Bula Vinaka from Fiji!
It takes a short walk along any shoreline in our country to see how tied our people’s lives are to nature. The sheltered nurseries in our mangroves sustain the fish stocks in our reefs which in turn sustain our families. Our forests support our livelihoods. Our rivers connect our communities.
And I know I speak for every Fijian who makes their living fishing, farming, or preserving forests when I say that we need our environment far more than it has ever needed us.
That is why, ahead of this meeting, a new Jobs for Nature programme in Fiji will employ thousands of our people –– including young people –– to protect, restore, and harness nature.
It takes humility to understand humanity’s place in our one, connected global eco-system. It was in that spirit that Leaders convened in Stockholm 50 years ago to begin this global effort to defend the natural world. A half century on, it falls to us to take sober stock of the state of nature.
Due to three planetary crises –– climate change, pollution, and biodiversity loss –– we can count the years to ecological collapse on a single hand. The latest science tells us we have a fifty-fifty chance of passing 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming within the next five years.
Before we even reach 2030, we could lose coral reefs across the entire equatorial region, destroying 500-million-year-old eco-systems in a single generation. Tuna stocks could flee our waters for cooler climates. And priceless troves of biodiversity could be erased.
In 2020, I was the UN Environmental Programme’s Champion of the Earth. That was quite an honour, and I am proud of what Fiji has done and what we continue to do to uphold our people’s constitutional right to a clean and healthy environment. But Fijians aren’t the only ones who choose Fiji’s future –– we count on the world to follow our lead. For that, humanity needs more than champions –– we need change. A change in mindsets. A change in how we engage with nature. And a change in the expectations we set for our Leaders –– in Government and in the private sector. Stockholm+50 is a chance for that change. We must deal frankly with our failures –– past and present –– and commit to an urgent course change to a better relationship with nature and a better future as a result.
My friends, we can’t waste this moment. Let’s treat this crisis like a crisis, before it’s too late. Let’s end plastic pollution here through an international instrument. Let’s commit to a new global compact for the environment, the ocean, and all life on Earth that has the ambition, political will and financial resources to save the one planet we have. We in Fiji will do our fair share and more.
Vinaka Vakalevu – Thank you.