Distinguished Delegates;

Ladies and Gentlemen.Earlier today, I announced some very big blue commitments –– policies that will create thousands of ocean-based jobs; enforce steadfast environmental protections; and unlock innovative financing solutions. Were it only up to me and my people that future would be guaranteed. But we all know it won’t be until all Leaders choose to lead on climate.First, we must concede the obvious –– for all the fanfare, the 1.5-degree Celsius target barely escaped Glasgow with a pulse.If we fly past the 1.5 and 2-degree thresholds, we’ll acidify the ocean further and cut the legs out from under every blue economy. Nor can we slash emissions at the pace that is needed without the ocean as a climate solution.

Fiji has carried this message from Paris to our Presidency of COP-23, to the first UN Conference, to the Blue COP, and to Glasgow. And at home we are turning the ocean climate nexus from a textbook term into the basis of an entire economy. Our updated Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) supports the ocean as source of resilience  and a driver for climate mitigation. Through our National Ocean Policy, we have committed to designate 30% of our EEZ as Marine Protected Areas and we are working towards sustainably managing 100% of our EEZ by 2030 and creating a fisheries sector that supports 100,000 new jobs by 2050. And through a multi-country Pacific Blue Shipping Partnership we’re putting large-scale blended finance behind a transition to low carbon shipping.

The Paris Agreement won’t be blue enough until all Parties include science-based and ocean action in their NDCs. Of the 40 coastal countries that submitted their updated NDCS in 2020/2021, fewer than one fifth mentioned their role as blue carbon sinks. The reason we aren’t realising the full potential of blue economies is simple –– we aren’t valuing the ocean’s full climate-regulating contribution. We’re still constrained by the old measure of Ocean GDP which essentially assessed how well we exploited ecosystems: How much gas and oil we extract, how many fish we extract, how much freight we ship, and how many resources we mine. We haven’t properly valued the heat and emissions the ocean absorbs, the protection it offers coastal communities, and the sustainable livelihoods it can support. We discount these benefits at our peril. The Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change report estimated that a climate-driven decline in ocean health will ultimately cost the global economy 428 Billion Dollars annually by 2050 and nearly Two Trillion Dollars every year by 2100.

Stemming these crippling costs starts with quantifying and integrating oceans resources within our economies; this not only aids decision and policy makers, it helps our people understand why good ocean management matters to their day-to-day lives.

I can tell you from experience: It’s not easy to tell Fijians who built their homes with income from Beche de mer, for example, to stop harvesting the species. Impactful policy requires both political will and public understanding. When we have real-world data in-hand we can show rather than tell our people that a vital species is at-risk and enlist them in the solutions.

As we come out of an economically-devastating pandemic period, Fiji is choosing a blue and green recovery because we know it is our best shot at the reliable and resilient livelihoods that Fijians want and deserve.

Conserving and restoring coastal carbon reservoirs and sinks like mangroves and sea grass fields creates jobs. Exploring solutions in ocean-based energy creates jobs.

Converting to green shipping creates jobs. Sustainable aqua-culture creates jobs. And sustainable ocean-based growth is also a powerful means for countries like Fiji to build our resilience. Strong economies fund seawalls, relocations, and resilient crop research. And the ocean has to become a bigger –– if not the biggest –– growth sector for island economies.

Painful experiences rebuilding after superstorms have taught Fiji that upfront investments in resilience spare us from much higher costs later on. The same goes for the ocean. We either pay now to build resilience, or pay much more later to recover from degradation, if recovery is even possible at all. To urgently finance our ocean ambition, Fiji is aiming to launch the first tranche of a blue bond this August and is also working towards securing new voluntary commitments in our aquaculture and blue carbon sectors.

Friends, blueing our economies ­­ –– and the Paris Agreement –– makes good climate and economic sense, period.  And as Leaders, we owe it to our people and the planet.

Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.