U.S Secretary of Agriculture Mr. Vilsack;
Excellencies and Respected Panelists;
Ladies and Gentlemen;

Bula Vinaka from Fiji. 
In 2016, Fiji was struck by the strongest cyclone to ever make landfall in the Southern Hemisphere, Cyclone Winston. It wiped out one third of the value of our GDP in 36 hours. Amid the devastation, only one clear path lay ahead. We had to do more than build back better—the world had to know that Winston’s climate-fueled fury was a chilling preview of their future. 
That same year, it became clear the USA was going to leave the Paris Agreement. In the absence of the world’s wealthiest nation and one of its largest emitters, we feared that the entire climate campaign might unravel -- that voices against science, humanity, and the planet would set us back decades. Fiji ¬¬-- alongside other vulnerable nations – strove to fill the American void with all the resources, innovation, and political will that we could summon. At every opportunity, we have held leaders’ feet to the fire about achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 –– the only target that limits temperature rise to the 1.5 Celsius degree-target of the Paris Agreement.
Fiji is a nation of more than 330 islands. 76% of our population lives within five kilometers of a coastline. If our people are not threatened by the rising seas, the chances are they live near one of our 45 major rivers, the banks of which are breaking under the strain of torrential rains. 

Since Winston befell us, we have conducted a climate vulnerability assessment that placed a nine-billion-dollar price tag on adapting our economy, much of that is owed to water-related hazards. 

We are relocating communities, with six already safely on higher ground. More than 40 others must be moved. Our Climate Relocation and Displaced Peoples Trust is designed to harness multilateral support to bring security to these communities. 

Other coastal areas in Fiji are being fortified with nature-based eco-walls of mangroves, vetiver grass and boulders to protect from coastal erosion. 

We are piloting a Parametric Climate and Disaster Risk Micro-insurance Product which we hope can be scaled up in Fiji and to other small island developing states. 

We launched a sovereign green bond in 2017 to fund climate-centric projects, which was listed on the London Stock Exchange, and we are now working on a blue bond, with the UK, for ocean action. 

With the USA back in the game, we can build on that momentum. Pacific nations share the USA’s newly-announced ambition to decarbonise shipping. But we have much bolder blue ambitions. Regardless of our small carbon footprint, we are large ocean states, entrusted with huge swaths of blue Pacific––our governments and NGOs can together build a great blue Pacific wall of knowledge and experience in the sustainable management of coastal watersheds and ocean ecosystems. 

And the inescapable half of the climate equation–– adaptation––demands American leadership, innovation, ambition, and finance on a scale that more than compensates for the last four years. Since Winston, 12 more cyclones have struck Fiji -- each one a devastating reminder of the damage to the climate that has already been done. We fully support the USA in holding major emitters accountable. But even if the global economy became carbon-neutral tomorrow, we would still have to reckon with a range of water-related crises, from super-storms, to the risings seas, to the changing weather patterns that kill-off crops and steal livelihoods of our farmers.   

Today it is Pacific communities on the frontlines of this emergency. Tomorrow it will be New York City, Houston, and Miami. This crisis is shared, as must be our solutions. And the USA can help build a more resilient world with an additional, ambitious pledge to the GCF; backing climate-for-debt swaps and other actions to ease the COVID-driven debt burden on climate-vulnerable nations; support for reforms to guarantee that processes for financing climate adaptation are far less bureaucratic and become more efficient to make finance more accessible and flexible; and by making good on the 100-billion-dollar pledge to mobilize climate finance.  

America still has convening power, it has technology, it has wealth, and it has founding principles that impel it to take on this challenge in the name of global economic growth and prosperity, and in the name of humanity, and all the life that inhabits the planet. Together we can harness the innovative climate solutions and ambition from all nations, including from the most vulnerable, and oversee the implementation of the structural and institutional reforms required to accelerate and scale these solutions to ensure we save the planet. 

Thank you.