The Pacific Islands Forum Secretary General has reiterated the crucial role young Pacific climate activists have in the battle against climate change.

Speaking at the ‘Pacific Power Up’ gathering Wednesday, Henry Puna praised the determination and resilience of the Pacific youth in amplifying the Pacific voices in the lead up to COP28 next month in Dubai. 

“I am honoured 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,” SG Puna said.

Reflecting on a recent invitation to the Pacific Youth Forum, he commended the advocacy actions taken at the grassroots level to build resilience and address climate and disaster risks.

“Today, I feel 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.”

The Secretary General recognised the unprecedented threat faced by the beloved Pacific islands due to climate change like a storm on the horizon, looms large, endangering our homes, our cultures, and our very way of life but emphasised the unwavering resolve of the Pacific youth to combat this crisis.

“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, he said 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,” Puna said.

Addressing the youth’s proactive stance, he praised the development of a Youth Climate Declaration in consultation with youths from across the region through various networks, emphasising its complementarity to the Leaders’ climate ambitions.

“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!”

Encouraging the warriors to embrace the challenges ahead, Puna reminded them of the profound impact they hold.

“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.”

The Secretary General acknowledged the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent, endorsed by leaders, as a roadmap for advancing Pacific regionalism over 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.”

He urged the youth to stay engaged and be part of the strategy’s execution, emphasising that a vision alone was insufficient without a well-defined plan to bring it to fruition.

“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.

“As you engage in discussions, share ideas, and strategies 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,” he said.

Second day at the Pacific Power Up gathering. Credit: 350 Pacific

Puna urging warriors to unleash their passion, reiterated Climate Warriors, Brianna Freuan that “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.”

The Secretary General expressed gratitude for the collective strength, determination, and passion of the Pacific youth, looking forward to their support in advocacy efforts at COP 28 and trusting that the Declaration presented would complement the efforts of Forum Members and One CROP.

Last night together for Pacific Climate Warriors, filled with so much love! #PacificPowerUp 2023 #PowerUp for Climate Solutions. Credit: 350 Pacific
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