Delivered by the Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum, Henry Puna
at the 2023 Pacific Power Up Meeting
25 October 2023, Nadi, Fiji.
I am honoured to join you all today and to stand alongside you, our brave, resilient and proud Pacific Climate Warriors as you lead the way for us towards COP28, through the ‘Pacific Power Up’ gathering of young Pacific climate warriors.
Two weeks ago, I was invited to speak at the Pacific Youth Forum, which some of you may have been part of, and was quite empowering given the advocacy actions you are making at the community level, building resilience and addressing climate and disaster risks.
Today, I feel the same- an immense power flowing within this room. Each of you represent a beacon of hope, a driving force for change, and a testament to the unwavering spirit of the Pacific youth. We have gathered here not just as individuals but as a collective force of nature, determined to confront the greatest challenge of our time – climate change.
Our beloved Pacific islands face an unprecedented threat. Climate change, like a storm on the horizon, looms large, endangering our homes, our cultures, and our very way of life.
But let me say this too, in the face of this unprecedented challenge, I see not despair but determination in your eyes. I see not fear but fierce resolve in your hearts. You, the Pacific youth climate warriors, are not defined by the problems that surround you; you are defined by the solutions you seek, the actions you take, and the impact you create.
Your elected leaders, like you, know the urgency of addressing the climate crisis. You have jumped into the trenches of the climate change emergency and stand alongside your leaders at the coalface of this battle, which is why my team have established the Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General’s Young Climate Leaders Alliance (PYCLA).
This alliance empowers young climate activists to have their voices heard, access resources, and collaborate with regional leaders to accelerate climate action. It is an alliance I, as Secretary General, am proud to champion.
What I have learned through the advocacy work of my Young Climate Champion Alliance is that courage knows no bounds, and determination is our greatest weapon. As Pasifika, we have shown that even the smallest ripples can create waves of change.
In this regard, the Secretariat has just closed a Youth competition based on Just Transitioning to a Fossil Fuel Free Pacific, where the winner will be part of my delegation to COP28. This is yet another great opportunity to further amplify Pasifika Youth voices on the world stage.
I understand you have developed a Youth Climate Declaration in consultation with youths from across the region through your various networks. Again, another example of your leadership in this space.
I trust this Declaration will further progress and complement the Leaders climate ambitions and has strong synergies with the work carried out by One CROP. Congratulations!
I urge you to embrace the challenges that lie ahead, for within each challenge lies an opportunity to make a difference. Your voices are not just voices; they are echoes of wisdom passed down through generations, resonating with the dreams of a cleaner, greener, and more sustainable world. Your actions today will echo through time, shaping the legacy of our planet for generations to come.
We are ready to pass on the mantle, and nothing brings us more joy than watching our confident, strong, grounded youth find their feet on the platforms laid for them by their communities, past and present.
As we look further to the future, last year at the 52nd anniversary of the Forum in Fiji, our leaders endorsed the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent as the blueprint to advance Pacific regionalism for the next three decades – articulating the region’s long-term vision, values and thematic priorities.
The 2050 Strategy reflects our collective determination to address pressing challenges, including economic development, our environment, people centered development, peace and security and other critical regional issues that have a collective impact on our region.
In two weeks’ time, our Forum Leaders will convene in Rarotonga to consider the Strategy’s Implementation Plan.
It embodies our commitment to sustainable development, inclusivity, and leaving no one behind. Yet, having a vision is not enough; we need a well-defined plan to transform it into reality. I urge you to stay engaged and be part of its execution.
As you engage in discussions, share ideas, and strategise towards COP 28, remember this, never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.
Let this gathering of like-minded youths be a crucible of ideas, a symphony of determination, and a testament to the power of unity. Together, as Pacific youth climate champions, you can and will create waves of change that will ripple across the Pacific and beyond, reminding the world that hope is not lost, for it resides right here in this room, within each and every one of you.
Let me conclude with words of one of our very own Climate Warriors, Ms Brianna Freuan- she says- “Youth may not hold all the power or money in the world, but we have something more valuable in my opinion – and that is passion.” I urge you to unleash your passion!
I look forward to your support towards our Forum Members advocacy efforts at COP 28 and trust the Declaration presented today will be complementary to our eighteen Members and the One CROP advocacy efforts.
Thank you and may your collective strength, determination and passion shape the future we all aspire to achieve.
Meitaki maata, vinaka vakalevu and thank you.