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Your Excellency the President of the Republic of India,
Your Excellency the President of the Republic of France.
The Honourable Prime Minister of India,
My fellow Heads of Government and States,
Distinguished Guests

Bula vinaka and a very good morning/afternoon/evening to you all.

We gather in this great nation that celebrates the triumph of light over darkness in the Festival of Diwali to focus on how we can better harness the power of the sun to light up the world. And I want to begin by saluting the Government of India and the Indian people for the lead you are taking on the development of clean and affordable energy. And for bringing us all together in a spirit of friendship and solidarity to help tackle the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced.

At the outset, Excellencies, I want to stress that the threat posed by climate change also presents humanity with one of its greatest opportunities to pool our ingenuity and resources and tackle this challenge head on. Rather than be prophets of doom, let us carry the message to our people as leaders that by working together, we can and will prevail in the climate struggle.

I warmly thank the Governments of India and France for their emphasis on innovation as the way forward. And for the global leadership they have demonstrated by establishing the International Solar Alliance. As COP23 President, I also acknowledge and thank Prime Minister Modi and President Macron for your personal leadership and the global example you are setting for decisive climate action.

Excellencies, we all know that the accelerated development of alternative clean energy sources such as solar, hydro and wind is the key to meeting the most ambitious target of the Paris Agreement of 2015, which is to limit the global temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius above that of the pre-industrial age.

That is the priority I have set as President of COP23. And I urge the global community to focus more – much more - on the massive new investment in solar, hydro and wind needed to make this possible – as well as the emerging technologies such as battery storage that show so much promise of being able to power our homes and economies. And will enable us to reduce our net carbon emissions to zero as soon as possible.

Along with that up-scaling of investment, we need a concerted effort to make this technology more affordable and spread it across the world. With the ISA, you are leading this effort and assisting many developing countries such as Fiji to gain that access. And in doing so, you are not only leading the fight against climate change but improving the living standards of our people.

Excellencies, the adoption of these technologies is critical to achieving the maximum ambition and maximum action that I am continually stressing as COP23 President. At COP24, Fiji will be partnering with Poland to conduct a global engagement called the Talanoa Dialogue, which is designed to increase the collective ambition of our Nationally Determined Contributions, our NDCs.

This Dialogue – a Pacific concept of inclusive engagement devoid of finger pointing – is critical to the success of our overall mission. Because our current NDCs are putting us on target for a global temperature increase of 3 degrees, not 1.5 degrees, and they are simply not enough.

Excellencies, solar technology advances for energy, transport and industry are a critical part of the clean energy mix we need if we are to have any hope of meeting the 1.5 degree target. Which is why the focus we are placing on solar as part of an accelerated response in these deliberations is so important for the future of all 7.5 billion people on earth.

Solar is already an affordable energy option for many, especially those with no existing access to power. In Fiji, we are working with the Leonardo Di Caprio Foundation of the United States on a plan to provide solar energy to communities that currently rely on fossil fuel or cannot be connected with the national grid in the medium to long term. And I salute this great actor and humanitarian for lighting up the lives of others by harnessing the sun.

The economic value of solar is improving all the time. At a utility scale - on rooftops and in conjunction with batteries and electric vehicles, solar power offers a bright, sustainable future for all our people. Solar and storage is increasingly both cheaper and cleaner than diesel generators and more reliable than the grid. It can be deployed more rapidly to those who don’t have access to power than by extending the grid. On present trends, it is likely to be the dominant electric power source this century. And it is a vital part of the mix if we are to meet the 1.5 degree target we set ourselves in Paris and is the signature of Fiji’s Presidency of COP23.

Excellencies, I close by restating Fiji’s absolute commitment to solar and other clean power to achieve our own NDC of approaching 100 per cent renewable energy in our electricity generation by 2030. And I urge the nations of the world to commit fully to our Talanoa Dialogue to increase ambition at COP24.

I also warmly thank India for partnering with Fiji to spread the benefits of solar power and supporting - with France and many other nations - our Presidency of COP23. And I again salute India and France for their inspirational leadership.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.

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