CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: The $6 million that we have announced will provide funding to support Fiji's Presidency. That will comprise of $4 million for the establishment and the operation of Fiji's COP23 Secretariat, and $2 million to support regional consultations. Our funding, we believe, is important because it will ensure that all Pacific countries will have an opportunity to contribute to the Presidency and, more importantly, to have their views heard by the rest of the world in bond.  It is very important that Fiji's Presidency does go well. This is the first time in the 20-year history of the convention that a small island developing state will preside over a COP, and, of course, the Presidency is an enormous task for any country, let alone a country small island developing state like Fiji. As Prime Minister Bainimarama himself has said, it is by far the biggest and the most important task that Fiji has been given in almost half a century as an independent nation.     

RICHARD EWART: So between now and November, that $2 million allocated to support regional consultations – I mean, how many consultations do you think there might be? Because clearly the objective that you are suggesting is to not so much support a Fijian point of view, they hold the Presidency, but absolutely a Pacific point of view at COP 23.

CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: It is important that there be a Pacific contribution. This is an area that is very much an affected area, there are major challenges. We are, for example, on the issue of natural disasters, the Pacific has seven of the ten most disaster prone countries. Therefore we know,  we have helped in Winston,  we have helped in Pam and we will continue to help. We are at the coal face here in the Pacific of dealing with issues consequent to climate events. For us, a successful COP is in everyone's interest, not just in Fiji's interest. We are very pleased that other donors are also supporting Fiji. The European Union has announced €3 million in support; the Asian Development Bank will provide US$1.5 million; Germany will cover, of course, that €70 million cost of the physical hosting of COP; and other governments, we hope, are expected to announce further assistance shortly.

RICHARD EWART: Presumably, though, one of those governments is highly unlikely to be the United States. I mean, is that really what COP23 is going to be all about now – trying to persuade Donald Trump to stick with the Paris Climate Agreement?

CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: Well, the US has ratified the Paris Agreement and the new Administration has not stated a view on the Paris Agreement. We do not want to speculate on US intentions. I mean, we place high value on this work and we are committed to implementing our international commitments. So, I think at this stage, it is not appropriate to speculate on what US's intentions may be.

RICHARD EWART: How would you characterise the Australian Government's relationship with the Pacific now on the subject of climate change? It is not so very long ago that there was a wave of criticism from the Pacific Island Nations about the direction that Canberra was heading, but is seems now perhaps you are very much on the same page.

CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS: Well, we certainly are very, very involved with the Pacific. Recently, we also participated in a regional consultation process in the lead up to the Oceans Conference. We have made it very, very clear that we want a regional wide position, and, certainly, we have participated and contributed to the work of that regional process. Australia is demonstrating by its actions – through its support of Pacific Island Nations – that this is our neighbourhood; we are the largest neighbour in the street. So, therefore, it is incumbent on us to support our neighbourhood and we try and do this in very practical ways. The work that we do in the climate change space, and the action that we are taking in the Pacific, is a very strong demonstration of the strong relationships that we do have and continue to have with our Pacific neighbours.

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