15 February 2017

Fiji on the frontline

Fiji has always been a leading country in the Pacific, due to its size probably. The country has more inhabitants and land than most of its oceanic neighbors. This year we will hear a little bit more about the small island country: Fiji organizes the next United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP)! It is the first time a small Pacific island country coordinates the conference. 


We had the chance to meet two members of the Climate Change Unit from the Ministry of Economy of Fiji, responsible in particular for preparing the major Conference. The Climate Change team was recently transferred under the authority of the Ministry of Economy, after being once under the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It gives the Unit better visibility and bigger influence.

COP23 will take place between
the 6th and the 17th of
COP23 (it’s the 23rd Conference of this kind) will be about moving a step forward in defining how the Paris Agreement will be implemented in 2020. The Fijian team will be assisted by external support; the first preparation meetings took place beginning of February. In particular they will set the agenda for the next 9 months and define the objectives of the Conference. Given the uncertainty about the role of the new U.S. administration, it is expected that the other leading countries go on with their actions and policy implementation. They shall not deviate from the Paris Agreement commitments.

Fiji COP23 Hybrid cars One Climate One Challenge Gheung Meza
Fijian Ministry
of Economy.
Fortunately, Fijian Prime Minister is very active on the climate change topic. In any of his speeches, he would mention the climate crisis. And when he speaks for Fiji, he does it for the rest of the Pacific Islands as well. Beginning of 2016, only few weeks after the end of the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris, Fiji was the first country to ratify the Paris Agreement.


The organization of the COP will take the team plenty of time; however they have to go on with their local missions. For instance the Unit works on a National Relocation Guideline. The document will provide action plans for the relocation of communities after an extreme event, for the short and long term. The cyclone Winston of last year forced the Unit to finalize this big task as soon as possible. Generally speaking the documents which are produced by the Climate Change Unit also influence the development plans and strategic planning of the cities and villages. In February 2016, the Category 5 cyclone inflicted extensive damage and killed 44 people. The cyclone was both strong and uncommon. The cyclones usually follow a different path in Fiji territory; Winston took a singular and surprising one.


When we arrived in the Capital Suva, we noticed that there are hybrid cars everywhere. We wondered if there was any was any incentive behind this. The answer is positive! Since 2015, Fiji has implemented a climate-friendly policy: there are no taxes on hybrid cars! Hybrid vehicles enjoy zero percent import duty rates, making them much more affordable. The effects of it can be seen in the streets. For a long time, Norway has acted in a similar direction. Electric vehicles sell very well in the Scandinavian country thanks to tax breaks, as well as the development of a network of charging stations. In addition the electric cars enjoy free parking and no charges on toll roads. The country has the world's highest number of electric cars per capita.

Fiji COP23 Hybrid cars One Climate One Challenge Gheung MezaFiji COP23 Hybrid cars One Climate One Challenge Gheung Meza
The streets of the Capital Suva are full of Prius, the Toyota bestseller hybrid car.

For logistical and environmental reasons, COP23 will take place in Bonn, Germany, not in Fiji. One Climate One Challenge team will be there!

Fiji COP23 Hybrid cars One Climate One Challenge Gheung Meza
The Nissan Leaf is the most popular electric car in Europe.

An article about the meeting, in "The Fiji Times", here!


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