Fiji steals show at UN climate change talks

climate change

Fiji has turned a tiny part of Germany into a tropical Pacific island as it leads global negotiations on climate change, and so securing a stage for islanders’ worries about rising sea levels.

Fiji is the first small island state to preside at UN climate negotiations since they began in the 1990s.

The country’s chief negotiator, Nazhat Shameem Khan, said others should not underestimate small states.

“If you think you’re too small to make an impact, try going to bed with a mosquito,” she said, attributing the quote to Anita Roddick, the founder of the cosmetics company The Body Shop.

Fiji’s hosting of COP23 is significant because low-lying islands are playing the role of canary in the mine of international climate negotiations.

“Fiji being the chair this year sort of brings it home,” said Rebecca Eastwood, advocacy coordinator for the Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach.

As the sea level rises, Pacific island leaders have begun facing the difficult decision of displacement for some of the 1.7 million inhabitants.

“They won’t have anywhere to go. And so I think that’s as stark an example as you can find on the impacts on small island nations,” Eastwood said.

Fiji has enlivened a conference centre in Bonn, Germany, with canoes, dancers, huge photographs of palm-fringed islands, virtual reality shows and flowers.

At the indoor Fijian pavilion, delegates can also try out virtual reality glasses with 360-degree views showing young people re-building homes devastated by mudslides.

“We wanted to think ‘how do we bring Fiji to Germany?'” co-director Kvaku Aning said. “Short of being able to smell it, or feel the rain or the sun on you, this is the best thing.”

Many delegates say the Fijian approach makes an often abstract debate about greenhouse gas emissions more real. “It delivers a really stark message,” said Elina Bardram, head of the European Commission delegation.

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News category: Asia Pacific.

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