These unprecedented times call for unprecedented solutions, and as large oceanic sovereign states of the Blue Pacific, we look no further than to our endowment, our lifeblood – our Ocean – for these innovative solutions.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we have just witnessed one such unprecedented solution – the Leaders’ Declaration on Preserving Maritime Zones in the face of Climate Change-related Sea-level rise.
I am proud to have presented to you the united appeal and call from the Leaders of the Blue Pacific to save our low-lying coastal developing states, and our entire world, from climate change-related sea-level rise.
Indeed, sea-level rise “is a defining issue that imperils the livelihoods and well-being of our peoples, and undermines the realisation of a peaceful, secure and sustainable future for our region” and for our world.
The recent IPCC Report underlines continued sea-level rise in coastal areas throughout the 21st century, contributing to more frequent and severe coastal flooding in low-lying areas and coastal erosion. Extreme sea level events that previously occurred once in 100 years could happen every year by the end of this century.
Changes to the ocean, including warming, more frequent marine heatwaves, ocean acidification, and reduced oxygen levels, have been clearly linked to human influence. These changes affect both ocean ecosystems and the people that rely on them.
Nations like Kiribati, Tuvalu and the Republic of the Marshall Islands are at the frontline of this global crisis, with the rising sea eating away our shorelines, leaving our homes and people exposed to the ruthless onslaught of coastal erosion and saltwater intrusion.
In Fiji, we have relocated villagers from Vunidogoloa, Narikoso, and four others which are no longer viable for human habitation.
Climate-driven displacement isn’t a doomsday proposition. It is happening now across our Blue Pacific, and I shudder to think of what the future of my grandchildren and your grandchildren will be like if we continue down this path.
Excellencies and friends, the Declaration is not just another sheet of paper. Every word, as pronounced by our Leaders tonight, carries the voices of our people, our children, our plight and our fight to save our people and our home from this crisis.
We do so by upholding the primacy of international law, the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, as the global legal framework within which all activities in the oceans and seas must be carried out. The Declaration is our good faith interpretation of the 1982 UNCLOS on an issue that is critical to all of us.
[Our call to the world]
Ladies and Gentlemen, the ocean is central to us. It is our geography, our culture and our economy. It is at the heart of our existence and we see no solutions without it.
As a public regional good, the health and resilience of the oceans features very heavily in the development of the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent. As such, and in line with Our 2021 Ocean Statement, we call for urgent action to reduce and prevent the irreversible impacts of climate change on our Ocean. We also call for the integration of oceans into the UNFCCC.
To all of our friends across the globe, we share with you a very simple but a consequential message: While it is true that climate change induced sea-level rise has the potential to impact the lives of our Blue Pacific Continent citizens in a very dramatic way, this phenomenon is not by any stretch of the imagination peculiar to the Blue Pacific region.
In effect, many countries in the different subregions of the globe do stand to be similarly affected. As such, it is in all our collective interest to build strong partnerships in our search for scalable solutions.
To that end, and as a first and major step forward, I take this opportunity to extend to all of you, an invitation on behalf of Pacific Islands Forum Leaders and all citizens of the Blue Pacific Continent: Join Us – under the banner of the Declaration on Preserving Maritime Zones in the face of Climate Change-related Sea-level rise – to lead the work to protect the future of our peoples. Let us build stronger partnerships to better take this work forward.
Join us and let us all be Leaders for our Oceans.
I thank you. Vinaka vakalevu.