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Our Beautiful Planet: Pacific Paradise at risk

November 16, 2017

Fiji holds the presidency for this year's UN Climate Change Conference, taking place in Bonn, Germany. The island archipelago boasts stunning natural beauty - but it’s already suffering the effects of global warming.

Fidschi Inseln Korallenriff Klimawandel Erderwärmung
Image: Imago/alimdi

Fijian Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama is also the COP 23 President – a role which would normally entail hosting the UN Climate Change Conference. However, the country lacks the resources to host the summit on the island archipelago itself. As the summit wraps up in the German city of Bonn, delegates from Fiji are hoping to draw attention to the existential threat their country faces from global warming. Breathtaking images from the island show just what’s at stake when it comes to protecting our planet.

The Republic of Fiji, home to around one million people, is made up of more than 330 islands in the South Pacific Ocean, around a third of which are permanently inhabited. It’s famous for its soft coral, which grows in shrub-like swathes on its many reefs. The country is a hotspot for diving enthusiasts and a leader in eco-tourism, with a warm climate all year round.

But it’s warming temperatures which are putting in the islands at risk: some areas have already become uninhabitable due to rising sea levels. Parts of the island’s coral reef systems have been affected by ocean acidification – carbon pollution that increases the ocean’s acidity. The London School of Economics estimates that climate change could result in the displacement of up to 1.7 million people across the Pacific Islands by 2050.

Fiji’s government is determined to address this vulnerability, and called on world leaders at the COP 23 summit for support. In a report done with the World Bank, the South Pacific nation said it is spending almost 10 percent of its gross domestic product to guard against natural disasters, more than four times the level of five years ago.

"As the President of the COP23 and on behalf of the small island nations, […] Fiji is asking the world for drastic action […]so that climate change does not impose a limit to our development," Prime Minister Bainimarama said in the report.