Empty promises not enough, Fiji PM tells COP26


By Pita Ligaiula in Glasgow

Fiji’s Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama took to the podium at the COP26 opening in Glasgow with another brusque and no-nonsense attack against leaders who make pledges without plans, or those he said pursue a policy of appeasement.

Bainimarama dropped no names in his fiery three-minutes address at the first part of the High Level Segment session for Heads of State and Government, which followed the opening ceremony where the heir to the British throne, Prince Charles and the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres were among the guest speakers, but it was easy to see who or which countries he was referring to.

“We cannot let them write out the urgency of accelerating action. Clean coal, responsible natural gas, and ethical oil are all figments of the selfish mind. No matter what they call them, carbon emissions are wrecking the climate. There’s nothing clean, natural or ethical about it,” said the Fijian leader.

“Other leaders pursue a policy of appeasement. They sit idly by as their high-emitting counterparts destroy our children’s futures. The science is clear, ladies and gentlemen, no city, no community, and no ecosystem will be spared from the reckoning that lies beyond 1.5 degrees of warming, including our oceans, the lungs of the planet.”

Bainimarama spoke soon after Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, being one of only three Pacific leaders that are attending COP26 in Scotland this week.

The other two, Prime Minister Kausea Natano of Tuvalu and President Surangel Whipps Jr of Palau will speak later in the week.

“We have fallen so far off course that only bold and courageous action will suffice. 2060 is too late. Empty promises of mid-century ambition are not enough.

“All high-emitting countries must halve global emissions by 2030. The G20 nations who are prepared to make those commitments must demand the same from others.

“We have moral authority, you have a moral obligation. Together, our coalition of the willing can keep 1.5 alive, keep low-lying island nations above water, keep erratic and severe weather from devastating us all, and keep the trust between nations so that we can keep faith that our children and grandchildren will have a future.

“That includes making good on the promise of $100 billion in climate finance.”

Pacific nations like his Bainimarama told world leaders did not travel to the other end of the world to watch their future “sacrificed at the altar of appeasement of the world’s worst emitters.”

Existence of our low-lying neighbours is the Pacific is not negotiable either, he declared.

“1.5 is alive. It is possible. Humanity does not lack the resources, technology, projects, or innovative potential to achieve it.

“All that is missing is the courage to act –– the courage to choose our grandchildren’s future over shareholder greed and corporate carbon-driven interests.

“What more fitting place than the United Kingdom –– the birthplace of the industrial age –– to summon the will to secure the commitments that begin a cleaner, greener and bluer revolution, said Bainimarama.

PACNEWS coverage from Glasgow is possible with the assistance of the Pacific Islands Forum through the Office of the Pacific Ocean Commissioner (OPOC).