Delivered at the PIF SG’s Pacific Young Climate Leaders Alliance (PYCLA) Inaugural Dialogue
21 October 2021
Deputy Secretary General,
Distinguished Members of the Pacific Young Climate Leaders Alliance,
Ladies and gentlemen.
Kia Orana and good morning.
At the outset, allow me to convey my gratitude to our Pacific Young Climate Leaders for this opportunity today to learn about your climate advocacy work across the Blue Pacific, and more importantly hear your perspectives on the key priorities that the COP26 conference must deliver to safeguard the interests and future wellbeing of our youth and children in the Pacific.
At their virtual meeting on the 6th of August, Pacific Islands Forum Leaders once more reaffirmed climate change as the single greatest threat facing our region.
Indeed, it is our everyday lived reality.
It is an existential threat for many of our island countries, affecting the core elements of Pacific peoples’ wellbeing and livelihood. For me, I have been a pearl farmer for 20 years. In those years, I have personally endured the adverse impacts of climate change in one of the most remote atolls in the Pacific—the island of Manihiki.
No doubt you also have similar personal experiences from the island communities you call home.
Last year alone, the economic losses from climate-induced disasters in the Pacific were around 1 billion US dollars. In a span of few years, there were five category 5 cyclones that wreaked havoc on our island homes, causing economic damages ranging from 31 to 63 percent of national GDP for affected countries and also tragically the loss of numerous lives across the region.
At the current warming level of 1.2 degree Celsius, our seas are rising with a significant threat to our homes and our sovereignty. These existential challenges have been worsened by the raging impacts of COVID-19, placing significant stress on fragile national economies and the livelihood of Pacific peoples and youth.
The fact is the climate crisis we are grappling to cope with, is not of our own making. We know we contribute negligibly to the global greenhouse gas emissions. Yet we are at the frontline and are the most affected.
That is why we cannot be complacent anymore. Our very survival is at stake.
We have the scientific evidence. We have the framework for collective action in the Paris Agreement. What we need now is political courage and commitment from visionary leaders prepared to deliver.
While our Leaders are proactively calling on the international community to take decisive climate action now, this alone is not sufficient. The harsh reality is that many Leaders and Business Executives from the world’s biggest polluting countries are choosing political expediency and profits over making the tough and necessary decisions that will protect the health of our planet and get us back to a 1.5-degree pathway. This is why we need your collective voices on our side. Together we must hold these individuals to account and avoid making COP26 another talkfest that doesn’t result in any progress. There is no more time for complacency and inaction.
I am a strong believer of multi-stakeholder and multi-sectoral approaches if we are going to be successful in addressing climate change. The issue of climate change does not discriminate by age, religion, colour or creed. It affects everyone of us, but, it is our youth who are the most impacted from unabated climate change as you will inherit the earth that we leave behind. Therefore, the work that you do and your role as Pacific Young Climate Leaders is extremely important.
I know that most of you are leading this fight against climate change, being inspired and motivated by the climate challenges you experience and see around you and being cognisant of the moral duty we all have towards humanity.
Let me say this to you and other Pacific youth out there – you are heroes and role models for our children and future generations. You are our Pacific Change Makers that aspire to see a sustainable and resilient future for all our Pacific peoples.
But it’s also important to walk the talk. While outward looking advocacy is a priority, we also have a duty to support our schools, communities, countries and region to build its capacity, awareness and resilience against climate and disaster risks.
In this regard, the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat in collaboration with other CROP agencies and development partners, is committed to working closely with you and supporting your role as Pacific Young Climate Leaders in the lead up to COP26 and beyond the COP.
Simply put, this is what we must achieve at COP26:
We must conclude negotiations on the Paris Rulebook.
We must deliver an ambitious outcome that promotes stronger transparency and pursues efforts to limit global warming to 1.5 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
We must mobilise scaled-up climate finance for adaptation from all sources and continue efforts to deliver the US$100bn goal.
We must advance the work on Oceans in the UNFCCC, recognising its centrality to the Blue Pacific Continent.
We must accelerate support for the work of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage associated with Climate Change Impacts.
As the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum, I can assure you of my full support to Pacific youth and willingness to accommodate your views to inform the policy work that we do and the advice we provide to our Leaders on climate change.
The American playwright, poet and novelist Natalie Clifford Barney once said that “youth is not a question of years – one is young or old from birth.” Indeed the Pacific Young Climate Leaders Alliance has been envisioned recognising that wisdom is not attributed to one’s age but cultivated through one’s deeds and actions. You are a phenomenal group of young individuals who share a common passion for our environment and have been chosen on your merits to achieve a better, safer and secure Blue Pacific free from the threats of climate change.
In closing, it is my hope that these few remarks will motivate you to remain steadfast and committed to the Pacific Young Climate Leaders Alliance and through your tenacity and perseverance act as a permanent bulwark against the climate crises we are in.
Certainly, there will be many challenges ahead. But we must not relent. We must not give up. Because we are all in this together with a single goal to achieve tangible outcomes that can assure our Pacific brothers, sisters, sons and daughters of a sustainable and resilient future.
I thank you.
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