Ni Sa Bula Vinaka.
Friends, Fiji is the frontlines of the very worst of climate change. The worsening storms, longer droughts, heavier rains, and rising seas together represent the greatest threat we have ever faced as a country. Here on Kadavu’s coast in Namuana Village, the encroaching tides have inflicted a heavy cost.
But while our resilience has been tested by climate impacts, it will never be broken. Fiji will endure whatever is thrown at us and we will adapt to the new normal of a warming world. We will not grin and bear this struggle, we will act to save ourselves. Abroad, we are leading the world towards a better, more sustainable path; a future of net-zero carbon emissions. At home, we are adapting to the climate-fuelled devastation at our doorstep.
In some cases, that of drastic course is our only option. In others, like here in Namuana, seawalls can suffice. And today, we proudly commission this nearly $600,000 seawall – which includes 150 metres of geo-systemic Sand Bag protection and another 100 metres of Boulder protection.
The tragic irony, is that while our maritime communities are the most at-risk, they are the most expensive to adapt – mainly due to geographical challenges. It costs twice as much, for example, to build a seawall in a maritime community. But when it comes to protecting the 50 households who call this community home, we did not blink in making this investment in their security and in their future.
Since 2014, we have investment over 5 Million Dollars in protecting over 2,200 kilometres of vulnerable coastal areas in Fiji through a mix of artificial and nature-based solutions. Depending on the community, we often employ local materials which, oftentimes, are more effective than anything we can build ourselves. Here in Namuana, these boulders which form part of your seawall have been sourced directly from Kadavu – in effect, nature is our greatest defence against the human-driven warming of our planet.
This seawall represents an effort at “climate adaptation”, basically, our ability to adapt to how our planet is changing due to climate change. These investments are critical for Fijian communities’ long-term ability to remain safe and productive.
Without them, our people would live with the crushing sense of anxiety that everything they have built would be washed away by the rising seas or stronger storms; that their home for generations could be lost.
More often than not, Fiji funds these projects ourselves. Even through the severe financial challenge of COVID-19, we have continued to build the resilience of Fijian communities. We treat these efforts with the same life-or-death seriousness we brought to our campaign to keep Fiji safe for the deadly coronavirus. In both cases, lives are at stake. And as the world looks to recover from this once-in-a-century pandemic, Fiji must be part and parcel to the world’s economic recovery. For us, that growth of our economy is synonymous with our climate resilience.
When we build, we build to cyclone resilient standards, when communities are in need, we build seawalls and we relocate communities. And when we rebuild a strong Fijian economy, we build a stronger and safer Fiji. It’s that simple.
Today, we can celebrate this seawall with the knowledge that Fiji will not passively accept climate catastrophe – we will act to save ourselves, we will act to secure a future for the people of Namuana Village and for every Fijian.
Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.