Fiji joins Earth Hour celebration
The capital city’s iconic ‘Sukuna Park’ was the focal point of celebrations as a good number of people turned up for a three hour fiesta of climate change and lifestyle sustainability awareness.
The themed ‘Night Picnic in the Park’ coincided with a 4.72 km ‘Night Ride’ by cyclists of all ages along Suva city’s Nasese foreshore from the Muanikau Police Post towards Sukuna Park.
Suva city was the first of more than seven thousand cities in 187 countries and territories to celebrate Earth Hour and make a stand of shining a light for climate action.
More than 3,100 landmarks globally switched off their lights along with millions of individuals, corporate entities and businesses taking the stand to change climate change.
The country’s Reserve Bank of Fiji and ANZ Bank Fiji’s main branch, ANZ House also paid homage to the synonymous one hour switching off of non-essential lights.
Entertainment at Sukuna Park was led by veteran and renowned guitarist, Tom Mawi and his band along with local singers such as Simoni Vuatalevu, Savuto and the ever entertaining Fiji Conservatarium Group.
The chief guest at the event was Fiji’s Climate Change ambassador and Minister for Agriculture, Honorable Mr. Inia Seruiratu.
“Tonight, we come together as Fijians and as citizens of the world to shine a light on the urgent need for climate action to save our planet. As the climate champion of COP23, I’m very pleased to be here at Sukuna Park as we commemorate the tenth anniversary of Earth Hour,” said Mr. Seruiratu.
The Climate Change ambassador, Mr. Seruiratu added Earth Hour celebrations supported Fiji’s efforts in leading the fight in reducing carbon emissions and the impact of climate change on the global stage.
“As you all know, 2017 is a big year for Fiji as we are co-hosting the UN Oceans Conference in New York in June and our Honourable Prime Minister will also preside over COP23 on the ongoing negotiations in Germany in November. You might ask why a small country like us is doing all this. The answer is very simple; the future of Fiji is at stake. The future of our Pacific is at stake. The future of our planet is at stake. So we are taking these responsibilities not only for every Fijian or Pacific Islander but for all the 7.5 billion people on Earth.”
“Climate change threatens our agriculture, the food we eat, our drinking water, our land, our economy, and our security. More cyclones, more floods, more droughts, more sea level rises; our oceans are also threatened by pollution and overfishing and as Government we have decided to lead this fight for our very survival,” stressed Fiji’s COP23 ambassador.
Also speaking on the night, WWF’s Coral Triangle Coordination Team Leader, Ms. Jackie Thomas said the Earth Hour initiative was great way in making a unified stand for climate change action.
“It’s a call for unity, and a call to make a difference not only for Fiji but the Pacific. This requires us to take the initiative and to help change our environment through changing mindsets and behaviours and supporting the commitment made by the Fijian Government and the international committee to reduce carbon emissions and limit the global temperature rise to well below two degree Celsius."
"These are two pivotal agreements that were made at the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change. We must admit though that this is a massive task and cannot be achieved by Government alone and needs the support of Fijian citizens.”
“Your individual actions count such as moving towards organic farming production and also supporting clean energy technology. We also need to protect our environment such as native forests, rivers and streams, mangroves and sea grasses, and coral reefs; the very resources that sustains us and builds our resilience against the impacts of climate change."
"These actions that we are encouraging everyone to take and not necessarily to help save our environment but also to promote a healthier way of living and for our well-being and it can also help put more money into our pockets. I, personally thank each and every one of you for making time to come tonight and support this global movement to shine a light on climate action,” Ms. Thomas added.
2007 Nobel Peace Prize co-recipient on Climate Change, Professor Elisabeth Holland was also one the guest speakers of the night.
”I think with the leadership of the COP Presidency and with the leadership of Fiji in the UN General Assembly, we have an opportunity to really change how the world views us and to step into our leadership roles because we in the Pacific see the world in a different lens. We see a world where storm surges are already rising and the waves are already coming in. 30 metres on Koro Island with TC Winston. We know what danger is and we know that it is up to us to fight it."
"We need real leadership and that is the leadership Fiji is stepping into and I couldn’t be more proud to be on the team that’s helping support that leadership in negotiating the Paris Agreement. I was a very proud Earth mother so I am standing here in Earth Hour and as a proud Earth mother; I had 20 students, staff and alumni supporting eight different Pacific countries to help negotiate the Paris Agreement,” Dr. Holland added.
Dr. Holland added Fiji was well indeed punching over its weight in the international arena.
"Going into the Paris Agreement negotiations we had ten different declarations on key positions for where we stood as the Pacific on climate. Going into the negotiations of the Paris Agreement, we had the Suva Declaration, scientifically most robust Declaration to lead us through the path."
"Fiji was the first to ratify the Paris Agreement in the world. We know how to live in harmony with the environment. To bring the values we have learnt in the villages to build the foundation of tomorrow. So it’s not that we are leaving moral development behind, we are reaching out to the villages that are meant to be part of the solution for the future,” highlighted Dr. Holland.
Members of the public were also challenged to go beyond the hour.
“We also need you to act and no matter who you are or how old you are you can also make a difference and be a warrior for change. Turn off your lights and appliances when you don’t need them to conserve power. Plant a fruit garden in your backyard. Plant as many trees as you can. Buy locally produced food and support the local economy. Walk or use a bicycle to save fuel."
"And making a commitment, as of Monday I will start walking to the office. Don’t rubbish our country. Pick up litter and keep our beaches and coastlines clean. These things may seem small but if we all do them we can really make a difference,” urged Fiji’s Climate Change ambassador, Mr. Seruiratu.
"We cannot continue to wait for leadership from the rest of the world. We will lead by example, to zero carbon and low carbon development showing the rest of the world how it is done. We will decide as individuals to leave less carbon intensive lives and that’s what the bicycle is. The beautiful dinner and all the Fiji food we had tonight. Those are cutting carbon."
"Those are cutting our carbon emissions that are driving climate change. By the end of this century, we are looking at a meter of sea level rise. Over the last century, sea level has risen by this much and that is the sort of force we saw at Winston with the 30 metre waves. By the end of this century we are looking at a meter of sea level rise but for all the carbon we are emitting now we are looking at metres and metres of sea level rise in the years to come,” said Dr. Elisabeth Holland.
The Earth Hour initiative started ten years ago by WWF-Australia and this year various campaigns around the world focused on critical climate issues such as renewable energy, sustainable lifestyles and stronger climate policy to bring about concrete change.