The British High Commissioner to Fiji, His Excellency George Edgar received the Pacific Youth demands for the upcoming COP26 climate summit during the Youth4Pacific: Pre-COP Gathering, which concluded on Friday.
The two-day Youth4Pacific: Pre-COP Gathering, held virtually on 23 – 24 September 2021, had close to 610 young people from the Pacific and the Pasifika diaspora participating from 33 countries.
There were six talanoa sessions, 12 movement workshops, and artists from every region in the Pacific joined young Pasifika people to collaborate and unify youth advocacy and engagement in climate policy in the lead-up to COP26.
The gathering aimed to crowdsource the collective wisdom and leverage best practices and experiences on matters related to adaptation, mitigation and climate resilience, culminating in the endorsement of a Youth4Pacific Declaration on Climate Change.
Samoan youth activist Ms. Okalani Mariner presented the declaration to High Commissioner Edgar on behalf of the youths of the Pacific.
“Your excellency, you have heard our declaration on call to action for climate justice. Now we humbly ask you to ensure that the collective Pacific voice is acted upon during COP26 negotiations,” requested Ms. Mariner.
“We will stay hopeful to see positive, ambitions and realistic targets from COP26.”
With just five weeks to go before the COP26 climate summit hosted by the UK in Glasgow, High Commissioner Edgar says the UK Presidency is very conscious of the significance of COP26.
“We’ve made progress, since COP21 and even over the last months. But we have a long way still to go, particularly in terms of the emissions cuts that are needed between now and 2030. So we look to the high emitting countries, especially the G20, to step up to the mark; and to all those who have not submitted ambitious enhanced Nationally Determined Contributions to do so”, said Edgar.
“It is important that there should be a strong Pacific voice in Glasgow. And it’s important too that the voice of youth should be heard. Because you are the leaders of the future, because you will have to work with and live with the results of decisions being taken now, and because, acting together, young people can have a powerful impact”, he added.
Addressing the closing plenary through a special recorded message, the UN Youth Envoy Ms. Jayathma Wickramanayake said that there must be a significant shift in local people’s power to decide on their resilience and development to address historical injustices and exclusion.
“To make this shift we must devolve decision making to the lowest appropriate level, increase direct adaptation finance flows to local actors and increase young people’s access to decision making power. It is crucial for communities at local and regional level to continue mobilizing in support of more urgent and ambitious climate action”, she said.
Youth Demands for COP26
In the declaration, the Pacific youth demand that the world leaders and the COP26 Presidency curb carbon emissions by at least 50% by 2030 through “just and urgent transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy”.
They call for the operationalisation and financing of the Santiago Network on Loss and Damage, identifying new loss and damage finance sources and ensuring these are distributed as grants, not loans, to communities at the forefront of climate change.
Traditional environmental knowledge needs to be brought together with science in designing ocean policies and ocean management initiatives. Public and private financial systems need to be transformed so that financial flows are compatible with a 1.5° Celsius pathway, and climate-resilient development. Traditional Pacific culture can help in the shift away from extractive economies to regenerative economies.
High Commissioner Edgar thanked the youth participants for presenting him with the Youth4Pacific Declaration.
“I will ensure it is passed to the COP26 Presidency, and fed in to the youth meeting that will take place in Glasgow in the days immediately before COP26”, he assured the participants.
In addition to being shared with the COP26 Presidency, the declaration will be championed by the Pacific youth representatives attending the Youth4Climate: Driving Ambition pre-COP event hosted by Italy in Milan on 28-30 September, followed by the 16th Conference of Youth (COY16) on 28–31 October in Glasgow.
For the British High Commission Suva, the Youth4Pacific gathering was an important platform to ensure that the UK COP26 Presidency hears the voices of youths in the region and to provide a meaningful space for them to engage in the process given that many will not be able to travel to Glasgow.
The Youth4Pacific Pre-COP Gathering was organized by the British High Commission Suva, in collaboration with 350 Pacific, Sustainable Oceans Alliance Pacific and Active Citizens Pacific.