A new initiative to provide greater infrastructure support will reinforce the resilience of the world’s smallest islands battling against rising sea levels.
Pacific island nations are the biggest beneficiaries from the Infrastructure for Resilient Island States proposal that was announced at the Climate Change Conference in Glasgow.
Prime ministers Narendra Modi of India, Boris Johnson of Britain, Scott Morrison of Australia, Frank Bainimarama of Fiji, Andrew Holness of Jamaica, and Pravind Jugnauth of Mauritius were its chief architects, acting on behalf of the 21 countries that first founded the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure in 2019 to fight climate change.
Small island developing states statistically face the highest disaster losses, financially, in contrast to their gross domestic product.
Resilient infrastructure is viewed by the coalition as integral to mitigating disaster and climate losses, but also meeting the growing development aspirations of the Pacific.
Mr Bainimarama backed sustainable development to offset the economic, social, and environmental challenges that were compounded by climate change and that threatens the very existence of small island developing states.
The latest Pacific initiative will run side the Samoa pathway to link commitments on sustainable energy, natural resource management, and an ocean-based green economy approach and partnerships.
Fiji, he said, recognises the need to “adapt building codes and standards to the climate reality”.
The leader of the country since 2014 felt a solution could be a public-private partnership to finance the vulnerable gap in infrastructure.
“We trust this initiative will reach well beyond technical assistance and capacity building to unlock trillions (of dollars) in private sector capital,” Mr Bainimarama said.
“It can do that by de-risking critical investments now that will build resilience for those on the front line of the climate crisis.
“Fiji’s relocation and displaced people’s trust fund, which establishes a proven process to move at-risk communities and their infrastructure, is an example of where those funds can make an impact.”
Mr Bainimarama was spotted giving a copy of his nation’s climate change act to Mr Morrison. He tweeted it’s a “uniquely Fijian way of following the science to keep faith with future generations”.
Mr Morrison was instead rather keen to boast of his government’s doubling its climate financing contribution of $A2billion ($US1.5 billion) specifically for the Pacific to cut out red tape to get the projects off the ground.
“If there’s anything we know, it is to stick with it, and to make a commitment, to meet it and to beat it, and as our friends and family in the Pacific know and in Southeast Asia, we can be relied upon,” he said.
“We are helping our friends in Papua New Guinea build resilient roads, bridges and wharves.
“We have helped with cyclone resistant produce markets for the Solomon Islands and Fiji, and last year our prefabricated schoolrooms in Vanuatu, which withstood tropical Cyclone Harold giving the community a place to shelter, as well as the kids a chance to return to schools sooner.
“All of us are here because we believe in a fair and practical action to address climate change and we are here because we are family, particularly our Pacific family. Look out for one another, look out for our mates, as we say in Australia, let’s stick together and let’s get on with it.”