Young climate activist urged world leaders to walk the talk whilst Pacific Islands work together to fight against climate crisis
Brianna Fruean’s name is synonymous with global youth climate change activism.
The 23-year-old climate activist started climate advocacy work at a very young age after noticing the subtle changes in her surrounding environment in Samoa.
This week, the Samoan climate activist took centre stage at the COP26 conference in Glasgow, when spoke after the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, urging world leaders to walk the talk.
“A lesson in knowing how words can be wielded how text can change everything how each word you use is weighted how switching one word or number could reframe worlds how climate action can be vastly different from climate justice how 2 degrees could mean the end and 1.5 could mean a fighting chance.
“You all have the power here today to be better to remember that in your meeting rooms and drafting documents are more than just black and white objects to remember than in your words you wield the weapons that can save us or sell us out,” said Fruean.
She stressed to the world leaders that climate change is not new and needs immediate attention.
“I don’t need to remind you of the reality of vulnerable communities. If you are here today, you know what climate change is doing to us. You don’t need my pain or my tears to know that we’re in a crisis.
The real question is whether you have the political will to do the right thing. To wield the right words and to follow it up with long-overdue action.”
The University of Auckland, New Zealand Politics and International Relations student told world leaders “If you’re looking for inspiration on this look no further than the climate leadership of young Pacific people.”
She said, “We are not just victims of this crisis we have been resilient beacons of hope.”
Leading the Pacific Climate Warriors call to world leaders, Fruean said Pacific youth have rallied behind the cry…. “We are not drowning, we are fighting.”
She shared a Samoan proverb, “E pala le maʻa, a e le pala le upu (even stones decay, but words remain.)” to reiterate the Pacific’s call for world leaders to be true to their words and save the globe for future generations.
“This is my message from earth to COP I hope you remember my words today and look closely at your words as you go through COP,” she told world leaders.
Brianna Fruean’s Journey
Fruean was a founding member of the Samoan chapter of the climate organisation 350.org, also becoming its youngest country coordinator. At 11 years old, she started her own NGO called “small voices.”
At the age of 16, she became the youngest winner of the prestigious Commonwealth Youth Award for her environmental activism. Receiving her award from Queen Elizabeth, Fruean used the opportunity to discuss her environmental efforts in the region with Her Majesty.
Fruean was chosen as the first-ever youth ambassador in recognition of her efforts to include young people in the environmental conservation space by the Apia-based Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environmental Programme (SPREP). Through SPREP she was the youth representative in the Samoan Delegation that followed COP21 and the Paris Agreement negotiations.
Further in her journey, she attended COP 23 in Germany with her group, Pacific Climate Warriors. She gave a keynote address for the COP23 Conference of Youth alongside Prime Minister of Fiji, Frank Bainimarama, and executive secretary of the UNFCC, Patricia Espinosa in 2017.
In 2018, Fruean travelled on a Climate Storytelling Tour around Europe funded by the Catholic Church. She travelled through Poland, The United Kingdom, Belgium, and Italy sharing stories of the Pacific and the importance of Climate Action. Brianna visited church groups, primary schools, secondary schools, and small-town communities throughout Europe. At the end of her tour, Brianna met with the head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State, Pope Francis to thank him for funding the climate storytelling initiative.
The climate activist joined New Zealand’s School Strikers in 2019 to organise Auckland’s “Schools Strikes for Climate” in September that mobilised an estimated 170,000 people to march for Climate Justice. In December of the same year, she attended COP25 in Spain with the Climate Action Network. In Spain, Brianna gave a speech at the High-Level Meeting of “Caring for Climate”, alongside former United States Secretary of State, John Kerry. She was also the youth representative and speaker during the COP25 High-Level Plenary Session on “Climate Emergency”.
At present, Brianna sits on the Council of Elders for the Pacific Climate Warriors as the youth representative and continues her efforts to bring young Pacific voices into the climate space.