Two years ago, an agreement was reached at Conference of the Parties ( COP) 21 in Paris, an agreement with limitations but also possibilities. In November it is time for COP 23. This time in Bonn, Germany, however, the host country is Fiji.

It was a different world in 2015, nothing was stopping the
Fiji is the first Small Island Nation to host climate talks at COP 23
agreement in Paris, not even the threat of terrorism. Today, the threat of terrorism is still present, but we have a US President who has decided to leave the Paris Agreement. On top of that, the threat of a nuclear war seems to be real again. In the UK, Brexit steals the spotlight in the news, unless President Trump tweets, and climate change is underreported.

We have seen huge storms in the Caribbean and the US in the last few months. Storms that have likely grown bigger because of climate change. Fiji were struck by the biggest cyclone ever to make landfall in the southern hemisphere last year, a third of the nation’s GDP was lost. Fiji is living with climate change right now. So is COP 23 important? Yes, but mostly because it will set the rules for COP24 in Poland and the 2018 Facilitative Dialogue, which will be “taking stock” on countries Nationally Determined Contributions and hopefully increase the ambition of the Paris Agreement. Fiji has also expressed hopes for bringing the target of limiting global warming from well below 2°C to 1.5°C.

The fact that Fiji is hosting the talks is important, the first Small Island nation to do so. At Birmingham Friends of the Earth we are campaigning for the rights of climate refugees and we are pleased to see the Prime Minister of Fiji, Frank Bainimarama, mentioning climate refugees in his speech at the UN General Assembly in September.

Even though Fiji is facing major challenges with whole villages being moved due to rising seas, salinity affecting crops and the constant threat of devastating cyclones, they have still promised refuge neighbouring islands Kiribati and Tuvalu, refugee, should they lose their own to the waves. That shows great compassion and we can all learn from Fiji. And as the Prime Minister of Fiji says – “we are all in the same canoe”.