Bula Vinaka and a very good afternoon to you all.
Much of this COP for Fiji is about securing plans that halve global carbon emissions by 2030 –– which we know is necessary to keep 1.5 alive. But today’s discussion isn’t about “1.5” but rather “1.2” –– the fast-approaching threshold of warming that is already devastating so many of our communities.
We see its consequences in the barren reefs, burning forests, and parched farmlands that have come to define the climate crisis. We, humankind have done this through our reckless levels of carbon emissions. And we are suffering for it alongside every organism on the Earth –– including the very food we eat. Our food systems are buckling under the strain of storms, floods, droughts, erratic weather and the rising seas. If we fail to fortify them, widespread food shortages will feed the forces of chaos. The mass starvation that ensues will lead to mass migration and mass unrest that will render entire societies ungovernable.
A truly resilient food system will be indispensable for every nation if we are to prevent that terrible future from becoming our reality. A truly resilient food system will have sustainability at its core—sustainability in what we produce, how we produce, and how much we produce. It links us all and makes us all responsible for ourselves and each other. And we must challenge our agricultural innovators to breed hardy crops that can weather whatever the climate throws at them.
Fiji is doing this through a comprehensive and integrated legal framework.
We integrated food security into Fiji’s three-year-old National Adaptation Plan to ensure that Fijians can continue to put locally-grown, nutritious produce on the table—even when storms intensify, droughts prolong, and the seas rise. And food security is also one of the adaptation targets in our NDCs.
Our National Action Plan on Combatting Desertification –– launched in 2007 –– is at work today combating degradation. 8 million seedlings have already gone into the soil since 2019 as part of our commitment to plant 30 million trees.
Through an Agriculture Rural Land Use Policy, we have adopted sustainable land-management technologies with the goal of having no net land degradation by 2050.
Our Land Conservation and Improvement Act marries sustainable socio-economic policy with responsible environmental management. And our Ministry of Agriculture’s five-year plan is aligned with UN Conventions on food and nutrition security, despite the changing climate, through a bottom-up approach that enlists farmers in this national effort.
The arrival of COVID-19 put these systems and protections to the test. With major economic sectors like tourism at a standstill, we grew our way through the pandemic by strengthening our commitment to our agriculture sector. From encouraging backyard gardens to commercializing new sectors – like rice –– we are maximizing Fiji’s natural advantages. Those include our year-round favourable growing conditions, quality land, and reliable water supply. They serve to make Fiji and, by extension, the entire Pacific more food-secure.
Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen, we need not forsake prosperity to preserve our natural world. We need not accept the false choice between development and a quality environment. Looking backwards to that old model of development blinds us to a better future. We have a new model and new way to strike a balance between human progress and environmental protection. We can be excellent environmental stewards while we improve the standards of living for our people. We can create livelihoods without sacrificing our biodiversity. Rather than leave our children a world of lifeless deserts, we can pass on ecosystems that are rich with life and capable of supporting coming generations.
The “Rio Conventions” reflect the commitment of all countries to preserve the global environment. Let’s meet that commitment now with the courage to act.