Published 24 October 2018

It's incredibly encouraging to see how many countries have now signed up to this initiative, in my grandmother's name, to preserve forests throughout the Commonwealth

The Duke of Sussex

Bula Vinaka! 

It's great to be here today in Colo-i-Suva to visit one of Fiji's two dedications to The Queen's Commonwealth Canopy (QCC) and an honour to do so alongside all of you who have contributed to conserving Fiji’s natural environment.

It's incredibly encouraging to see how many countries have now signed up to this initiative, in my grandmother's name, to preserve forests throughout the Commonwealth.

As of last week, 42 out of the 53 member countries are now part of the project - Kiribati being the most recent addition – and my hope is that the others will join soon.

Forests are crucial to the survival of our planet and all Fijians should be proud of your largely unspoilt environment. 

However, climate change is having a significant impact on Fiji.  In fact, a World Bank Report 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
- Disruption to agriculture as the intrusion of saltwater damages existing farmland

In summary, this country is highly susceptible to the impacts of climate change, and it is having a profound effect on people’s lives.  

Just 6 years ago, Fiji’s Vunitogaloa became the first village in the world to begin relocating to higher ground due to sea level rise. Since then, 5 more villages have been moved.  

In the next 18 months, I have been told 10 more will be relocated, and within the next couple of years, it is expected that over 40 villages will be displaced.  

We cannot ignore the reality of what is happening around us.  But thankfully, good work is also being done. I have been impressed by the Fijian understanding of how to work sustainably with your surroundings.  I’ve seen today how pandanus trees that grow in Coli-i-Suva can be used in the weaving of traditional mats.  I’ve heard from local people and companies about how the preservation of the environment helps attract tourists, further contributing to the local economy.   

All of you depend on this beautiful piece of rainforest in some way.  This delicately balanced eco-system serves you so well and there is an obligation to protect it for the benefit of the next generation. 

It is a precious resource that, once lost, can never be replaced.  So I am truly delighted and grateful today to see you celebrating and honouring this extraordinary gift of nature.

On behalf of Her Majesty, it is a great pleasure for me to welcome Coli-i-Suva to The Queen's Commonwealth Canopy.