Reflecting on COP28: A Fijian Climate Negotiator's Journey

Reflecting on COP28:
A Fijian Climate Negotiator's Journey

BY Filimone Tuivanualevu
03 / 04 / 2024
Filimone Tuivanualevu represents Fiji during a plenary at COP28. Image credit: Author's own.

Being in Dubai

Reflecting on my experiences at COP28, I am filled with emotions - hope, frustration, determination, and perhaps a hint of exhaustion. This being my third COP, I had hoped to see significant progress in global climate action, yet the reality is far more complex.

Dubai is a lot to absorb for someone from the island nation of Fiji. Getting accustomed to the people, culture, means of transportation, and Dubai lifestyle was an experience. With that in mind, one could only imagine what awaits at COP28, and I was not disappointed. From the get-go, you could see the efforts put into ensuring the effective and efficient movement of people and limiting delays.

Inside the Negotiations

The urgency of the climate crisis has never been more apparent, with extreme weather events wreaking havoc on communities worldwide. As a representative of Fiji, a nation already feeling the devastating impacts of climate change, my role at COP28 felt weightier than ever. Our islands are on the frontlines of this crisis, facing rising sea levels, increasingly severe cyclones, and threats to our existence.

Throughout the negotiations, I witnessed inspiring moments of unity and frustrating impasses. At times, nations came together, recognizing the need for bold, collective action. But there were also moments of division, where short-term interests overshadowed the greater good. As a small island developing state, navigating these dynamics is a constant challenge.

I, for one, had low expectations of the finalization of the major agenda items due to my past experiences at COP. However, with COP28, I noticed the effective use of great facilitators, which drove significant outputs and headliners. On the first day of the opening plenary, the Loss and Damage Fund report by the Transitional Committee on the operationalization of the Fund was adopted. As a negotiator following Loss and Damage, I was ecstatic knowing I would not have spent long hours negotiating and coming to a much-needed consensus.

However, I soon understood that the real work would begin to determine how practical and valuable the fund would be to Small Island Development States like Fiji. The financing mechanism adopted by the fund will be crucial in ensuring the most vulnerable receive the assistance that is needed in a timely and efficient time. More important is learning from the financing gaps and barriers experienced with other multilateral climate financing opportunities that we often reach out to for support for resilient building.

One of the highlights of COP28 was the increased focus on adaptation and resilience-building efforts. It was heartening to see greater acknowledgment of the unique vulnerabilities faced by countries like Fiji and the importance of supporting adaptation initiatives. However, much work must be done to ensure adequate financing and resources reach those most in need.

Mitigation efforts also took center stage, with discussions around emission reduction targets and the transition to renewable energy sources. While progress has been made, it is clear that we need to ramp up our efforts to limit global warming to manageable levels.

COP28 key takeaways

However, the most significant takeaway from COP28 is the recognition that climate action cannot happen in isolation. We need a holistic approach that addresses environmental concerns and social and economic justice. Indigenous rights, gender equality, and intergenerational equity must all be central to our efforts to build a more sustainable and just world.

I have renewed purpose and determination as I return home to Fiji. COP28 may not have delivered all the outcomes we hoped for, but it has reinforced the importance of perseverance and solidarity in facing adversity. The road ahead will undoubtedly be challenging, but I am hopeful that together, we can rise to the occasion and secure a brighter future for generations to come. I hope that we continue to build our resilience as large ocean states and amplify our voices against the climate injustices we continue to face, bearing the brunt of the impacts of climate change.

Filimone Tuivanualevu, from the Fiji Islands, plays a pivotal role in Climate Change Policy development and multilateral negotiations for the Fiji Government. His work emphasises adaptation and resilience building, with a strong focus on nature-based solutions and sustainable development, particularly for Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Filimone is also deeply invested in exploring innovative and enabling financing mechanisms to support these crucial initiatives. His efforts are key in mitigating climate impacts in Fiji, offering valuable insights and strategies that can be applied to similar island nations. Through his dedication, Filimone is helping to shape a resilient and sustainable future for SIDS in the face of the global climate crisis.