Tal av Isabella Lövin vid Pacific Small Island Developing States Ministerial Meeting

Tal av Isabella Lövin vid Pacific Small Island Developing States Ministerial Meeting, Nuku'alofa, Tonga, 10 februari 2016.

Det talade ordet gäller.

President Tong, Prime Minister Pohiva, cardinals, excellencies, ministers, ambassadors, all protocols observed,

I am proud and honoured to be the first Swedish Minister ever to visit the Pacific island states.

I would like to start by expressing my sincere gratitude to Tonga for organising this conference and for showing great hospitality to the Swedish delegation. I am very grateful for having the opportunity to address you all here today on the most important environmental and human challenges of our time: climate change and the protection of our oceans.

Since my Government came into power 18 months ago, the relationship between Sweden and the Pacific island states has developed tremendously. In March last year, President Tong of Kiribati became the first ever Pacific island leader to visit Sweden. I am now extremely happy to be able to repay his visit and visit Kiribati next week. He was followed by former President Loeak of the Marshall Islands in August. I hope that more of you will follow suit and visit Sweden.

Our countries may be far apart, but they are very close to each other when it comes to facing our common global challenges.

Climate change

For many years we have talked about climate change as something that may happen in the future, many years from now. We used to say that if we don't manage to cut emissions and build a more environmentally friendly economy, there will be consequences in the future for our children and grandchildren.

But you and I know that this isn't true. You know and I know that climate change is real, and that it's already here. I know that glaciers are melting in the mountains of Sweden, and you know that the sea level is rising. I know firestorms have ravaged our forests as never before, and you now that storms are coming more often and that freshwater resources are under threat.

You saw it last year when Cyclone Pam caused widespread devastation and destroyed the homes of 75 000 people, laying waste to almost all the food crops.

But there is one important difference between our situations: climate change is affecting us all, but climate change threatens your very existence. Not with troops. Not with tanks. But with extreme weather, rising sea levels and ocean acidification.

And you are very right in pointing out another fact: you haven't caused climate change. You haven't contributed substantially to the emissions that are changing our world.

Neither have the poor people of Bolivia that are seeing their fresh water disappear because the glaciers are disappearing, or the 30 million people that will see their land disappear in Bangladesh.

But we have.

That is another reason we share this and why I am here today, because I truly believe that we all have the responsibility to cooperate in facing these challenges.

Paris

Having said this, I would like to say on a positive note that Paris was a huge success. It was crucial that we were able to reach a legally binding agreement in Paris, aiming for the much desired 1.5 degree target. I met some representatives of your countries there, and I was happy to experience the active role that you played in the meeting.

Two things were of crucial importance in Paris. For the first time in history, the discussions focused on the opportunities rather that the burdens. Green growth is not just a beautiful but unrealistic slogan – it is possible to have development and economic growth without carbon emissions. This was the overwhelming message of the conference, not least from the private sector and investors. Secondly, there were a number of countries that stepped up and took on special commitments.

I'm proud to say that Sweden is one of those countries.

I'm also proud to say that the Swedish Government has expressed the intention of Sweden becoming one of the first fossil-free welfare nations in the world, and we hope that other countries will follow suit.

We are doing this because it is our responsibility, but also because it is economically smart.

I've understood that your countries are extremely dependent on imported petroleum to meet your energy needs. I'm sure that you are all aware of the fact that this is not only a climate issue, but also "a major source of economic vulnerability", as you say yourself in the SAMOA Pathway from 2014.

I think that you have enormous potential when it comes to renewable energy. Not just for building a more environmentally friendly energy system, but also for creating jobs and making yourselves less dependent on energy imports. I look forward to working with you to release this potential through partners such as UNDP and Sustainable Energy for All, where I'm part of the Advisory Board.

I am convinced that the future is green, and I am sure that we can work together to make it come true.

Climate support

One of the main purposes of my visit here is to follow up on the success in Paris.

Sweden has taken a leading role on climate finance. We are the largest donor per capita to the Green Climate Fund and other major climate funds.

But it is not just about the numbers. We also need to ensure that the money reaches those who need it most. We strongly support the very special status of the Small Island Developing States, which are the countries most affected by rising sea levels and extreme weather.

One good example is the Green Climate Fund grant to the Fiji Urban Water Supply and Wastewater Management Project that was awarded in November to ensure access to fresh water access to regular and safe piped water and an environment friendly sewerage systemand an environmentally friendly sewage system.

But I also know many of you have problems gaining access to these funds. They may be too donor-driven or too complicated, etc.

Therefore, later this spring, I intend to gather Swedish expertise and representatives from the larger climate funds in New York and have discussions with your New York-based representatives on how to ensure ready access to the financial means at hand.

We will continue this important work to ensure that the money is used in the best way. Those most in need should be first in line.

Goal 14

I love the oceans. I love them so much that I actually wrote a book entitled Silent Seas about overfishing some years ago.

It makes me so sad that seven out of ten fish stocks in the world are fully or over-exploited. That in ten years' time it is predicted that we will have one ton of plastic in the ocean for every three tons of fish. That one out of every five fish is caught illegally. That acidification is threatening coral reefs and the very zooplankton fish feed on. That the warming of our oceans is changing ocean currents, and migratory fish are changing their patterns and disappearing from your fishing grounds.

In a way it's a bit misleading that you call yourselves small island states, when in fact you are truly large ocean states.

As you are all completely aware, the world's oceans and seas are fundamental in eradicating poverty and creating food security. It also goes without saying that there could be serious implications if we fail to manage this issue.

For you, it's a matter of life and death.

Goal 14 of the 2030 Agenda offers a great opportunity for sustainable and comprehensive management of the oceans and seas. I'm happy to say that Sweden and Fiji will work together to ensure that Goal 14 will be achieved, and I invite you all to the conference that we will arrange together in 2017.

New regional strategy

I've mentioned some of the areas where I think we could deepen our cooperation, but I think there are more.

The Swedish Government is currently discussing a new regional strategy for Asia for 2016–2020, and we have decided to also include the Pacific in this strategy. The regional strategy focuses on issues of a cross-boundary nature, or challenges shared by many countries in the nexus of climate change and human rights. I hope that the insights and knowledge gained on this trip will serve as very valuable input for that work.

As many of you know, Sweden is a candidate to the UN Security Council 2017–2018. I know we have a lot of support in this room, and I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to you.

If elected to the UNSC, Sweden will be a champion of the small-state perspective and will prioritise putting climate issues on the UNSC agenda. Sweden will be a convener and consensus-builder on the Council and wants to advance PSIDS perspectives and maintain close dialogue with the group on UNSC issues.

To conclude, our countries may be far away geographically, but we are very close to each other when it comes to facing our common global challenges. It's important that you keep punching above your weight in international negotiations, and I know that our meeting here will provide ample opportunity to further discuss issues that are of vital importance to us all.

I look forward to taking part in the discussions and to seeing more of your beautiful region. Thank you.