We are here to tell the leaders of the world to wake up and take action. The reality is that we need 1.5 (maximum temperature increase) to survive.

Today, eleven youth from the Pacific, brought to Copenhagen by the generosity of GetUp members, and working with AYCC’s Project Survival Pacific, held an event called ‘Voices of the Pacific’. It was the most moving thing I’ve seen in the whole time of the conference: an opportunity for young Pacific Islanders to tell their stories. After opening with a traditional dance from the Cook Islands, one by one the youth came up, took the microphones, and told heart-breaking stories of the impacts of climate change on their homes. Here are some of their words.

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23 year old Rebecca from PNG spoke of saltwater intrusion, declining food security, and the climate refugees already displaced from PNG’s Cartaret islands. “60% of Cartaret Islands are already under water so how much more evidence do you need to show that climate change is happening?” she said.

Carlos from the Federated States of Micronesia spoke of sea level rise destroying taro crops which are the main source of food for the outer islands in Micronesia. He told us of the graveyards in his country that have been flooded and said, “Tell the world leaders that we have the right to live on our islands.. please help us and seal the deal”.

17 year old Yr 11 student Christina Ora from the Solomon Islands spoke of the fact that her ancestors have been on her land for centuries. She said, “Put yourself in our situation and someone asks you to relocate and start a new life. You don’t want to! Climate change is a threat to sustainable development in my country. We need this deal. It is not a want. It is a need. A need for survival. We are pleading and asking for this fair legally binding agreement in order for our people and culture to survive. Do not forget the Solomon islands. Even though it is very little, it is here. We are here.”

Emma from Fiji spoke about the impact of climate change on real lives in the Pacific – the fact that climate change is not abstract for her people. She said: “You threaten those lives if you don’t make the deal and you will be responsible for that. My family is under cyclone threat and it is meant to hit at midnight. Every year the cyclones get stronger and more frequent. Climate change is a reality for us”.

The youth representative from Kiribas said: “We don’t want to lose our land, our cultures. Our people don’t want to be climate refugees. If the water keeps rising, we have no chance to live. We are a proud people. We do not come to Copenhagen as beggars. This is not our way. But we can not face this challenge without support, both practical and moral. Our survival is at stake as a people. To turn your back when you could have done something, I think that’s immoral. We call upon world leaders to act without delay.”

If the world has not stepped in to save these islands yet, how can these young Pacific Islanders have any faith that the world will look after them if they become climate refugees? One thing is for sure: it’s impossible to hear these stories without vowing to work even harder to stand in solidarity with our Pacific brothers and sisters and try to get a fair, ambitious and legally binding deal here in Copenhagen.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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