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By Ajay Bhai Amrit in Suva

Critics in Fiji are concerned about climate change hypocrisy at the COP26 Leaders Summit this week. Fiji Times contributor Ajay Bhai Amrit was moved to comment about the problem of the government’s “gas guzzler” vehicle fleet.


Bula readers! First and foremost, this article is not a criticism of the government and its policies. It is more of an observation on how officials can rectify and improve themselves because if we, the public, cannot voice our opinions and suggest changes then who can?

The hot topic this week is about the huge contingent of 36 people that Fiji has sent half way around the world to Glasgow, Scotland.

This is to be part of the COP26 summit and the many discussions on climate change that major counties such as the US, UK, Canada, Australia, Germany and France and so on will hopefully discuss and agree to principle points and further reduce harmful emissions to the environment globally.

COP26 GLASGOW 2021

This topic brings issues closer to home as I am seeing a worrying trend of our government leaders splashing out on massive gas guzzling vehicles with full black tinted glass, which quite frankly looks a little embarrassing in a country where we basically all know each other.

I have witnessed time and again these huge beasts of vehicles being left with engines running, both consuming fuel and polluting the environment as they wait for the occupants to arrive.

Government entourages have a huge fleet of the most uneconomical big 4X4 luxury vehicles available with not one hybrid or electric vehicle, or even a small engine vehicle, in the fleet for the ministers or even assistant ministers.

This is a sad sight to see as the world moves in one direction towards a greener environment and it seems our leaders are moving in another direction towards more excess and luxuries.

Environmental luxury warriors
Unfortunately, you have to ask yourself what type of example does this set for our so-called environmental warriors who will fly in luxury half way around the world to represent us.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that vehicles cause about 75 percent of the carbon monoxide pollution in the US alone.

The science doesn’t lie, when each gallon of fuel you burn creates 20 pounds of greenhouse gases, which is roughly six to nine tons of greenhouse gases each year for a typical vehicle.

To make things worse the average hardworking Fiji citizen who drives let’s say a Toyota Prius or other similar hybrid vehicle makes approx 99/km of CO2 emissions, compare that with our government ministers’ Toyota Prados and Land Cruisers which can make up to a whopping 300/km of CO2 emissions. This is very sad indeed to see.

I am the first to put my hand up and say, after much deliberation, I decided to purchase a big eight-seater Toyota Land Cruiser for my family of six and sometimes eight when my elderly parents visit as it can accommodate eight people and the only legal form of transport I can use to carry that number of people.

The government on the other hand is using our public funds to totally disregard any environmentally friendly options and has actually purchased and leased the biggest, most expensive, vehicles with the largest engines to pollute the environment even more.

These vehicles are equipped to carry many passengers but sadly usually only carry the driver and minister.

A huge flying fleet
To add to this, these are not just one or two vehicles, but a huge fleet of them flying around Suva and other towns and villages Fiji wide, sometimes speeding along with screaming lights flashing away.

For the life of me I still don’t know why they do this.

I don’t want to be critical, but just imagine if the powers that be in government decided for once to follow their own guidelines and maybe purchase a more modest and fuel efficient substitute, millions upon millions of dollars would have been saved plus millions of pounds of harmful greenhouse gases would have been avoided.

And the environment would be much less polluted and we would certainly commend them for this.

Would it be too much to ask to introduce smaller fuel efficient hybrid vehicles to their fleet for the ministers and senior officials to show their commitment to their polices?

There are so many fuel efficient vehicle options available.

Where I live, we constantly see governments huge 4×4 vehicles screeching around with their fully tinted windows, and also entourages of them storming in and out of Suva with little or no regard to the pollution and impact it has on the environment.

Willing to be inspired
I am willing to be inspired by any one of the ministers who will give up gas guzzling vehicles which they have been cruising around in for the last eight plus years for a smaller hybrid efficient vehicle.

I will be the first to congratulate them for practising what they preach. Finally there is a very inspiring four way test that all Rotarians try and abide by. These are:

  • Is it the truth?
  • Is it fair to all concerned?
  • Will it build goodwill?
  • Will it be beneficial to all?

Unfortunately, when it comes to the government hierarchy and their passion for large expensive gas guzzling and environmentally damaging vehicles, I am embarrassed to say that they have failed every one of the four-way test completely and miserably.

Ajay Bhai Amrit is a freelance writer. Fiji Times articles are republished with permission.

Fiji Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama at COP26
Jokes at the COP26 Climate Leaders Summit … but many questions about the future. Image: UK govt/FT
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