‘We cannot ignore the reality of what’s happening around us’
ARRIVING IN Suva, the heart of Fiji late yesterday from Hervey Bay, Australia, HRH Prince Harry dedicated his first official day of engagements to speaking about climate change and forest conservation.
This morning, the Duke of Sussex visited Colo-I-Suva rainforest, just a 15 minute drive from the capital, where he was greeted by members of the local community and school children.
There, he unveiled a plaque erected in the name of the queen, adding the forest to the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy project.
Colo-I-suva is the second forest dedicated to the project by Prince Harry, after he unveiled another plaque on Fraser Island earlier this week.
Beside the plaque, the Duke planted an indigenous tree, locally known as Dakua, endemic to Fiji, which is threatened by logging activities.
In his speech, the Duke spoke about the challenges climate change presents to Fijians, particularly sea level rise.
“The World Bank found that there will be increasing rates of disease as average temperatures rise, increasingly destructive storms as oceans get warmer and weather patterns become more severe, and the intrusion of saltwater on agriculture, which will harm local farmland.”
He also spoke about the impact climate change is already having on local communities of similar size to the Colo-I-Suva community.
“This country is highly susceptible to the impacts of climate change and it’s having a profound effect on people’s lives.
“Just six years ago, Vunidogoloa became the first village to relocate to higher ground due to sea level rise. Since then five more have been moved. In the next 18 months, 10 more will be relocated. And in the next couple of years its expected that over 40 villages will be displaced.
“We cannot ignore the reality of what’s happening around us,” he said.
Prior to the unveiling of the plaque at Colo-I-Suva, both the Duke and Duchess visited the University of the South Pacific campus in Suva to mark its 50th anniversary. There, they were treated to a performance by the Oceania Dance Troupe that was inspired by the impacts of climate change.
The Duke and Duchess will travel west to Nadi to dedicate another forest to the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy, then, tomorrow evening, the couple will travel to Tonga. From there, they’ll make their way back to Sydney for the Australian Geographic Gala Awards night, where they’ll be presenting the youth awards and the Prince will give a speech on conservation.