Young People From the Pacific Call for Action On Our Global Climate Emergency

In the lead up to the Climate Action Summit on 23 September 2019, to raise ambition and increase climate action, UNIC Canberra in partnership with Australian National University (ANU) Climate Change Institute (CCI) and the Pacific Missions in Canberra organised a public lecture called “UN Climate Action Summit 2019: A Pacific Youth Talanoa for greater ambition on climate change”, on 2 September 2019 at Kambri Cinema, ANU.

The Vice-Chancellor and the President and Chief Executive Officer of ANU, Prof Brian Schmidt, delivered the welcome remarks and expressed his solidarity with the UN Secretary General and with the Pacific neighbours in their call to governments around the world to increase their ambition on climate change. Prof Schmidt noted that ANU researchers, economists and several interdisciplinary teams were working to explore mechanisms for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere which would not only help tackle climate change, but also create new economic opportunities, support regional communities, improve health outcomes and protect biodiversity.

Nai Jit Lam, UNHCR Deputy Regional Representative delivered the introductory remarks and highlighted that concrete climate action outcomes can be achieved through partnerships and greater political will, together with the intelligence and passion of our youth.

The key-note address was presented by the High Commissioner of Fiji to Australia, H.E. Mr Luke Daunivalu who mentioned that Fiji’s greater ambition involves a faster transition to renewable energy, more efficient utilisation of our forests and mangroves and a range of innovative mechanisms to achieve the net zero emissions target that the Secretary General has requested by 2050. The High Commissioner urged the world to not turn back on the peoples of Tuvalu, Kiribati or the Marshall Islands – those under direct existential threat now and appealed to Australia to transition from coal to renewable energy, as quickly as possible.

One of the key components of the event was the grace and depth of the video poem ‘Rise: From One Island to Another’ by Marshall Island poet, Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner and Aka Niviana from Greenland, that was projected to showcase the linkages between their homelands in the face of climate change.

The other component was the strong vital voices from Pacific (Fiji, Timor-Leste and Tonga) and Australian Youth representatives, studying combinations of law, international relations, commerce, environmental history, climate change and Pacific studies at ANU, who participated in the ‘Talanoa’ Dialogue (a traditional word used in Fiji and across the Pacific to reflect a process of inclusive, participatory and transparent dialogue) and shared their experiences, responded to online and audience questions and galvanised the listeners into action to respond to the climate emergency.

The event was moderated by Dr Siobhan McDonnel, a highly skilled legal anthropologist and lecturer at Crawford school of Public Policy who has also contributed to both research and policy outcomes in the areas of land reform, gender and natural resource management, climate change and disaster management.

The event was live streamed via Facebook Live and was attended by mix of policy makers and government employees, students and researchers, industry, NGOs, diplomats, retirees and the general public.