5 December 2019, Madrid, Spain – Across the world, youth are playing a critical role in demanding accountability and action from their national governments and leaders on climate change action.
This is also true in the Pacific, whereby island nations have adapted versions of support for the School Strike for Climate that happens on Fridays, founded by Greta Thunberg of Sweden.
This year saw several Pacific islands; Fiji, Tonga, Tuvalu, Samoa, Vanuatu and Pacific Islanders in Australia and New Zealand, taking part in the global strikes for climate action.
Here at the Twenty-fifth Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP25) in Madrid, Spain, Pacifc youth have expressed their solidarity with Greta and the Fridays for Future movement, wanting to see greater commitments and climate action by countries.
“As climate change impacts intensify over time, and more children are born into this era facing increasingly worsening impacts, we really need to elevate the voices of our young people and give them a say in their future, and the future of the Pacific and the world,” said Ms Vaiaoga Lameko, a youth from Tuvalu.
Ms Lameko hopes to be able to stand and fight for her island nation and pave a way forward that will ensure the survival of not only Tuvalu but of neighbouring island countries as well.
She is joined by Ms Miimetua Kino, from the Cook Islands who is also at COP25 hoping to see action take place.
“What I hope and would like to see in 10 to 50 years, is to still be living in my island home. I want to be able to tell my children and grandchildren that my generation were able to step up and do something and stop the negative impacts of climate change, achieving goals such as becoming 100% renewable energy, shutting down the fossil fuels industry, cutting down plastic pollution and more,” said Ms Kino.
“Even though these are just small changes, they will be successful in creating a better future.”
Ms Kino also shared some of the challenges she faced as a young person from a small Pacific island country, the biggest barrier being the lack or limited awareness she felt she had as a Pacific youth growing up in the Cook Islands.
“As a youth myself having just finished high school, I never once heard about climate change in all my 19 years. And that is something I really want to change in my school, and in the Cook Islands as a whole,” said Ms Kino.
“Just before I came to Spain, I participated in a careers expo in the Cook Islands where I got to share and talk about climate change with young children from years seven to eight, and although some of the children had heard about it, many hadn’t. It was only when I asked them if they could tell me what a recent climate change event was that happened here in the Cook Islands was that they were able to answer and understand that climate change was something we were already experiencing in our islands.”
“I strongly think that we should now be incorporating climate change into our curriculums – that we actually should have been teaching it a long time ago.”
Ms Kino stressed that the youth, as the future leaders of tomorrow, are the ones who will take over from the leaders of today. By educating them from a young age, and including those in important conversations to help them better understand the impacts and threats of climate change.
“If the youth are involved, they will 100% be motivated to find solutions and make changes that will help us protect not only our islands but the whole world from the climate crises we are seeing now.”
This year at COP25, a partnership between New Zealand with the Fijian Government has made possible the ‘Moana Blue Pacific Pavilion’ where the voices of the most vulnerable region to climate change impacts can be heard by the world.
Pacific delegations with youth representatives, as well as side event organisers, have been encouraged by the Pavilion to feature youth at their side events for greater inclusive dialogue.
Ms Lameko of Tuvalu expressed her gratitude at the idea of youth using the Pavilion space to organise themselves.
“Every young person has a right to participate in the decision-making processes that impacts them. Which is why having a dedicated platform and space like the Moana Blue Pacific Pavilion for young advocates to meet and organise, is an amazing opportunity to showcase and voice their ideas to tackle climate change, in order to build a better environment for our Pacific region,” said Ms Lameko.
“A space like this can only amplify the call to support adaptation and mitigation at the global level, and ensures the empowerment of a new generation of activism for climate change.”
The Moana Blue Pacific Pavilion will open throughout the whole duration of COP25 in Madrid, Spain from 2 – 13 December, 2019.