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10 Nov COP23 reinforces climate change inequity

9 November, 2017. Bonn, Germany – I was inspired by the stories and strength of the Pacific Climate Warriors yesterday as they presented their Climate Declaration to Pacific delegates, over in the side events section of COP23 – the Bonn Zone.

Leading up to COP23, the Pacific Climate Warriors carried out an extensive social media campaign called #HaveYourSei, encouraging Pasifika people worldwide to sign the declaration and also to share their views on climate change.

Have your Sei is a play on words, with ‘sei’ being the Samoan word for wearing a flower behind one’s ear.

Activists did not only engage with youth. They also took the campaign to the elderly as in the case of Marshallese poet Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner who spoke of learning how to weave from matriarchs, sharing the #HaveYourSei message and then having them sign the declaration.

In Samoa, I attended a declaration signing event with music, fresh fruit, and lots of flowers.

The presentation was an event rich with culture, Bula spirit, and alofa – for our islands, our heritages and with much hope for the future. There was lots of colour. Literally. As in just about everybody was Pacific Islander.

Pacific Climate Warriors presentation of the Declaration.

But I did not see anyone from the United Nations Convention on Climate Change there. Only a few media. And I wondered how far the Declaration would actually get when it comes time for COP23 decision makers to do their thing? Would they even get to read it? Perhaps its being presented to COP leaders at a later event next week?

Then today I went to a press conference on the results of a Youth Survey that was carried out in Germany gathering their views on climate change and what to do about it.  The contrast between the previous day with the Pacific Climate Warriors, was strikingly obvious.

It was held in the main venue – the Bula Zone.  Nick Nuttall, the Head spokesperson for the United Nations Convention on Climate Change, was there, speaking in the press conference. So was the German Minister. And four German Youth Ambassadors. As in a swathe of palagi’ness. There was a fleet of international media in the sleek multi-media room ready to hear about the survey which had been commissioned and funded – I assume by the German government?

It was great to hear the German youth perspectives on climate change and I loved their recommendations. My favorites?

Youth should be able to sue their governments for environment policy decisions that harm their future. And the Minister for Environment should have veto power on any potential legislation that does not adequately consider climate change.

But as I sat in that room, seeing the different reception being given to this Youth Report, I got sad. And I got angry. I have questions.

According to the brief, the press conference was to “showcase an innovative youth dialogue process”. What’s so innovative about a fully funded survey with the full backing and then stamp of approval of the UNCCC? Doesn’t a grassroots petition that draws on a distinctly Pasifika ‘custom’ of wearing flowers in one’s hair, weaves in traditional knowledge, and uses social media to take it to the Pacific diaspora worldwide – strike you as a fabulous example of innovative youth dialogue?

Couldn’t BOTH initiatives have been featured in the key Bula Zone, as two excellent examples of what innovative youth dialogue looks like?

Will Mr Nuttall be personally accepting a copy of the Pacific Warriors Climate Declaration on behalf of the UNCCC? Attending a press conference with the PC Warriors at some point? And with his attendance, guaranteeing the attention of international media? Or does UNCCC only do that for German/European/developed countries and their youth dialogue processes?

We in the Pacific are already at a sinking disadvantage when it comes to climate change and having a voice in global decisions that affect our future. Why is COP23 reinforcing that inequity?

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