The Fijian Prime Minister and incoming COP23 President, Frank Bainimarama, has appealed to the US President, Donald Trump, not to abandon the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. He said it was critical for the whole world to “preserve at all costs" the historic achievement that was reached in the French capital in 2015 and the multilateral consensus for decisive action to reduce carbon emissions and arrest the current rate of global warming.

The PM was speaking at the 4th Australasian Emissions Reduction Summit in Melbourne, Australia, to a gathering of business leaders, climate policy experts and private sector investors. The event is the biggest of its kind in the region and it was the Fijian leader’s first major address as incoming COP President.

Mr Bainimarama drew strong applause from the audience when he made a direct public appeal to President Trump, who has said that he will soon announce his decision on whether America will leave the Paris Agreement or stick to the commitments it made under the Obama administration. The Trump administration is reported to be divided on the issue.

“Mr President, please do not abandon the Paris Agreement. Stay the course. Listen to those around you who are encouraging you to do so”, Mr Bainimarama said. “Don’t let the whole side down by leaving when we have a clear game plan and have put so many scores on the board. Let’s see this process through for the benefit of all 7.5 billion people on Planet Earth, including your own citizens in vulnerable parts of America".

The Prime Minister said Fiji intended to forge a strong global movement to maintain the momentum for decisive climate action. “Our number one priority is to build a grand coalition of governments, civil society and the private sector to defend and uphold the Paris Agreement”, which he described as “a triumph of dogged negotiation and diplomacy" and “ France’s gift to the world".

“Where governments fail to lead, the private sector must do so, as is already happening in America. Where the call to action goes unheeded, civil society must mobilise ordinary people to turn up the pressure. And where politicians deny the magnitude of the challenge we face, men and women must use their power at the ballot box to replace them”, he said.

The Fijian leader said there was no longer room or time to question the scientific consensus on global warming. “This says that man-made climate change is not a hoax. It is frighteningly real. And the evidence is global - whether it is the loss of the Arctic ice flows within four decades, the loss of cities like Miami in five decades, or in the Pacific, the loss of three entire nations over a similar period - Kiribati, Tuvalu and the Marshall islands.

As well as outlining Fiji’s plans to cut its own “tiny” carbon emissions by 30 per cent by 2030 by lifting its reliance on renewable energy, the PM also repeated his country’s willingness to shoulder some of the burden of finding new homes for those displaced by climate change. “We have offered to give permanent refuge to the populations of two of our nearest neighbours, Kiribati and Tuvalu, in the event that they are submerged altogether. And while we will need assistance to resettle them in Fiji, we welcome these Pacific brothers and sisters with open hearts and open arms”, he said.

The Prime Minister paid a fulsome tribute to Germany for offering to host COP23 in Bonn but with Fiji in the chair and providing the 70-million Euros needed to stage the event. “With more than 20,000 people expected in Bonn, we could never have staged an event on this scale in Fiji. But thanks to Germany, the voice of the Pacific will be heard. And COP23 Fiji in Bonn is a selfless act of generosity on the part of the German Government and the German people that we in the Pacific will never forget”.

The PM said Fiji still had to fund its COP Presidency and with limited resources after one third of its GDP had been wiped out last year by Tropical Cyclone Winston, the biggest storm ever to make landfall in the southern hemisphere. “We have gone to the world seeking support in the form of contributions to enable us to do this job properly on behalf of everyone. I have to say that the response so far has been disappointing. We are having difficulty persuading certain countries to assist us financially to do the job we have been entrusted to do. But as I keep saying, failure is not an option. And I appeal to you all to spread the message that Fiji needs assistance if we are to make our presidency of COP23 an unqualified success”, he said.