Jul 18, 2018 Last Updated 12:05 AM, Jul 17, 2018

COP23 $9m Presidency

By Anish Chand

"External professional services" was the highest expenditure for the COP23 Presidency of Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama as revealed in the COP23 Trust Fund account report that was tabled in Parliament this week.

F$8,686,717 was used for this service.

External professional services are described as “presidency services” in the accounts. These included strategic advice, negotiations support, capacity building, logistical support, communication and documentation drafting.

Australia contributed the largest sum of money to the COP23 Trust Fund, of about F$9.16m.

As at October 2017, with total donations of F$25,010, 641 and with an expenditure of F$11,599,245, the Fund had a surplus balance of F$13,411,396.

Period of focus in the COP23 Trust Fund Account report were May to October 2017. Tabling of its financial results is required under the COP23 Trust Fund Act of 2017.

The report reveals the accounting firm of KPMG had seconded a senior accountant to be the Manager Finance of the COP23 Fund, a responsibility which now has been taken over by the Ministry of Economy.

In addition to Australia, other major donors to the Fund were the European Union (F$4.79m), Italy (F$2.36m), India (F$2.03) and New Zealand ($F$1.89).

The financial report also provided other breakdown of its F$12m expenditure.

F$1,733,284 was used for organising conferences. The Pre-COP meeting that was held in Nadi incurred an expense of F$1,319,085.

F$727,815 was used in travel expenses for seven events. The highest amount of $F309,129 was incurred for the 23rd Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). F$287,327 was used in travel for Bonn UNFCCC.

Funds for the national climate change week that was held Fiji wide was sourced from the COP23 Trust Fund to a tune of F$167,538.

F$108,148 was used to run the COP23 Secretariat in Suva.

The account also reveals that the UNFCCC funded some of the COP23 Presidency expenses which included travel, per-diems and accommodation for most of the Fijian delegation to UNFCC meetings.

Fiji success at COP23

NATIONS agreed on November 18 to launch the next steps towards higher climate action ambition before 2020 at the close of the annual UN climate conference or COP23 held in the German city of Bonn.

Backed by a wide range of positive announcements from governments, cities, states, regions, companies and civil society, delegates from over 190 countries agreed to a 12-month engagement focusing on ‘where are we, where do we want to go and how do we get there?’ The ‘Talanoa Dialogue’, inspired by the Fijian concept of constructive discussion, debate and story-telling, will set the stage in Poland in 2018 for the revising upwards of national climate action plans needed to put the world on track to meet pre-2020 ambition and the long-term goals of the two-year old Paris Agreement.

The Paris Agreement’s central goal is keep the global average temperature rise below 2 Celsius and as close as possible to 1.5—the lower limit is deemed crucial for survival by many small islands and vulnerable countries. Over one degree of this rise has already occurred since pre-industrial times. The current set of national climate action plans, known as NDCs, are still heading for a path towards 3 Celsius, possibly more.

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DUST collects on the floor of the village shop. The door is locked, the windows shut tight and a collection of guttering, plastic pipes, nuts bolts, screws and nails are piled on the counter and the shelves. Outside the shop, grass has overgrown the cement culverts and drains which arrived over two years ago and are too heavy for the villagers to lift without the necessary machinery or lay without engineering expertise.

This is Vunidogoloa Village in Cakaudrove, the poster child for Fiji’s climate change relocation initiative. Last month Fiji’s military strongmanturned climate change champion, Commodore Frank Bainimarama told the United Nations his nation would issue a US$50 million “green” bond in coming weeks to help combat the effects of global climate change, the first developing country to do so.

Lauded by economists and climate change advocates, this financial ingenuity is expected to take the global green bond market to an estimated US$134.9million this year. According to a summary released by Fiji and the World Bank, Fiji’s bonds will be available in five- and 13-year maturities from November 1and pay coupons of four per cent and 6.3 per cent.

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Renewed commitment

PACIFIC Leaders presented a united stance on the pressing need for accelerated and ambitious global action on climate change as they joined world leaders recently for the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly.

The Leaders spoke passionately on behalf of our island communities, with Fiji’s Prime Minister Bainimarama, who assumes the Presidency of the 23rd Conference of Parties (COP23) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in November, reiterating that at present “climate change is as great a threat to global security as any source of conflict.” Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister Peter O’Neill spoke of lost lives and devastated communities, of humanity’s future threatened, and the absolute need for reduced emissions if we are to effectively address challenges posed by a warming planet.

Prime Minister of Tuvalu, Enele Sopoaga, reflected on island communities already at the risk of being submerged, who face losing everything, if the world fails to achieve the “well below 2 degrees Celsius” of global warming advised by scientists.

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Waters are rising

THE mean sea level recorded at Fiji’s tidal gauge shows an average rise of 4.6mm per year since 1993. That means sea levels would have risen an average 110 centimetres – about knee height of an adult - by 2017. At Vunidogoloa Village in Fiji’s Northern Division, Sailosi Ramatu points to the waters of Natewa Bay.

“That’s where the beach was when I was a kid,” he said, pointing the stump of a coconut tree, barely visible above the rising tide.“It’s about 100 metres away from where the shore is so in 40 years we’ve lost about 100 metres of beach front or 2.5 metres a year.” According to current estimates, a possible 45 villages in Fiji face a similar fate from the waves, coastal erosion and salt water intrusion.

Churches, which continue to wield influence over indigenous Fijian communities, have a powerful role to play in convincing villagers on the need to move to higher ground. Pacific Conference of Churches General Secretary, Reverend Francois Pihaatae, recognises the powerful role the church must play not only in Fiji but across the region. 

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