➢ Regional country representatives
➢ Officials of SPC/GIZ development partners
➢ Workshop facilitators
➢ Ladies and gentleman

I am delighted to be invited to officiate in the opening of this Regional Inception Workshop for REDD+ and Forest Conservation in the Pacific Island Countries. As a government of Fiji representative, it is only appropriate that I warmly welcome regional participants and I sincerely hope that you will be able to contribute and share ideas that will assist in shaping the way forward for regional forest sector development in the areas of REDD+ and Forest Conservation.

The importance of Forests is now being recognised and elevated significantly in the international negotiation and action around climate change, especially the role of forests in climate change mitigation and adaptation.

REDD+ is a global mitigation initiative under the United Nations Framework Conventions for Climate Change [UNFCCC] to fight Climate Change. Most people are now aware that the worlds hunger for energy from fossil fuel is leading to catastrophic climate change.

What is also becoming increasingly clear is the effect that forests have on the climate and the climate has on the forests and how changes in one system will affect the other. Forest plays an important role in regulating the earth’s temperature and weather patterns by storing large quantities of carbon and water. This regulatory function has a profound effect on both the local and global climate.

REDD+ is now considered as the most inexpensive means of addressing climate change problems through emission reduction by sources and emission removals by sinks. As a mechanism under the UN convention REDD+ had for a number of years now being heavily discussed in the various level under the convention.

We are aware of the Bali Action Plan, Cancun safeguards and the Warsaw framework on REDD that specifies appropriate guidelines on the implementation of REDD+ actions.

Under the Fiji Forest Policy, the Forestry Department is tasked to cooperate with other public agencies, national and international NGOs in attracting bilateral and multilateral assistance for partnership within the framework of Climate Change.

In 2015, Fiji received the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility [FCPF] grant of $US3.6million for its readiness program and we are hoping to be ready to receive potential Emission Reduction [ER] result based incentive after the preparation phase which will end by 2019. Fiji is hoping that by 2020 we are in the position to receive result based payment through the Carbon Fund mechanisms.

In April 2015, Fiji presented its Early Idea Notes through the Carbon Fund committee and was further invited to develop a full Emission Reduction Program Idea Note (ER-PIN) by September, 2015. Following that, Fiji was selected along with 20 other REDD+ countries, into the Carbon Fund pipeline by the 15th of October, 2015.

This may be good news for Fiji, however, it also brings in new challenges since a lot of work needs to be done, both analytical work, policy development and institutional arrangement. We will have to develop our Forest Reference Emission Level, Monitoring Reporting and Verification, Strategic Environmental and social Assessment. We will also need to determine our national ER programs that will contribute to Fijis ER ambition.

Government cannot do this alone and so we need to engage our relevant stakeholders including NGOs, CSOs, CBOs, regional and international development partners and academia and other government agencies. This is also important as most of the drivers are from outside of the forest sector and so we need to ensure that effective changes will be made through their engagement with the program.

The Fijian government is also providing fund to support the administration of the REDD+ program as well as to support pilot site development and we hope to continue to secure predictable financing from both government as well as bilateral and multilateral arrangement in the future. This is highly relevant if we are to progress forward with our ER ambition.

At this point I wish to acknowledge the involvement of our regional development partner SPC/GIZ in supporting the regional Forestry REDD+ implementation in terms of capacity building as well providing targeted analytical work that will strengthen the development of the national REDD+ program.

This inception workshop offers an excellent opportunity to critically evaluate the achievements over the past phase and identify strategic areas to work on during the next phase.

I hope that the outcomes of this workshop will add value in supporting the implementation of our REDD+ readiness phase and in providing targeted support as we move towards results-based payment in to the future.

I wish you all the best with your deliberation.

Thank You.