Polynesian Leaders Group Conference on Climate Change


Papeete - Tahiti


Wednesday 15 July 2015





Honourable Premier of Niue, Chairman of the Polynesian Leaders Group, dear Toke,

Honourable Prime Minister of Samoa,

Honourable Prime Minister of the Cook Islands,

Honourable Prime Minister of Tuvalu,  

Honourable Prime Minister of Tonga, 

Honourable Ulu of Tokelau,

Honourable High Commissioner of the French Republic in French Polynesia,

Honourable Vice-President of the Government of New Caledonia,

Honourable Senator of Wallis and Futuna,

Honourable Speaker of the Assembly of French Polynesia,

Mrs. the Senator of French Polynesia,

Honourable Senator, Vice-President of French Polynesia,

Distinguished Ministers of the Government of French Polynesia,

Your Excellency, Ambassador, Permanent Secretary for the Pacific,

Mr. the President of the Economic, Social and Cultural Council,

Distinguished Advisers to the President of the French Republic,

Mr. the Director-General of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme

Distinguished Delegates,

Dear friends,



It is an honour and a privilege for me to greet you here at the Presidential palace of French Polynesia, for the opening of the Polynesian Leaders Conference on climate change.


French Polynesia (Tahiti) is happy and proud to greet its friends and brothers from thePolynesian Group.


I know you all went to great lengths to make yourselves available and come to Tahiti, despite a busy regional agenda, between a Forum Foreign Affairs Ministers’ meeting in Sydney and the closing ceremony of the 15th Pacific Games in Papua New Guinea.


I sincerely thank you for coming.


I attended myself, on July 4th, the Coronation ceremony of the King of Tonga and I would like, on behalf of all of us, to extend again here, dear Mr Prime Minister  Akilisi Pohiva, our warmest congratulations and best wishes to His Majesty King Tupou VI.


I also wish to congratulate the Prime Minister of Samoa for the excellent rubgy game against the All Blacks. Unfortunately ManuSamoa did not quite thrash the All Blacks….but managed to come out with a fair score…..perhaps because we were not there to support your team.


I also would like to salute the presence, as observers, of our sister communities from New Caledonia and Wallis and Futuna, represented respectively by Mr. Jean-Louis d’Anglebermes, Vice-President of the Government, and Brother Robert Laufaoulu, Senator.


Most of all, I would like to thank the President of the Republic, Mr. François Hollande, who honours us with the participation of his Ambassador, Permanent Secretary for the Pacific, his Excellency Mr. Christian Lechervy, his Adviser for International Negotiations on climate change and environment, Mrs. Marie-Hélène Aubert, and his Adviser for Overseas Matters, Mr. Marc Vizy.


Finally, I also would like to thank for his presence Mr David Sheppard, the Director-General of SPREP, which is the lead organisation for international negotiations on climate issues in the Pacific.


To all, I warmly greet you with IA ORANA, MAEVA E MANAVA.




We have gathered today to discuss a vital subject matter for the future of our islands and our communities. I am talking about climate change and its threats to our environment, our social cohesion and our economic development prospects.


The objective of our conference is to enable PLG Members to adopt a common position on the stakes and challenges of climate change, and to make our voice heard at the highest level at the end of the year in Paris, at the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.


The stakes are high for the international community since we need to agree on containing global warming below 2°C by 2100.


Polynesian countries and territories are all, in different ways and scales, facing the threats of climate change. It was therefore natural that they unite their efforts and speak with one voice to defend their vision and their concerns in front of the dangers affecting them.



And it was also only natural for them to express their message through the “Polynesian Leaders Group”, whose mission, according to its founding charter is “to promote and protect Polynesian cultures, traditions, languages and to achieve sustainable development and prosperity through working together in the spirit of mutual understanding and cooperation.




I would like here to pay tribute to those who, on 17 November 2011, in Apia, set up this regional group of dialogue and cooperation, gathering Polynesian peoples and countries, and I can recognise around this table some of the founding leaders at that time. Honourable Prime Minister of Samoa, Honourable Prime Minister of the Cook Islands, Honourable Premier of Niue who is our chair today, thank you for this founding act.


You were right to establish the Polynesian Leaders Group because diplomacy is also a matter of human and cultural sensitiveness. We breathe the same air, we share the same ocean, we share the same rains and sometimes the same cyclones. But, I think that, what we really want, is to bring our peoples together, to share our experiences and in some cases our concerns and, hopefully, to jointly support projects.


We share a common heritage through Havaiki. This is why tomorrow we will go to that island of Havaiki, on marae Taputapuatea, to sign our PACT Declaration: Polynesia Against Climate Threats. That marae is located at the centre of gravity of the Polynesian triangle and is currently in the process of being listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. It is on that sacred Polynesian site that we will seal our common will to save our communities and our islands.


We share the same DNA. French Polynesia has always had an open attitude towards its Pacific brothers. Within our means and given our privileged situation within the French Republic, we have always wanted to act in solidarity with the various peoples of the Pacific, mainly when they go through hardships. I remember that in the beginning of 2004, after Cyclone Heta had devastated Niue, we participated in the reconstruction of part of that island. We also provided humanitarian support to the Cook Islands, Vava’u in Tonga and recently to Vanuatu in the wake of cyclone Pam last March.


Today, despite the economic crisis that strikes us, we want to keep on talking with our neighbours and to get involved in major joint initiatives, especially as we live in a globalised world and that no country in the world can now escape globalisation.


In that spirit, I would like to suggest that, at an appropriate time in a next meeting, we discuss the manner in which we could strengthen our exchange and communications means. In this regard, let me just mention two possible avenues for reflection:


-            First, a submarine cable project that would connect Asia to South America passing through our Pacific Islands, in the interest of our communities who wish today to be connected with their friends, their relatives, their companies, to follow the news and have access to the knowledge provided by the Internet.


When talking about Information and Communications Technology (ITC) we are not getting off the topic for which we have gathered today: climate change. Indeed, technology plays a major and growing role in our societies as it is obvious that ITCs will bring innovative approaches so that we can get prepared, adapt ourselves and accompany climate change and its effects.


-            Air transports follow the same logic. For many people, airplane is a polluting object. For us, island people, it is a remarkable means of adaptation. The IPCC experts (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) say that we are even more vulnerable to climate change because we are isolated and remote. You will understand that with improved air services between our islands, we would feel less remote and less isolated. I have a dream that one day we manage together, with the support of our regional and international airlines, to re-establish the “Coral Route” that connected our islands until the 80s.


My dear friends, there are and will be plenty of project ideas for the future. It is the strength  of our ties and mutual trust that will enable us to lay the foundations of closer co-operation and to build a part of our path and prosperity together, for the well-being of future generations.




For the time being, we have gathered in Papeete to jointly state, with one voice, our concern to protect our communities against climate change. This meeting is part of the preparatory process for the COP21 major meeting in Paris.


As I said to the President of the French Republic in Noumea last November at the headquarters of SPC, it is important that small developing island nations - small in terms of land area but large in terms of the area they occupy on the ocean - and in particular fragile communities living on them, be at the centre of the attention of great powers, and in particular that of France, which can bring significant support to our Pacific Island countries, and through France, the whole European Union. Small island nations are and still will be the first victims of the unselfconscious attitude of the modern world towards the environment.


To me, it was important that we could speak with one voice, express ourselves with one faith, and strongly voice our concerns for our Pacifc brothers and sisters who, unwillingly, will be the first to pay a heavy price for the inconsistencies of the international community.


But climate change should not only put us on the defensive, as victims. It should also be an opportunity to put forward our outstanding assets and capacity to adapt. We are the “people of the canoe” that sailed across the biggest ocean of the planet, and we are not afraid of the challenges ahead of us. Climate change offers new opportunities for sustainable development that we need to grasp.




In order to better prepare our meeting and our participation in COP21, we wanted to have the latest scientific evidence about climate change impacts, particularly on low-lying islands and coastal areas of Polynesia. This is why, with the support of France, we initiated the scientific symposium on the vulnerability of Polynesian islands, which took place in Papeete from last 30 June to July 2nd.  The most salient findings of the symposium and its main recommendations will be presented to you this morning and I wish to take this opportunity to sincerely congratulate Mr Tamatoa BAMBRIDGE/Research Director at CRIOBE for his contribution.


It is my hope that the declaration we are going to officially adopt at the end of our conference on the “Marae of Taputapuatea” be heard at the highest level of the International community and bear fruit through an agreement of the Parties at COP21 in Paris.


Finally, I would not like to conclude without thanking my friend Reverend John Doom for his magnificent opening prayer. I am sure this will keep us in the spirit of brotherhood and lead us in the pursuit of the common good for all our communities.


I wish you all, an excellent stay in French Polynesia. May God bestow upon you his Peace and his blessings.


Mauru’uru roa and thank you for your attention.

Gouvernement Fritch sept. 2014 - jan. 2017

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