Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama brings a sobering message as he presides over UN climate talks in Bonn this week — climate change is real, it’s already having disastrous impacts on his people and only urgent action can address the problem.
Germany is hosting the talks and asked Bainimarama to act as president to highlight how the issue is affecting Pacific island nations on the frontline of global warming, reports AFP.
As incoming president of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP23), Bainimarama has criss-crossed the world in recent months voicing islanders’ fears.
“Rising seas, extreme weather events or changes to agriculture… threaten our way of life, and in some cases our very existence,” he said.
“We who are most vulnerable must be heard.”
Bainimarama said Fiji, an island nation of about one million people, was left reeling when Severe Tropical Cyclone Winston hit like a wrecking ball in February last year. Packing gusts of 325 kilometres (202 miles) per hour, it was the strongest cyclone to ever make landfall in the South Pacific.
Such super-cyclones used to be a once-in-a-decade occurrence, but only a year before Cyclone Pam slammed into Vanuatu, killing at least 11 people.
Bainimarama said Fiji now had to live with the threat that such tempests could flare up “out of nowhere, at any time”.
“We are facing a situation in which a single event scoring a direct hit on Fiji could wipe out years of development and set us back for decades,” he said.
He said the experiences of Fijians and people around the world meant there was no longer room to question the scientific consensus on global warming.
“This says that man-made climate change is not a hoax, it is frighteningly real,” he said.
“The evidence is global — whether it is the loss of the Arctic ice floes within four decades, the loss of cities like Miami in five decades, or in the Pacific, the loss of three entire nations over a similar period — Kiribati, Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands.”