In this series, we will be introducing you to some of our Pacific island negotiators and delegates, who are the people representing our islands at the Climate Change negotiations now underway.
The Twenty-fifth Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP25) is hosted in Madrid, Spain from 2 – 13 December, 2019.
Pacific negotiators and delegates have been working in the rooms amplifying our Pacific voice and our Pacific asks. We hope you enjoy this series getting to know more of our Pacific Island negotiators and delegates.
Name: Solomon Yeo
Country: Solomon Islands
Q: What made you want to be involved and working in the climate change space?
A: I’m motivated by fear because while I was studying Law and as I’m living in the Pacific, I came to realise the impacts of climate change that people don’t really see, such as the slow onset of the impacts of climate change such as the gradual rising of sea levels, coral bleaching, as well as the loss of biodiversity. But the real concern that I have is the future of the whole world, not just the Pacific. The main concern I have is that there are not adequate laws in place to guarantee the rights of our people if they were to leave their countries because of climate change impacts being too severe, causing our islands to become uninhabitable. That is what keeps me up at night, knowing that our rights are not protected, if we are to become climate change refugees when we go abroad seeking asylum as well as a place to live abroad. It’s not guaranteed that our rights will be protected there. The bigger question is, what will happen to our states? Do we cease to be a state? Another big concern is that we will lose our identity as Pacific Islanders, because we are so connected to our lands and our ocean and being divorced from that is also a divorce from parts of our minds, bodies and souls. Having to think about that each day motivates me to do something for my people to address this madness we are experiencing at the moment.
Q: What is an issue or issues of interest you’ve observed here at COP25?
A: The main issue for me is that negotiations are not making headway; it is stagnated and there is no compromise between states. States still, at this point, choose to refuse that climate change is an issue and refuse to link climate change causes to fossil fuels and other disrupting acts that are causing climate change. Countries do not want to take responsibility for their actions even up to this level and that’s why they’re still prolonging negotiations and refusing to accept alterations to the text of the Paris Agreement and finalising the Paris Agreement Rulebook so that has been very frustrating and I’m not sure how we’re going to move forward from this point. There was a political impasse, and there’s still a political impasse, but we need to move past that now.
Q: Do you think there is enough space for the youth at the COP, and what advice would you have for young Pacific Islanders who would also like to be involved in this space?
A: Space for the youth is not the issue. We can have space, but what we really need is for the decision makers to accept and respect what we are asking for. They can provide us with the space we want, where we can chant, we can yell, we can demand, but if they do not respect what we ask for, what’s the point of giving us the space in the first place? We want our voices to be heard, but also we want our youth to come up with concrete ideas and practical solutions to address the climate catastrophe we are facing, and hope that our leaders can try and understand that. We need our youth to be creative, coming to the table with something to propose instead of just venting their frustrations.
My advice to the youth is, you have to understand where your future is at the moment. If you understand what your future will be like, you will be doing activism not as a choice, but as a necessity. I encourage youth from all over the Pacific to believe that they can make a positive change. It only takes a group of committed individuals to make a change in the world and I believe that youth have the moral authority to be making these demands, and what better youth than the youth fighting at the frontlines. So I encourage all youth in the Pacific to not treat climate change as activism, but to treat it as a fight or survival.