treat every storm warning with the seriousness it deserves.

Friends, the basis for this development, and all of our advocacy on climate change abroad, is my belief in a profound truth: that God helps those who help themselves.

That is why I am fighting so fiercely here at home and on the world stage to do everything in my power to prepare our nation and our people for the storms on the horizon, storms the experts tell us will only become stronger in the years ahead.

That is also why I took on the role of President of COP23. As part of that duty, later this month, I will be in California, with my friend, California Governor Jerry Brown, at the Global Climate Action Summit. There, we’ll bring the Grand Coalition I’ve sought to forge from day one of my Presidency to life, uniting national governments, states, regions, cities, businesses, and ordinary citizens to put the entire planet on course to stave off the worst climate impacts. From there, I will carry our message for action and greater, more ambitious commitment to New York for the UN General Assembly, and continue to press our case all the way up to our handover of the Presidency at COP24.

I’m proud to officially declare this new facility open, and I very much look forward to our Constitution Day celebrations tomorrow.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.
 
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