Your Excellency the Director-General of the International
Your Excellency the Secretary for New and Renewable Energy of the Government of India;
Your Excellency the Director for Sustainable Development, Ministry of European and International Affairs, France;
Your Excellency the Minister for Environment, Republic of Maldives;
*Your Excellency the Minister for Energy, Kingdom of Tonga; and
*Your Excellency the Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India.
Bula Vinaka and a very good afternoon to you all.
I’d like to begin by thanking the Governments of India and France for helping champion the uptake of solar power. Given the catastrophe-inducing levels of current global emissions, your leadership in transforming the way our world consumes energy is more critical than ever.
The International Solar Alliance was launched in COP21 alongside the Paris Agreement. But that Agreement – while a historic achievement – was not a solution in itself; it was merely a stepping-off point for the decisive action needed to address the present and potential devastation of the climate emergency.
Four years of negotiations and countless interventions later, I’m sad to say the race towards net zero emissions has barely begun.
The level of carbon emissions in our atmosphere is breaking records by the day. In the face of that reality, the world’s leading emitters have yet to make commitments anywhere close enough to cap emissions at responsible levels.
The stakes of ambitious action have not changed. In fact, the science has become more certain: the 1.5-degree target is the only target that ensures the survival of many peoples across the globe. By next year, nations must increase their overall ambition to slash emissions by 45 per cent by 2030.
Until those commitments materialise, a dark cloud hangs over global progress. But the falling costs and rising efficiency of solar energy over the past decade offer bright rays of hope in this campaign. We’re at a point where you don’t need me to stand here and make an ethical case for wind or solar; the market case makes itself. It’s not only environmental champions leading the renewable transition, its power companies who see the profit-making potential in these technologies.
Declining costs of new solar generation have made solar cheaper than new coal or natural gas plants in many parts of the world. Crucially, battery technology is entering a renaissance, with costs in a rapid decline. But still, far too many economies are proving that they are unable to kick their fossil fuel addiction – most especially to coal. I know that coal production has long served as an important pillar for many economies, providing reliable electricity and valuable jobs. But there is no place for coal in carbon neutral economies. Whether you’re buying coal, selling it, or financing coal plants at home or beyond your borders, you are part of the problem and need to fast track your transition towards energy sources that do not recklessly spew carbon into our atmosphere.
No government can gamble with a generation’s future and expect no consequences. The voices demanding greater climate ambition – particularly the voices of the young – are growing louder and angrier by the year.
The millions of people taking to the streets here in Madrid and across the world are making it clear that — when it comes to net-zero transition – Leaders who fail to summon the political will to act will suffer the political costs.
People want to transit away from fossil fuels to renewables, such as solar, solely because it advances the climate action agenda. They are demanding this transition because of the measurable gains it clearly brings for their well-being. People want to live healthy lives. They want to breathe cleaner air. They want to drink clean water. They want to preserve the forests and hillsides that surround their homes. They want to see their power come from the sun and other renewable sources. They want jobs in industries catered to the future, in economies that are resilient, competitive and considerate of future generations. The International Solar Alliance was formed to help facilitate this transition and to equip all member governments with the resources and knowledge they need to meet the demands of their people.
In Fiji, we have started this transition so that we can build a clean and sustainable economy that serves the short and long-term interests of every Fijian. We’re proud to be a founding ISA Member and one of the first 15 countries to ratify the ISA Framework Agreement. We have committed to reducing our carbon emissions by 30 per cent by 2030 and achieving net-zero emissions by 2050. Our National Development Plan lays out a strategic pathway towards generating 100 per cent of our energy from renewable sources by 2036.
We are investing in projects on the ground and charting our path to a net-zero economy:
We know that the sun doesn’t always shine and the winds don’t always blow. But the rapid evolution of these technologies makes it increasingly realistic that a responsible mix of renewables can soon power economies of any size, anywhere in the world, all-year round. We know changes of this magnitude won’t take place overnight. But we do expect nations to commit to the investments and policy changes required to accelerate this transition.
And given the incredible progress these technologies have made in a short span of time, continuing innovation in this sector will make that transition more feasible to make and less excusable to ignore.
I applaud the 78 countries who have joined Fiji in signing the ISA Framework. As part of your commitment to the uptake of solar energy, I hope to see financing mechanisms become available to Pacific Small Island Developing States to accelerate our collective shift towards solar power.
Solar represents one of the most exciting frontiers for the advancement of carbon-neutral emissions. But let’s not forget, power generation is only one piece of the emissions puzzle. Without serious emission cuts in transportation, manufacturing, agriculture and other economic sectors, our collective nationally determined contributions will remain utterly inadequate.
We need to do more than harness the sun to power our cities and communities. We must tap into the vast untapped potential of solar power to revolutionise the cars we drive, the vessels that sail our waters, and the entire manner in which our societies create and consume energy. Fiji is prepared to continue to do our part in this transition. It’s on the rest of the world to match our ambition and show the courage to make the changes needed to secure a future where no nation’s development comes at the expense of another’s survival.
Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.