Fiji marked an exciting beginning to the month, as the Crusaders came to Suva from New Zealand to play the Chiefs in a Super Rugby match – a packed-out game that we Fijians met with great fanfare. The match is now history, a 40-27 loss for the Crusaders, but after the cheers died down and the crowds filed out of the stadium, the team left something that will endure for generations.
It may seem to some that the Crusaders' act of planting 12,000 mangrove seedlings on the shore of Fiji's largest island in conjunction with Fiji Airways was a simple act designed to generate good will among the Fijian public. In my opinion, it was symbolic of much more.
We are facing a climate crisis, and fighting climate change will take unprecedented effort by governments, citizens and organisations of all kinds, working together and separately along several fronts. Certainly, we need to adapt to the new conditions that climate change is bringing, and we need to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide we release into the atmosphere. We also need to develop and adopt natural climate solutions that can be implemented worldwide — in other words, strengthen the role of nature in removing carbon dioxide from the earth's atmosphere.
We need extraordinary contributions at all levels of society, from all corners, in all sectors. The Crusaders' small act one afternoon in Fiji reminds us that we need all hands on deck.
We are facing several stark facts. One is that if the global temperature continues to rise unchecked, we will reach a point that exceeds our ability to adapt. And, ultimately, no country, city or community will be immune to this nightmare scenario.
Another is that we can't achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement by reducing emissions alone. We will have to find ways to take more of the carbon we produce out of the atmosphere. Forests can do that. Grass and peatlands can do that. Urban and rooftop gardens can do that. And mangroves can certainly do that, in addition to filtering contamination and offering habitat for marine life to reproduce and flourish.
Together with China, New Zealand will lead the effort to promote natural climate solutions at the United Nations Secretary General's Climate Summit in September, and Fiji will give strong support to our Pacific friend and neighbour.
In the Pacific, we understand the stakes as well as anyone. We are adopting aggressive targets for carbon reduction, and we will press other countries to do the same. All developed and advanced developing economies need to develop short-term plans to increase their national targets by 2020, as well as long-term plans to arrive at net carbon neutrality by 2050.
But, in addition, we need to develop more tools that will allow us to reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. Countries can do more to include natural climate solutions in national climate targets, which would help drive demand for finance. And, similarly, at the international level, we can do more to use the flexibility allowed by the Paris Agreement to develop partnerships to protect and restore forests.
What does this have to do with the Crusaders? It is a simple fact that virtually all human activity has a carbon footprint, and that includes sports. Teams travel in aircraft. They play at night under lights and consume energy for facilities. People arrive at games in cars and buses. It is the price we pay for the enjoyment of watching world-class competition, such as that offered by the Crusaders and the Chiefs.
While the sporting sector – and all other sectors for that matter – need to urgently explore ways to reduce the emissions caused by their activities, they will not be able to reduce them to zero immediately. Some amount of air travel, for example, will remain necessary. That's why we need to invest in nature as a way to achieve "net-zero," when emissions are balanced with removals.
The Crusaders have taken some of their carbon back, paying forward with a renewed mangrove that will mature and grow and serve as part of Fiji's natural climate solution well into the future.
We now need businesses, investors, and governments to step up and support these efforts and bring them to a scale that can really make a difference.
The climate crisis is upon us. Fighting it is a monumental task for governments working together. But governments can't do it alone. We need extraordinary contributions at all levels of society, from all corners, in all sectors. The Crusaders' small act one afternoon in Fiji reminds us that we need all hands on deck. Only then may we be able to turn this crisis into an opportunity to live better.
Frank Bainimarama is the Prime Minister of Fiji