By Pita Ligaiula
Fiji has called on global community to reach an effective legally binding treaty on plastic pollution.
The second session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including in the marine environment (INC2) is taking place in Paris, France from 29 May – 02 June.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Tourism and Civil Aviation made the remarks Saturday at the World Climate Industry Expo Leaders Summit in Busan, Korea.
“The conservation of oceans and climate change are inter-linked. Today, our region faces the dual threat of climate change and ocean degradation. Our ocean ecosystems are under several multifaceted challenges, including resource extraction, pollution, coastal degradation, heavy rainfall, sea level rise, coral bleaching, and ocean warming which leads to high intensity cyclones and other catastrophic effects induced by climate change.
“We also urge the global community to reach an effective legally binding treaty on plastic pollution.
“Without urgent action, the impacts of climate change will be catastrophic for our ocean, people and the planet. At the current rate of emissions, the displacement of people will not be internal, but external across borders, as entire nations lose their territory from rising seas,” Gavoka told the Leaders in Busan.
Gavoka said the future of the ocean’s health will directly impact our region.
“We rely on it for our everyday sustenance. We rely on it for food security, for transport between our islands and with the rest of the world. We rely on it for trade and for tourism. It is our paramount interest to maintain a clean and healthy ocean to ensure our Blue Pacific Continent remains a pristine tourist destination.
“Fiji’s leadership on the preservation of the world’s ocean is one of the most important tasks our nation has ever undertaken. Fiji has been at the forefront of ocean action and leadership at the regional and international arena. Our very culture, our traditions, values and customs are inter linked to the ocean which sustains our people. We firmly believe that we cannot have a healthy planet without a healthy ocean. The ocean connects us all and its sustainability is vital for the survival of small island states, said Gavoka.
He said Fiji’s global leadership in ocean advocacy stems from its strong stewardship and prioritisation of ocean conservation.
“We have signed and ratified the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement. In 2021, we introduced our National Ocean Policy. These ocean initiatives are in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal Number 14 – Life Below Water.
“As well in 2021, Forum Leaders endorsed the Declaration on Preserving Maritime Zones in the face of Climate Change-related Sea-level rise which provides the basis to ensure our regions maritime zones cannot be challenged or reduced as a result of climate change-related sea-level rise. These key instruments safeguard our rights and obligations as custodians of the Blue Pacific Continent. Our region has shown global leadership on ocean conservation and we have managed to conserve and protect a total of 20 percent of our combined Exclusive Economic Zone.
“I reiterate that defending the health of the vast global ocean is a challenge that no single country can hope to undertake on its own. As a community of nations, we must effectively mobilise climate action at all levels to protect and conserve our oceans,” Gavoka told leaders in Busan.
Gavoka also said Fiji has taken the lead role in advocating the collective position of our region in the fight against climate change.
“The Pacific Island Countries remain the most vulnerable group against the multifaceted threats faced from the climate crisis.
“This climate crisis is an existential threat to the very survival of low-lying island nations. Fiji will continue to be the leading voice for more climate ambition and action, for the region and for climate-vulnerable countries everywhere,” he said.
Gavoka said Fiji is committed to building resilient partnerships in the Pacific through the Pacific Islands Forum to promote peace and security in the region.
“In this context, Pacific Leaders have endorsed the 2050 Strategy for a Blue Pacific Continent to leverage our strategic and economic value whilst simultaneously addressing our most significant challenges, such as the threat of sea-level rise and climate change.
“The 2050 Strategy is our opportunity to engage regionally in order to secure our long-term wellbeing and prosperity. Through the 2050 Strategy, we will ensure we are resilient to proactively respond to the climate crisis. We invite our development partners to invest in sustainable development projects for a resilient and blue ocean economy including greater access to concessional climate financing,” said Gavoka.