This year, the United Nations Conference of the Parties will be presided over by Fiji, making history as the first Small Island Developing State to do so.
Home to around 1 million people, Fiji is spread out over 300 islands and as with many Small Island Nations in the South Pacific, is one of the smallest contributors to global carbon emissions. Based on the most up to date records for CO2 emissions, the UK is responsible for over 250 times the CO2 emissions as Fiji. The UK being a much larger country, this is to be expected, but even broken down per capita individuals in the UK are responsible for over 3 times the emissions of people living in Fiji.
Despite their relatively small carbon footprint, as an island nation Fiji is more vulnerable than most to the effects of climate change, in particular the extreme weather events and sea level rises that are associated with it.
As a developing nation, the consequences of such extreme weather events can be devastating. Flooding, droughts and temperature fluctuations damage homes and increase the nation’s susceptibility to water-borne disease; the destruction of agricultural lands hit not only their own staple food supply, but inflicts damage to an economy that relies heavily on the exports of the nation’s sugar cane. Just last year Cyclone Winston, the strongest storm to ever make landfall in the Southern Hemisphere, hit the islands of Fiji, and with the intensity of storms set to increase with rising global temperatures, the future of Fiji depends very much on tackling the issues affecting climate change.
It seems poignant, then, that Fiji have this opportunity to preside over a conference that is responsible for bringing together the world’s nations, to tackle the key issues and deliver the solutions necessary to prevent and counter the impacts of climate change.
“Unless the world acts decisively to begin addressing the greatest challenge of our age, then the Pacific, as we know it, is doomed,” – Frank Bainimarama, Fijian Prime Minister and COP23 President.
In response to the threats of climate change, Fiji is already setting a fantastic example for its much larger neighbours. Fiji has developed a Green Growth Framework, the first initiative of its kind in Fiji, which recognises the necessity for future development that is sustainable. The framework advocates civic responsibility of environmental stewardship through education, placing its people at the centre of future developments and enabling communities and individuals alike to recognise the important role they play in shaping this future. Furthermore, Fiji has agreed to be reliant on 100% renewable energy by 2050, alongside 48 other countries that are disproportionately affected by climate change.
By bringing to COP23 the Pacific concept of ‘talanoa’, Fiji hope to promote a dialogue between nations that is inclusive, participatory and transparent, focusing on the benefits of action to move the global climate agenda forward.