As the first country whose parliament approved the ratification of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, Fiji has played a key role during a day of ceremony at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama signed the agreement and deposited the instruments of ratification with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Fiji joined 175 other countries who signed the Paris Agreement, but was one of only 15 countries to deposit the instruments of ratification. The agreement will come into force 30 days after at least 55 countries, accounting for 55 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, deposit their instruments of ratification or acceptance with the Secretary-General.

In Fiji’s national statement following the official signing ceremony, Prime Minister Bainimarama called for all countries to not only ratify the agreement, but to further lower the proposed cap on global warming from 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels to 1.5 degrees.

“We in the Pacific are seeking a new cap of 1.5 degrees Celsius as part of our Suva Declaration at the last gathering of the Pacific Islands Development Forum in the Fijian capital. Even this may not be enough given some of the more dire scientific warnings. But we commend the Suva Declaration to you all as a vital next step for the global community as we confront the biggest challenge of our time,” he said.

Following the official signing ceremony, the Prime Minister chaired a high-level event promoting the early entry into force of the Paris Agreement to encourage the remaining countries to ratify the agreement.

The Prime Minister was joined on the podium by the UN Secretary-General, the President of Palau, Arun Benjamin Mason, and the President of the Marshall Islands, Hilda Heine, who, with Fiji, are among 12 Small Island Developing States to have lodged their instruments of ratification.

The Prime Minister invited the United States Secretary of State, Senator John Kerry, to be the first speaker from the floor. Secretary Kerry assured the meeting that the U.S. will ratify the Paris Agreement in 2016. A number of other countries also gave assurances that they would ratify the agreement, including Australia, Canada, Argentina, Mali, Norway and the Maldives.

(Photo source: UN Newscentre)