The search for new opportunities and the certainty of reliable services and infrastructure has fuelled an unprecedented rise in rural-to-urban drift.
And as governments, we can certainly stem that rising tide by levelling the playing field across rural and urban regions.
These were the opening remarks delivered by the Prime Minister Honourable Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama while officiating at the first-ever UN Habitat Assembly roundtable discussions on Infrastructure, Cities and Local Action (ICLA) in Nairobi, Kenya on Tuesday, May 28 (Kenya date).
Themed as Mobilising Commitments for the Climate Action Summit 2019, the three-day high-level Assembly features about 3000 delegates from 116 countries.
PM Bainimarama said the ministerial gathering represented a critical opportunity to spur a global re-imagining of how our cities and infrastructure networks could power sustainable development.
“Prolonged droughts, rising soil salinity levels, and severe weather events are forcing rural populations to seek the relative safety and economic security of urban environments,” he said.
“Many cities themselves face deep vulnerabilities to rising seas, worsening floods and other devastating climate impacts. Our cities are at a crossroad; they must either evolve into models of resilience or crumble into continuous sources of climate crises.”
UN Habitat Executive Director Ms Maimunah Mohd Sharif said they were honoured to have PM Bainimarama at the Assembly, adding he is a great champion of climate change action.
She said there was a need to accelerate resilient protection for the people not to move into urban areas.
“There’s an urgent need to implement actions and not just plans. There’s no time to lose,” she said.
At the roundtable discussions, PM Bainimarama also shared Fiji’s plans of adapting the country’s towns, cities and rural communities in the face of a changing climate.
“We’ve already embarked on an urban planning initiative with the Singaporean Government that is placing low-emissions and climate-resilient strategies at the heart of our urban development agenda,” he said.
“Our efforts to build resilience must be matched with decisive cuts in global carbon emissions otherwise, climate impacts will intensify to a scale beyond any nation’s ability to manage.
“Presently, our collective global commitments fall short of where they need to be, placing our planet on track for three degrees Celsius of warming above pre-industrial levels. That is a nightmare scenario that we cannot allow to unfold.
“The sustainability of cities, towns and communities of the future will be determined by the strength of those commitments today. Let the weight of the enormous responsibility inspire us with conviction throughout our discussions, both at this Assembly and beyond.”