Members of the media;
Ladies and gentlemen.
Bula vinaka to you all!
We have just concluded the 51st Pacific Islands Forum Leaders Retreat and I am pleased to confirm that we have unanimously endorsed the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent.
Fiji assumed the Chair of the Pacific Islands Forum in August 2021 and with it, the leadership of the Political Dialogue Mechanism between the Micronesian Presidents Summit and the Pacific Islands Forum that was established to explore a resolution to the withdrawal of our Micronesian sisters and brothers.
Today, 11 months following Fiji’s assumption of this role, I am pleased to announce that we are making positive strides towards restoring the solidarity of our Forum Family.
Indeed, unity was the overriding focus of our discussions today together with the 2050 Strategy and the Review of the Regional Architecture.
Reflecting on 50 years of regionalism this morning, I and my colleague Forum Leaders recognized that we are in unprecedented times and this collective is at a critical juncture in its history.
As we face down a multitude of complex challenges across the region, we recognise our strength in numbers. It is without any doubt that we stand our best chance to address these common challenges together as a family.
In turning to the 2050 Strategy – Leaders recognized that political will and leadership will be integral to the achievement of our vision as outlined in the 2050 strategy. The strategy will be our overarching blueprint to advance Pacific regionalism for the next three decades. In the coming weeks, our officials will begin work on an implementation plan for this visionary political commitment.
We also discussed today the position taken by the Government of the Republic of Kiribati. I had the pleasure of speaking with President Maamau this afternoon, I have wished him and his people a wonderful national day, and reaffirmed with him our collective agreement to continue to dialogue with Kiribati to find a resolution to this impasse.
I will continue to work in the coming weeks and months together with Forum Leaders and the Secretary General on this matter – we will spare no efforts in this regard.
I am pleased to confirm that we have reached a resolution on the withdrawal of our other Micronesian family members, which is now entitled the Suva Agreement. 17 of our Forum Leaders have signed this document and we are now transitioning into the operationalisation phase. I thank all Members for their support throughout this process.
I would like to thank, in particular, Secretary General Henry Puna and Prime Minister Mark Brown and the Government of the Cook Islands for their efforts to work with us to continue to hold the solidarity of our Forum Family.
I also thank Prime Minister Mata’afa of Samoa and Prime Minister Brown for joining me in Suva to meet with the Micronesian Presidents in early June. This meeting resulted in a proposal for the way forward as outlined in the Suva Agreement.
I also acknowledge in particular the Government of Australia for its support to this process – the success of these discussions has been based on the possibility of in-person discussions and talanoa in our own Pacific Way.
Leaders also considered and endorsed decisions relating to climate action and nuclear issues and noted updates on the regional fisheries developments and the Forum Ministerial Committee to New Caledonia.
I would now like to speak in my capacity as the Fijian Prime Minister.
Throughout every meeting and discussion I’ve held this week, I have been clear and consistent in our asks for more ambitious climate commitments. We simply cannot settle for anything less than the survival of every Pacific Island Country –– and that requires that all high emitting economies implement science-based plans to decisively reduce emissions in line with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5-degree temperature threshold. That requires that we halve global emissions by 2030 and achieve net-zero emissions by no later than 2050. Most urgently, it requires that we end our fossil fuel addiction, including coal. That is our ask of Australia. That is our ask of New Zealand, the USA, India, the European Union, China and every other high-emitting country. It is also what Fiji asks of ourselves, though our emissions are negligible.
The world faces a global energy crisis. We feel it in Fiji as well. And while I understand this moment’s political realities, planetary realities must take precedence. It will take courage and surely extract some political capital. But if Pacific Island Countries can respond to and rebuild after some of the worst storms to ever make landfall in history, advanced economies can surely make the transition to renewables. The benefits will be remarkable. Our region has the potential to become a clean energy superpower if we summon the will to make it happen. That path is no doubt the surest way to an open, resilient, independent, and prosperous Blue Pacific.
I was proud to serve as the President of COP23, which was held in Bonn, Germany. I would love to see a COP come to the Pacific. Though I will say: the COP negotiations are defined far more by what they produce than where they are held. What matters most to us is that we secure bold commitments from all countries by COP27 to phase out coal and other fossil fuels; step up finance to adapt the most vulnerable nations; and advance causes like loss and damage that matter dearly to the most at-risk Island Communities.
And to the members of the media with us, I understand that there is an important conversation to have on the agendas of the larger countries that make power plays in the Pacific. We fully appreciate your interest in this topic, I only hope that it does not come at the expense of the far more serious threat to our region brought by climate change. We are all in this together; all of our people are threatened; and all nations must be part of the solutions.
With that, may I take this time to acknowledge all my colleague Leaders who made it to Suva for this meeting.
I thank you.