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COP26 President Visits Buretu Village

What Matters For Fiji Which Is One Of The Countries On The Frontline Of Climate Change Is To Ensure We Get Support: Alok Sharma
29 Jul 2022 18:58
COP26 President Visits  Buretu Village
COP26 President Alok Sharma (wearing garland) got to see some of the impacts of climate change on Buretu Village in Tailevu. When he visited the village, Buretu Development Chair, Sunia Vosikata (wearing orange shirt) showed Mr Sharma and his delegation some of the damage. Photo: Kelera Sovasiga-Tuisawa

COP26 President Alok Sharma’s visit to Buretu village in Tailevu on Wednesday was yet another grim reminder of where the world is headed if big emitters are left to carry on with their business as usual attitude.

The physical evidence of salt water intrusion and coastal erosion was evident across the village – and in hundreds of communities across Fiji.

Mr Sharma said his visit has boosted the need to challenge world leaders with the need to act now and deliver the promises of the Paris agreement and on climate financing.

 

“The message that I’ve heard is loud and clear, is that what matters for Fiji which is one of the countries on the frontline of climate change is to ensure we get support.”

“Support in terms of being able to adapt to the changing climate and you are seeing here of why support is needed to adapt to the changing climate, to make sure we get more finance flowing as well and of the issue of loss and damage which has also come up during this visit,” Mr Sharma said.

Getting a firsthand tour of the affected sites, Mr Sharma was impressed by the resilience of Buretu villagers. Walking around the waterlogged and uneven grounds, Mr Sharma was concerned about how villagers used available resources to recover dry land.

COP26 President Alok Sharma arriving in Buretu village, Tailevu. Photo:Kelera Sovasiga-Tuisawau.

COP26 President Alok Sharma arriving in Buretu village, Tailevu. Photo:Kelera Sovasiga-Tuisawau.

“How often do you fill these salt marshes with gravel and soil to cover the intrusion of saltwater into the village ground,” he asked Buretu Development Chair, Sunia Vosikata as they walked around the waterlogged spongy grounds.”

“Way too often Mr Sharma. It is a daily task for most of us. There is nothing else we can do,” Mr Vosikata said.

“We have asked for help left, right and center but nothing.We cannot sit and do nothing and so filling these puddles of sea water seems to be a temporary solution of adaptation for us,” he said.

The rapid rise in sea level and saltwater intrusion have increased the brutality of coastal floods and erosion in communities in Fiji.

These were sentiments shared by the University of the South Pacific’s Professor for Ocean and Climate Change and Director for Pacific Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development (PACE-SD), Professor Elizabeth Holland. She was also present in Buretu village.

 

In her expertise, Professor Holland shared with Mr Sharma the village grounds have been a cry for help for leaders to look into more adaptation and mitigation plans for villagers to survive.

“More than 10 years ago, leaders placed climate change at the top of their priority and so we have been able to create a climate change program that focuses on science,” Professor Holland said.

She shared her experiences on the effects of sea level rise among communities as there is great concern for the future generations. PIFS Address Mr Sharma also gave a keynote address at the Pacific Island Forum (PIF) Secretariat in Suva on Wednesday.

“1.5 degree Celsius is not some dream result for those living on the frontline of climate change.”

Visiting Fiji is Mr Sharma’s first engagement.

COP26 President garland during the welcoming ceremony in Buretu village, Tailevu. Photo: Kelera Sovasiga-Tuisawau.

COP26 President garland during the welcoming ceremony in Buretu village, Tailevu. Photo: Kelera Sovasiga-Tuisawau.

“I know that for many people 1.5 degrees isn’t about thriving. It is literally about surviving and therefore it makes it even tougher when the richest countries, the biggest economies, those belching out the bulk of the emissions are still not doing enough.”

He highlighted the need for and importance of big emitting countries to act now and deliver the promise of the Glasgow Climate Pact signed by almost 200 countries at COP26.

The visit is an opportunity to meet with Pacific High-Level Champions and ministers in discussion on action from major emitters on adaptation, loss and damage and climate finance. Countries have been urged to submit their revised Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) by September.

 

Larger economies have pledged to publish revised NDCs by the end of this year. Mr Sharma said that the adverse effects of climate change are worsening.

“People around the world are struggling to make ends meet but the chronic threat of climate change has not gone away. In fact, it is getting worse,” Mr Sharma said.

He added that we simply must pick up the pace and whilst the remainder of the UK’s presidency, promises are not enough as action is needed more.

Buretu Development Chair, Sunia Vosikata accompanies COP26 President Alok Sharma around Buretu village. Photo:Kelera Sovasiga-Tuisawau.

Buretu Development Chair, Sunia Vosikata accompanies COP26 President Alok Sharma around Buretu village. Photo:Kelera Sovasiga-Tuisawau.

“We must try further action on adaptation, finance, mitigation of loss and damage and this includes making further progress on the global goal of adaptation and operationalizing the Santiago network on finance,” he said.

Before his site visit in Buretu village, he added that it is the indigenous groups that are vital agents of change as they are powerful leaders in the work to develop nature-based and resilience solutions.

Despite having a compact seawall infrastructure built in 2014 as part of USAids Coastal Community Adaptation Project (CCAP), the village continues to face the wrath of sea level rise and saltwater intrusion.

Mr Sharma’s visit is part of the UK COP Presidency work to push for updated climate commitments from all countries ahead of COP27 in Egypt, and limiting global temperature rises to 1.5 degrees

 

Feedback: adi.sovasiga@fijisun.com.fj



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