Your Royal Highness,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Bula vinaka and a very good evening to you all,
I’m pleased and proud to welcome you all as we launch the world’s first relocation fund for people displaced by climate change. And to finance the relocation and rebuilding of our national infrastructure that is increasingly being besieged by storms and rising seas.
As those of you from Fiji know, we are already moving entire communities out of the way of the rising seas that have inundated their homes, ruined their farming land with saltwater, flooded their ancestral burial grounds and left them vulnerable to landslides.
Five years ago, Vunidogoloa village in Vanua Levu became the first community to be relocated – moving two kilometres inland to escape rising waters. Since then, two more communities have been relocated, a number of others – at least 45 in the near future — will need to be moved in the near future.
For a country like ours with limited means and a young population, dealing with this challenge – which has been caused through no fault of our own – has become an increasing burden. That burden seems certain to worsen as the impacts of climate change become more intense – not only the rising seas and the impacts on our agriculture al practices but also the extreme weather events that pose an ever present and worsening danger to our people and our infrastructure.
Of course, it isn’t just the monetary cost of relocation that is a burden on nations like Fiji. Even more incalculable is the trauma of moving, of leaving your ancestor’s burial grounds behind or seeing the land or foreshore area you have farmed or harvested for generations no longer being able to feed you and your family. So moving a community is more than just moving a group of houses. It is about rebuilding a community and sense of community. It is about ensuring access to jobs, schools, medical services and sustainable living – all of which requires detailed and co-ordinated planning between a wide range of government agencies and other organisations. And the process must inspire a sense of ownership from the community members, giving them a sense of purpose through the relocation and a sense of pride once they claim their new home.
We have already addressed these factors in another world first – Fiji’s Planned Relocation Guidelines – that we launched at COP24 last year. These guidelines provide us with a blueprint for engaging our communities in the process of relocation, ensuring proper coordination between our various agencies, sensitising the process along the lines of gender, and taking into account how marginalized groups, such as children, the elder and those living with disabilities should be catered for.
The relocation of infrastructure is going to be another significant challenge as the impacts of climate change really begin to bite. Anyone who has been to the Fijian island of Ovalau – the site of Fiji’s first capital, Levuka – knows that the road that circles the island is right on the foreshore – is being inundated and washed away. And there is other public infrastructure across Fiji such as schools, medical centres and utilities that has to be moved out of harm’s way.
We need to arm ourselves with the ability to act now. We can’t wait for communities to be drowned out by the encroaching tides. We need a holistic approach, we need adequate resources and we need it now.
Our new trust fund is undeniably one of the most effective ways that we can help our communities adapt to climate change. And it is also undeniably one of the most effective ways our international partners can support our adaptation efforts.
We are seed funding the Trust Fund through a percentage of the revenue from our Environment and Climate Adaptation Levy – ECAL and henceforth on a regular basis. Based on current projections, the annual allocation from ECAL will be approximately five million dollars a year. But this is not enough. We look forward to additional support to undertake this enormous task. And, Your Royal Highness and Friends, I now have great pleasure to officially launch Fiji’s Climate Relocation and Displaced Peoples Trust Fund for Communities and Infrastructure.
Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.