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Honourable Ministers,
Your Excellencies, members of the Diplomatic Corps,
The Executive Director of the COP23 Presidency Secretariat,
Our friends in the Grand Coalition for climate action from civil society, the private sector and faith-based organisations,
Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls,
Bula vinaka and a very good morning to you all.

Just over a year ago, I asked for your prayers and support as Fiji embarked on the biggest and most important task we have ever undertaken as a nation - the presidency of the global climate negotiations, COP23.

I said then that the many thousands of ordinary Fijian men, women and children who had thrown themselves into the climate struggle were the backbone of our COP campaign. And I want to begin this morning by saying vinaka vakalevu to you all for your contribution to making that campaign the great success it has been.

Next month, Fiji hands over stewardship of the COP negotiations to Poland - the President of COP24 - with a record we can all be proud of as the first Small Island Developing State to lead the international community in the fight against climate change.

Our achievements are summarised in this leaflet that was published in the weekend papers and is available here for those who haven’t yet seen it. And I urge you all to read it and encourage those around you to do the same. Because it really is a Fijian success story. And regardless of our respective political affiliations, the Fijian climate fight is something that unites us all.

In a formal sense, we fulfilled our obligation to maintain the momentum of the global negotiations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for the implementation of the Paris Agreement of 2015.
Make no mistake there are challenges for next month’s meeting in Poland but we will do all we can to support them to finalise the guidelines for the Paris Agreement by the end of that meeting, which is the task they have been given.

But we have also exceeded our brief in a number of important ways that are already benefiting the community of nations and will have a lasting impact as the world steps up the climate fight.

Right from the start, we refused to accept the notion that national governments alone have all the answers and everyone else just has to wait patiently for them to act. And so we’ve helped build a Grand Coalition of states, regions, communities, investors and ordinary citizens focussed on working better together to meet the climate challenge. And we’ve brought young people, women, local communities and indigenous peoples to engage with national governments as never before.

We refused to accept that enough is being done about the urgent need to cap global warming at the most ambitious target of the Paris Agreement - 1.5 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial age - to avoid destroying life as we know it. So we introduced the Pacific concept of talanoa - of respectful and inclusive decision-making - to the world of diplomacy to raise ambition in the climate struggle. And dozens of talanoa sessions are now being held around the world to share stories and showcase best practices so we can speed up the reduction of our greenhouse gas emissions.

We refused to accept that enough is being done to recognise the link between climate change and the health of our oceans, on which so much of our lives depend. And so we launched the Ocean Pathway Partnership with Sweden to accelerate action on ocean health and bring it to the core of the climate negotiations. And in doing so, have stood up for the interests not only of Fijians and other Pacific Islanders, but every maritime community in the world that depends on a healthy ocean for its food and livelihood.

Friends, we’ve done all this - plus a lot more - not only for ourselves and each other - to help preserve our own way of life from the threat of climate change. We’ve done it for the world - a small nation of big hearts and big imaginations stepping forward to lead the international community in its response to the biggest challenge humanity has ever faced.

Never before has Fiji stood so tall in the world as at the end of our COP Presidency. We were already respected for our 40-year contribution to UN Peacekeeping and the brave and disciplined way our men and women in uniform have protected vulnerable people in areas of conflict far from our island home. But our COP Presidency has taken us to another level altogether and opened up new horizons of opportunity our forebears could never have imagined. Because when asked, we stepped forward for every climate vulnerable person on earth and we have delivered. A proud legacy that will resonate around the world for many years to come.

It has been a great privilege for me as COP23 President to lead this movement, which crosses all political lines and is the legacy of every Fijian. I want to pay tribute today to the many nations, organisations and individuals who have assisted our COP campaign. Without their support - financial, moral and practical - we simply couldn’t have done it. But for me, the greatest inspiration has come from our people - the Fijian people. One people united by our determination to do what we can to protect our own surroundings. And determined to lead the world in protecting the only home we have - our precious Planet Earth.

For me, the highlight of the whole year as COP President was a very simple one - the surge of pride I felt when I stood there on the podium in Bonn last November with our two young climate ambassadors, Timoci Naulusala and Shalvi Shakshi. They are again with us today and I ask you to again warmly acknowledge their contribution on our behalf.

Friends, I tell you. Of all of the big names I’ve met in the past year - the Macrons, the Merkels and even the Terminator himself - none are as seared in my memory as much as these two young Fijians. Because they took the spirit of our people to Bonn – the Bula spirit and our passion and determination in this struggle - and fired the imaginations of others.

And I want to say to young Fijians everywhere. Like Timoci and Shalvi, you too can make a difference. It is in the individual actions of all of us – every Fijian and all 7.5 billion people on our planet – that we hold the key to overcoming the climate threat. If we all make a difference in our own lives, we can make a difference for the world.

So I ask every Fijian and especially our young people to learn the ten things you can do – we can all do - to make a difference. They are printed on the back of our National Climate Day leaflet but these ten points are so important that I’m going to remind us all of them again.

• Firstly, take more interest in learning how we can build our resilience to climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
• Protect our environment by not polluting our ocean and coral reefs so they have a better chance of coping with changing temperatures and acidity.
• Don’t rubbish our country. Dispose of your litter properly and try not to use plastic bags, plastic bottles or single use plastic products, that can make their way into the ocean through our drains, creeks and rivers.
• Try to save energy. Turn off the lights and the TV when you leave a room. Walk or ride a bicycle rather than take a bus or car. Or share a ride with friends rather than travel alone.
• Plant more trees. When you need to chop down a tree, replace it with at least two more because trees remove carbon from the atmosphere.
• Try to limit the lighting of fires and especially large scale burning.
• Limit the use of air conditioning and opt for fans or open windows.
• Plan meals and reduce food wastage, which will reduce the amount of rubbish disposed in landfills.
• Restore and protect our mangroves.
• And finally, spread the word. Talk about climate change with your family and friends and mobilise your community to take action.

Friends, as part of our effort, I’m delighted to announce today that we will shortly be launching a National Environment Hotline, in which members of the public can ring in and report any environmental threat. So if you see someone dumping rubbish where they shouldn’t, report it. If you see someone removing trees, report it. If you see someone pulling out mangroves, report it. The onus is on all of us to take responsibility for the quality of our surroundings and this hotline will be an important way in which we can hold those who behave irresponsibly to account.

Friends, as I have said before, I’m a great believer in the very simple message that from little things, big things grow. If we all do a little as individuals in the climate fight, it can soon amount to a lot. We can set off a chain reaction that spreads right around Fiji and right around the world. And looking back on it all, this has been the essence of Fiji’s Presidency of COP. Because as a small nation, we weren’t afraid to take on a big project, in fact one of the biggest any nation can undertake.

This is what I said in this place just over a year ago: “With your support and with your prayers, our game plan is this: To keep the global climate negotiations on track. To get everyone to fully implement the Paris Agreement and limit the global temperature to 1.5 degrees above that of the pre-industrial age. And to get there, we will be reminding everyone of a very simple fact. We will only get there with teamwork. Every nation committing itself to climate action in the way that Fiji has. The citizens of the world coming together as one world - Team World – and doing what we must do to save our precious planet from the ravages of climate change”.

Friends, Team Fiji has delivered. And we now look to Team World to do the same. So where do we go from here? Well, the scientists have just told us that we have time to meet the 1.5 degree warming target but only just. We have to act now. There is no time to waste. Because if we don’t, the planet will warm by at least three degrees by century’s end, which would be a catastrophe for the world.

So far from stepping back from our leadership of the climate fight, we must keep up the momentum for change and use the mana we have gained to maximum effect. Even when Fiji hands over the COP Presidency to Poland next month, we will continue to be centre stage as co-chair, with Poland, of a talanoa between climate change ministers at COP24. And because Fiji introduced the talanoa concept into the UN system and it has captured peoples’ imaginations, we must press on. And especially use Fiji’s moral authority on the climate issue to continue to speak up for the vulnerable in global forums.

Whatever happens in the election next week, I want the Fijian voice - the Pacific voice - to be especially strong in the coming months. And in particular, when the nations of the world gather to review the implementation of the Paris Agreement at the UN Secretary General’s special climate summit in New York next September.

We also need to bed down some of the legacy projects we have been working on over the past year, including the Fiji Rural Electrification Fund, supported by the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, to bring clean power to more Fijians.

Friends, we can be proud that we have led the way, with the Marshall Islands, in becoming the first two nations to commit to raising our NDCs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We have an uphill battle to persuade other nations, and especially the industrial nations, to do the same. But as we’ve shown over the past 12 months, no matter how small you are, thinking big pays dividends when you have justice and reason on your side.

As Fiji as a whole maintains our global call for climate action, I ask you all - no matter who you are or how old you are - to do the same. Thank you again for your commitment and I have great pleasure in formally launching Fijian Climate Action Day 2018.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.

© 2018 Ministry of Communications