The Co-Presidents of the UN Ocean Conference, Portugal and Kenya;

The President of the General Assembly;

Distinguished Delegates;

Ladies and Gentlemen.

As the co-chair of the first Ocean Conference, I am proud to pass the mantle of leadership to our co-hosts, Portugal and Kenya. Today, I am also privileged to speak for the Pacific Islands Forum Member countries and territories.

It was Portugal’s son, Ferdinand Magellan, who named our ocean the Pacific for its peaceful waters. 500 years later, we the Pacific’s people have come to Portugal to tell you that our waters are rough and they are rising, the life they sustain is dying, and we are fighting for our very survival.

The terrible irony is that although we owe our past and present to the ocean, climate-driven sea level rise could erase the future of our lowest-lying members. Among other measures vital to our security, the adoption of a 2050 Strategy for our Blue Pacific Continent will reaffirm our States’ collective declaration that even if our land is lost to the rising seas, our rights over our maritime zones and resources will not be.

Meanwhile, the ocean’s warming has made us witnesses to a staggering decline in marine life.Fisheries are our region’s most precious resource; we supply more than half of the world’s tuna alone.

And our nations will be following COP-15 closely to ensure that all life, including that below water, is protected in this critical year for biodiversity. We also hope to see an ambitious, legally-binding Treaty of the High Seas next month.

To stem the tidal wave of unregulated pollution crashing at our shores, we too look forward to the upcoming negotiations for a global treaty of plastics. And, we totally condemn any threat of ocean dumps of nuclear waste. This would be both catastrophic and horribly traumatic for the Pacific people who still suffer from the nuclear testing inflicted on our region.

We also reaffirm our PIF Leaders call for a dedicated ocean work programme in the UNFCCC built on the Glasgow decision and urge a dedicated agenda at COP-27 for Parties to review the summary report of the Bonn dialogue. We need a healthy climate and ocean like we need food to eat and air to breathe.

For the sake of our ocean and future, our Leaders will be resolute in keeping 1.5 alive in Egypt, as should anyone who cares about life below water or above it.

Mr. President, we face two possible futures. One in which our ocean becomes our greatest opportunity, and the other in which it is degraded beyond recognition. If we don’t both act for the former, the latter is inevitable. The ocean is the planet’s healthiest set of lungs yet the least funded of all SDGs –– we cannot leave Lisbon without scaling up ocean finance.

Fiji has the will to put resources behind the most far-reaching transformation in our history. We have already banned deep seabed mining and by 2030, 100% of our waters will be sustainably managed, with 30% designated as marine protected areas.

Today we go further. Next year, the Lau Seascape –– an area of ocean that represents eight percent of our waters –– will become a Marine Protected Area.

We’ve already banned single-use plastic bags. By 2030, we will ban virtually all single-use plastics and recycle all PET bottles; ocean literacy will be a mandatory component of our education system; and we’ll slash carbon emissions in our shipping sector by 40%. After fully mapping our entire 1.3 million square kilometer EEZ by 2025, we will achieve total real-time surveillance of Fiji’s waters. And by 2030 we will produce more than 160,000 metric tonnes of sustainably farmed and harvested ocean product, supporting over 53,000 new jobs on our way to supply half of all blue foods from sustainable fisheries by 2035.

And by 2050, Fiji will be a net-zero society. Our fisher-folks will have universal access to electric outboard motors. The Pacific will be home to a green shipping fleet. All fishing nets in Fijian waters must be bio-degradable. And we intend to create 100,000 new jobs –– more than a tenth of our current population –– in a sustainable fisheries sector.

These protections can’t wait. These investments can’t wait, nor can the jobs they create. And Fiji won’t wait for the world to plug the gap in global ocean finance. We will launch the first tranche of a blue bond by this August to blue our economy and take on external threats like overfishing and acidification. That’s the world’s burden that Fiji will be borrowing to bear. But no matter how ambitious or how big and blue Fiji’s commitment may be, our single effort isn’t enough. That is why I am here: To call on our partners for their support and on the world to follow our lead.

Vinaka vakalevu – Thank you.

Translate »