The 23rd Conference of the Parties (COP23) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) will put a spotlight on developing nations vulnerable to climate change, with the island nation of Fiji presiding over it.
This November’s conference will be held in Bonn, Germany, because Fiji, a nation with less than a million people, lacks the facilities to host the conference.
As a nation comprised of over 300 islands and 500 islets, Fiji is among the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) threatened by sea level rise. It has already suffered considerably from the effects of climate change, with satellite data showing an average sea level rise of 6 millimeters per year since 1993. The government has already begun to relocate citizens impacted by saltwater intrusion.
Fiji has long been a staunch proponent for international cooperation efforts to combat climate change. With unanimous approval from its parliament, Fiji was the first nation to ratify the Paris Agreement. The island nation has been a leading advocate for limiting global temperature rise to 1.5℃, rather than the current 2℃ cap agreed upon in Paris.
Even with per capita carbon dioxide emissions in the United States nearly 10 times that of Fiji, the island-nation is committed to reducing its carbon footprint through an ambitious Green Growth Plan. Fiji, which already generates over 60 percent of its total electricity from renewable energy, has pledged that its electricity sector will become 100 percent dependent on renewables by 2030.
Although the United States’ decision to leave the Paris Agreement has threatened to derail the momentum going into this year’s conference in Bonn, nations around the world are preparing to build on the progress made in the recent COPs in Paris and Marrakesh. Fiji’s Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama offered a strong condemnation of President Donald Trump’s withdrawal and reaffirmed his commitment to advance the implementation of the Paris Agreement. In a statement following Trump’s decision, Bainimarama said:
As incoming COP President, I reaffirm that I will do everything possible to continue to forge a grand coalition that will accelerate the momentum that has continued since the Paris Agreement, embracing governments, civil society, the private sector and millions of ordinary men and women around the world. I am also convinced that the United States government will eventually rejoin our struggle because the scientific evidence of man-made climate change is well understood. The issue is settled, and the impacts are obvious, and humankind ignores these facts at its peril.
Under Bainimarama’s leadership, this year’s climate conference is poised to advance the work of the UNFCC and fulfill Fiji’s vision for COP 23. At a time when the international community is in need of strong climate leadership, Fiji is ready to inject a sense of urgency and optimism into the upcoming climate negotiations and infuse this conference with what Bainimarama called the Fijian spirit of “inclusiveness, friendliness and solidarity.”