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Pacific Young Climate leaders call for urgent climate action ahead of COP26

Pacific Young Climate Leaders aim to coordinate existing Pacific youth climate advocacy efforts and initiatives to influence ambitious climate change actions

Eight Pacific Young Climate Leaders shared their experiences of climate resilience and activism in an inaugural dialogue with the Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General, Henry Puna on 21 October 2021.

Sharing their youth climate work experience across the region the newly formed Alliance also shared their solutions and insights on COP26 regional priorities.

These young climate leaders are: Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, Selina Neirok Leem, Republic of Marshall Islands, Solomon Yeo, Gladys Habu, Solomon Islands; Fenton Lutunatabua, Ernest Gibson, Fiji; Stephanie Stephens, Vanuatu; and Kim Allen, Papua New Guinea.

“One of the key priorities from our perspective for COP26 is loss and damage and ensuring the Santiago Network on Loss and Damage is fully operationalised. Not only ensuring that there is a dedicated financing mechanism for loss and damage but those who are responsible are being held accountable”, Solomon Yeo, Campaign Director of the Pacific Islands Students Fighting Climate Change. This sentiment was one of many echoed by all the Pacific Young Climate Leaders that participated in the dialogue.

Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, Republic of Marshall Islands’ Climate Envoy and Pacific island poet highlighted the need for embedded funding support for national youth representatives involved in national led consultations to enable their attendance at international negotiations such as the UNFCCC-COP.

Welcoming the inaugural dialogue as a chance to broaden Pacific climate conversations, Secretary-General Puna told the Alliance their many hats and networks were vital parts of the influence they wield.

He said he is a strong believer of a multi-stakeholder and multi-sectoral approach to successfully address climate change.

“Therefore, the work that you do and your role as Pacific Young Climate Leaders is extremely important,” he added.

“Let me say this to you and other Pacific youth out there, you are our 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 Pacific People,” said Puna.

The Young Climate Leaders called for transformational leadership and for young people to be included in the decision-making process as well as take ownership of the decisions that have impact on them and our communities.

“In the heart of our work, to ensure that the sustainable development goals and climate declarations are achieved, our people in the communities must embrace these and take ownership and translate them into daily realities,” said Ms. Stephanie Stephens, Climate Campaign Manager for Save the Children in Vanuatu and climate advocate with Vanuatu Climate Action Network (VCAN). 

Ernest Gibson, a member of the United Nations Secretary General’s Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change (the only Pacific Island representative) emphasised that “in terms of youth engagement, it’s one thing to have ambition, and the other to resource it. So, when we talk about funding for youth projects and activities, we must ensure that the process is flexible and accessible to young people.” 

This PIF-SG’s Young Climate Leaders Alliance is the first of its kind set up under the Forum. It aims to coordinate existing Pacific youth climate advocacy efforts and initiatives across the Pacific with the goal to influence ambitious national, regional and international climate change actions to limit global warming to below 1.5 degree Celsius by the end of this century.

This story was published at Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat on 25 October 2021, reposted via PACNEWS.

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