The Honourable Prime Minister of India,
My fellow Pacific Heads of State and Government,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Bula Vinaka and very good afternoon to you all,
Just as the world looks to India for leadership in the fight against climate change, so too do the citizens of some of the most climate-vulnerable nations on earth – those we represent as Pacific leaders in the region’s Small Island Developing States.
I want to begin by warmly thanking you, Prime Minister Modi, not only for you own leadership of the climate struggle but for your friendship and solidarity with us. It is a great pleasure and honour for us all to be able to engage with you here in New York today and to hear your perspective of what needs to be done to secure the future of the entire world, and the Pacific in particular.
We had the great pleasure in Fiji to have welcomed you to our own nation five years ago on your first visit to the region. It was naturally a reflection of the longstanding ties between Fiji and India. And can I use this opportunity to again warmly thank you for India’s generous assistance when Fiji was struck by Tropical Cyclone Winston three years ago.
I specifically made a point yesterday of being in the UN Chamber to listen to your address at the Climate Summit. And as both Fijian Prime Minister and Chair of the PSIDS, I welcome the commitments you made as India’s contribution to the global effort to tackle this emergency, that threatens not only our own region but the entire world.
You committed India to doubling its renewable energy target between now and 2022. This is a very positive development.
Can I say to you on behalf of all of us, that we in the Pacific urge India to do more to reduce its reliance on coal, which as we all know, is one of the greatest contributors to climate change. This is not about singling anyone out. I know Australia supplies you coal, as it does to China — who must also cut their coal reliance — and I urged the Australians to end their reliance on coal as well at the Pacific Islands Forum in Tuvalu. Fiji recognises that coal has always been an important part of your economies, as an export revenue earner and for your national energy security. But I appeal to you to do everything possible to achieve a rapid transition from coal to energy sources that do not contribute to climate change. India is on its way, and we look forward to your continued leadership.
Prime Minister, I also want to warmly thank you for the leadership India has shown in building a new Coalition for Disaster-Resilient Infrastructure. As nations that are particularly vulnerable to climate-related impacts, we welcome this initiative and very much look forward to the opportunity of working with India to tap into your capacity and expertise.
In conclusion, we seek India’s support generally for the PSIDS climate agenda, our effort to meet our Sustainable Development Goals and our collective effort to draw global attention to the need to integrate oceans fully into the UN climate negotiations. Given India’s global presence, you, Prime Minister, can be a powerful force for good in the world and we in the Pacific are keen to partner with you in an expanded engagement for the benefit of all our peoples.
Vinaka vakalevu. Thank you.