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New York
Friday, September 29, 2017

The Honourable Attorney General and Minister Responsible for Climate Change,
Our Climate Champion, the Honourable Inia Seruiratu,
Honourable Ministers and members of Parliament,
Your Excellencies, members of the Diplomatic Corps,
The Executive Director of the COP23 Presidency Secretariat,
Our friends in the Grand Coalition for climate action from civil society, the private sector and faith-based organisations,
Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls,
Bula vinaka and a very good morning to you all,

I want to start by saying how much my spirits have just been lifted listening to three exceptional young Fijians speaking about climate change. And I’m sure we all feel the same. Because more than anything else, it has reminded me of why I took the job of COP23 President in the first place. And it has reminded every Fijian about why this mission is so critical – to ensure the security and wellbeing of our young people and of future generations to come. 

So let me single out the three regional finalists in our oratory competition again – our winner from the Northern Division, Shalvi Shakshi of the Nasarawaqa Primary School in Bua. Our winner from the Central and Eastern Division, Timoci Naulusala of the Naivicula District School in Tailevu. And our winner from the Western Division, Shreya Kumar of the Shri Ram Govind Primary School in Lautoka. The overall winner of the competition will be announced shortly. But in the meantime, please put your hands together and give them all another round of applause.

I want to say to Shalvi, Timoci and Shreya how proud I am of you as Prime Minister and how proud the whole nation should be of the effort you have put into this competition. And also how well you have expressed yourselves about the challenges we all face from climate change. Of course, only one of you can win this competition and represent the young people of Fiji when you speak at COP itself in Germany in November. But the runners up will be winners too – genuine climate warriors who other Fijian children can look up to as role models. Because as I keep saying, we are all in this together and we need every Fijian – no matter how old they are - to join the battle against climate change.

Friends, I’m also delighted to be here this morning to wind up what has been a very successful week for climate action. All over the country, Fijians have rallied together in a series of events to highlight the impacts of climate change and what we can all do to tackle it. And whether it is the coral planting, mangrove planting, tree planting, the cleaning up of our foreshores and all manner of other activities that have been part of the program, our people have united behind the call for action. The call for change.

This hasn’t been about politics or people’s individual concerns. These have been set aside by those who marched or took part in the various events because we all know we are part of something much greater - a crusade to save our nation and save our planet. No matter who we are or where we come from, we are showing that by working together as one nation, one people, we are fully committed to confronting the biggest challenge we have ever faced as Fijians. And that same commitment must be shared by the whole world. Because we are all vulnerable and we all need to act.

As you know, I missed the start of Climate Week because I was at the United Nations in New York lobbying other world leaders to give climate change the importance it deserves. My message wherever I go is that governments alone cannot solve this challenge. We need the participation of every single person on earth. And that is why I am helping to build a Grand Coalition for climate action involving governments at every level, civil society, the private sector, faith based organisations and ordinary men, women and children.

You might ask. What has Fiji got to teach the world about climate change? The answer is very simple. We Fijians know the value of teamwork. It has taken us to sporting greatness and it is taking us to greatness as a nation. 

We have displayed that teamwork again this week as we’ve come together for Climate Week. And like the coach of a great sporting team, we can also lead and inspire others to be team players. Which is what I intend to do with the nations of the world as COP President, supported by my star players – our chief negotiator Ambassador Nazhat Shameem Khan and our Climate Champion, Minister Seruiratu, along with the other members of COP23 Fiji team.

With your support and with your prayers, our game plan is this: To keep the global climate negotiations on track. To get everyone to fully implement the Paris Agreement and limit the global temperature to 1.5 degrees above that of the industrial age. And to get there, we will be reminding everyone of a very simple fact. We will only get there with teamwork. Every nation committing itself to climate action in the way that Fiji has. The citizens of the world coming together as one world – Team World - and doing what we must do to save our precious planet from the ravages of climate change. 

That is the message I have been taking to the world as incoming President of COP23. And the message I will be taking to Bonn and beyond. As a small nation, we have a very big job to do. But teamwork has got us over the line before. And with God’s help, we intend to do it again.

Friends, there are a great many organisations and individuals who deserve our warmest thanks for making Climate Week and our entire COP campaign a success. There are the faith based organisations that came together for our national weekend of prayer and reflection. There are the civil society organisations that have devoted time and money to highlighting various aspects of our campaign. There are those from the private sector – and especially our two official business partners, DHL and KPMG – who have provided us with valuable assistance and are a crucial part of our Grand Coalition. There are our state institutions and agencies of government - such as the RFMF, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Education, which organised the national oratory competition and other school events with UNICEF and USP. There is the hardworking COP23 Secretariat led by John Connor, that organised the week and is preparing for our Pre-COP gathering in Denarau next month. The story-tellers of the Fijian media who have swung behind our campaign and are also a crucial part of our Grand Coalition. And then there are the many thousands of ordinary men, women and children who either took to the streets or participated in the various events. You are the backbone of our nation and the backbone of our COP campaign. And to all of you, I want to say vinaka vakalevu for a truly great week.

I also want to acknowledge the assistance of our development partners – the nations and organisations that are making our COP campaign possible. And I have the great pleasure this morning to announce a new donation of 800,000 US dollars from the government and the people of Russia. This is on top of the previous contributions or commitments - in alphabetical order – from Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, Estonia, the European Union, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Korea, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States. Plus organisations such as GIZ from Germany, the UNDP and the Asian Development Bank. Vinaka vakalevu to you all.

And finally friends, I want to draw your attention to something many of you will have already seen – the leaflet in our three languages that explains our COP campaign. If you haven’t already read it, please do so and also urge those around you to read it. Because it contains everything you really need to know and especially what you can do as a climate warrior yourself. And let me close by reminding everyone of some of what it says: 

• Protect our environment by not polluting our ocean and coral reefs so they have a better chance of coping with changing temperatures and acidity.
• Don’t rubbish our country. Dispose of your litter properly and try not to use plastic bags or plastic bottles that can make their way into the ocean through our drains, creeks and rivers.
• Try to save energy. Turn off the lights and the TV when you leave a room. Walk or ride a bicycle rather than take a bus or car. Or share a ride with friends rather than travel alone.
• Plant more trees. When you need to chop down a tree, replace it with at least two more because trees remove carbon from the atmosphere. 
• Try to limit the lighting of fires and especially large scale burning.
• Restore and protect our mangroves. 
• Spread the word about climate change with your family and friends and mobilise your community to take action. 

Friends, every Fijian can do this, from the elderly to the very young. So while Climate Week officially draws to a close, our campaign continues and the message to every Fijian remains the same:

Fiji is taking the lead on climate change and every Fijian can also make a difference. So be a climate warrior yourself. Help save Fiji and help save our precious Planet Earth.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.


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