Remarks at the event on "The Ocean, a Solution for Climate Change and Sustainable Development"
Thursday, April 21, 2016
Hon. Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama, CF(Mil),OSt.J, MSD, jssc, psc
Prime Minister of Fiji and Minister for iTaukei Affairs and Sugar Industry
REMARKS AT THE EVENT ON “THE OCEAN, A SOLUTION FOR CLIMATE
CHANGE AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT”
Mr. President and Madam President,
Ladies and gentleman,
May I begin by congratulating Your Excellency, Minister
Royal, President of COP21 for France’s successful hosting of
the COP meeting last year. The success of your efforts is
demonstrated by large numbers of delegations that have
turned up in New York to sign the Paris Agreement.
I would also like to acknowledge the hosts of the upcoming COP22, the Kingdom of Morocco, with whom we will work closely with a view to reaching a meaningful outcome from COP22.
Today’s theme, “The Ocean, a solution for climate change and sustainable development” is a very timely one and I thank the Government of France for putting this event together. The Climate-Ocean nexus has for too long been neglected. The health of the Ocean is critical to life on this planet. Alarmingly, current trends do not augur well for Ocean’s health. Many scientific studies, including the Global Oceans Commission’s report of 2014, have alerted us to the cycle of decline in which the Ocean is caught. Be it unsustainable use of the oceans recourses, marine pollution, coral bleaching or ocean acidification, the Ocean is in trouble. And if the Ocean is in trouble, we are all in trouble.
It goes without saying that the Ocean is an essential component of the Earth’s ecosystem. It plays a critical role in the planet’s carbon sequestration, and with limits being reached, we are seeing the dangerous effects of high sea-surface temperatures, rising sea-levels and ocean acidification.
It also goes without saying that the Earth’s ecosystem, with the Ocean at its heart, needs to be in good health if the universal goals of the Sustainable Development Agenda are to be reached by the year 2030.
The challenges to Ocean’s welfare are no longer just a matter of theory for SIDS; they are now in the realm of reality. Small Island Developing States like Fiji did not cause the decline in Ocean’s well-being, but we are suffering from its effects.
Allow me to give you a Fijian example based on our recent experiences. On the southern shores of our main island, a few days before Tropical Cyclone Winston made its devastating landfall in Fiji in February, we recorded seawater temperatures exceeding the maximum monthly mean temperatures of 28.5 degrees centigrade. Peak temperature in February recorded between 34.50C to 370C for three consecutive days, which triggered massive fish mortality on our southern shores. The implications of such occurrences to coastal communities are of course very disturbing. And for Fiji and other SIDS, what is worrying is that these ocean warming patterns are forecasted to continue in the years ahead. It is therefore predicted by many marine scientists that fisheries will migrate north and south, away from the tropics.
Fiji fully supports laudable efforts, such as today’s event, to address the interconnected nature of Climate Change and the Ocean. Prior to COP21 last year, Fiji joined hands with
several Governments, including France and Chile, sponsoring the “Because the Ocean Declaration”. In particular, we welcomed paragraph 3 of the “Because the Ocean Declaration” which called for a Special Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to comprehensively address the Ocean-Climate nexus.
The “Because the Ocean” declaration is clearly headed in the right direction. Those of us that are committed to reversing the decline of Ocean’s health must identify and support other laudable measures. It was for this very reason that Fiji and the Pacific SIDS fought so hard during the lead up to the 2030 Agenda for a stand-alone goal on the Ocean, – the Sustainable Development Goal 14.
With the successful adoption of SDG14 by the international community last September, we have an ideal opportunity for a paradigm shift to bring together all relevant stakeholders. The fragmentation of Ocean governance can
be mended by SDG14, for the 2030 Agenda provides a universal and enhanced global partnership for sustainable development, bringing together Governments, civil society, the private sector, the United Nations system and other actors to work together on their implementation. The 2030 Agenda recognizes the cross-cutting aspects of the SDGs and the interlinkages. Fiji intends to play its part in bringing to the fore the core issue of this indivisible linkage between SDG14 on the Ocean, and SDG13 on Climate Change.
With the successful adoption of the 2030 Development Agenda, along with our neighbors, the Pacific SIDS, Fiji proposed the convening of a follow-up mechanism to support the implementation of SDG14. This was mandated through UN resolution 70/226 of 22 December last year. In this resolution, the General Assembly decided that an inaugural UN Conference be dedicated to support the Implementation of SDG14, and that it be co-hosted by the
Governments of Fiji and Sweden. I’m pleased to confirm that this UN Ocean Conference will be held in Fiji from 5 to 9 June 2017.
We foresee the following elements as central to the success of the Conference.
First and foremost, the Conference will have to establish the truth of the current state of the Ocean. Thus the best available science will be assembled at the Conference to inform the global Ocean community on the true state of Ocean’s health.
Second, we must focus on what positive action, is required to support SDG14 and the sustainability of the Ocean and its resources. This Conference will serve as a high-level global platform whereby Governments and all relevant stakeholders in SDG14, can engage constructively and build partnerships for implementation. All existing laudable
efforts, be they related to marine protected areas, pollution control or coastal ecosystems, will have the opportunity of fitting into this process.
And lastly, it will be necessary to benchmark what has been achieved at the Conference, so that stakeholders will be accountable and so that our progress in implementing SDG14 can be progressively evaluated.
The outcome of the UN Ocean Conference in Fiji will be fed into the home of the Sustainable Development Goals, which is the High-Level Political Forum at the United Nations. Fiji firmly believes that the UN Oceans Conference will serve as the necessary driver for the implementation of SDG14 over the 15 year lifespan of the 2030 Agenda with a view to ensuring the integrity of the delivery of SDG14.
The Government and people of Fiji are committed to ensuring the UN Ocean Conference will be a pivotal global event for all those who are concerned to see SDG14 succeed. We look forward to welcoming all of you at the Conference next year.
I thank you.