Honourable Minister for Forests
World Bank Resident Representative for the South Pacific – Lasse Melgaard
Senior Government Officials
Members of the Media
Bula Vinaka and good afternoon to you all.
The Emissions Reduction Payment Agreement we are signing today marks Fiji’s entry into carbon trading, a step we are taking with the support of the World Bank which, through the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, will act as trustees of this new Forest Carbon Partnership Facility.
From a market perspective, humanity has fundamentally undervalued the natural world since the dawn of the industrial age. We’ve employed a plunder-model through which economies have rewarded carbon-intensive industry without a thought as to how that has impacted the planet and the climate. There’s no doubt the path we’ve chosen has led to impressive gains in wellbeing for most people, but we’ve also succeed in choking our atmosphere with greenhouse gas emissions. Now, our world is warming, and nations like Fiji are bearing the most serious consequences.
The fact of the matter is, the planet would be even warmer than it is today were it not for the world’s forests, mangroves, seagrass fields, and ocean. These ecosystems are the best and most affordable carbon capture technology available to us. As carbon sinks, they absorb planet-heating emissions from the atmosphere. In the case of forests, that harmful carbon dioxide is sequestered and buried deep in the ground where it can’t do any harm. But not only have we taken that service for granted, we’re testing the limits of the natural world’s resilience, pumping out emissions faster than they can be absorbed.
Carbon markets and carbon trading are aimed at correcting the costly market failure that has prioritised degradation over the preservation of these ecosystems. Rather than cut down forests to keep people employed, it means that people are paid to maintain and expand carbon sinks in recognition of the service they provide the planet and all of humanity. Of course, we still have to dramatically cut emissions. But carbon sinks are a key pillar of a carbon-neutral future. 
This five-year arrangement with the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility represents more than a decade of preparatory work by the Fijian Government through the REDD+ programme. It supports the sustainable management for forests; meaning sustained financial returns for resource owners.
Having met key deliverables of the REDD+ programme, Fiji is now ready to engage in a result-based payment system that will quantify the emissions reduction potential of Fiji’s forests and provide periodic payments based on the amount of carbon emissions reduced. That means resource owners are paid to keep trees in the ground, rather than the other way around. This entire arrangement is being funded through the Carbon Fund portfolio of the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility.
Fiji is one of 19 participating countries accepted for funding by the Carbon Fund and the only Small Island Developing State in the Pacific region to enter into carbon trade under this arrangement.
The emission reduction program area includes over 37,000 hectares spread over 20 districts on the islands of Viti Levu, Vanua Levu and Taveuni, with the potential to expand to other areas that express interest. The contracted volume of greenhouse gases that Fiji is expected to sequester from these forest activities in the next five years is 2.5 million tonnes, for which a result-based payment of USD 12.5 million will be paid upon verification by the World Bank.
The programme covers a number of activities; including the forest protection and the planting of forests on degraded land, the sustainable management of designated timber production forests, the incorporation of trees into farming and agricultural systems and the promotion of forest-based livelihood ventures as an alternative to forest extraction such as eco-tourism, bee keeping, agro-forestry, aquaculture, resin tapping and nurseries of high valued native species.
This new, results-based payment system paves the way toward a transformation in the way humanity interacts with nature. Frankly, as this market matures, we expect the value of these carbon sinks to become much higher. But today marks an important start towards a decarbonised world economy; and we’re showing we can do that while still creating good jobs – particularly in in often marginalised communities.
As a nation with ambitious climate commitments, this partnership is a key facet of our future-focussed development agenda.  We’re committed to cutting carbon emissions by 30% by 2030 and achieving net-zero by 2050. We’re committed to planting 30 million trees. We’re committed to sustainably managing all 1.3 square kilometres of our ocean. As carbon markets mature and become more globally recongised, we’re ready for that blue and green revolution; ready to play our part in regulating the climate; and ready to put our people to work in clean and sustainable industries.

That initiative will also be given legislative mandate through the upcoming Climate Change Bill which will set out the governance and institutional arraignments to establish a carbon market for Fiji. 
Thank you to the World Bank for their guidance, technical assistance and support towards the development of this program. I wish to also acknowledge the corporate organizations such as the Fiji Pine Group of Companies and the Fiji Hardwood Corporation Limited that have pledged to contribute towards the program as part their corporate social responsibility commitment.
I also thank the forest industry partners, the iTaukei Lands Trust Board, the various civil society organizations that are involved in conservation of nature, academia, line ministries and communities that have all been part of the long journey in preparing Fiji to reach this landmark occasion. 
Ladies and gentlemen, I know some of you watching may not have heard of carbon markets before. I urge you to follow how these markets are developing. They will be defining for the coming decades, not only as part of the effort to achieve net-zero emissions but in creating new green jobs in emerging industries, and Fijians are well-suited to tap those opportunities.
Thank you.