Address at the Local Conference of Youth in Fiji.
September 15, 2018 Holiday Inn, Suva.
Mr Kevin Petrini, Team Leader for Resilience and Sustainable Development at the United Nations Development Programme Pacific Office in Fiji,
Mr. Krishneil Narayan UNDP Pacific project officer, and founder of Project Survival Pacific,
The Coordinator of the Local Conference of Youth, Ms. Ashna Pratap,
The Youth Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Ni sa bula vinaka and a very good afternoon to you all.
I would like to convey my sincere appreciation to Project Survival Pacific for inviting me to deliver the closing remarks at the Local Conference of Youth on the theme “Youth in Climate Action”.
Thank You, Dhanyavaad and Vinaka Vakalevu.
I also wish to acknowledge and commend the presence of committed youth ambassadors representing the various thematic areas such as Climate Change and Gender, Ocean Protection, and Technology and Climate Change, at the closing of this very important conference. I am certain that you have had constructive discussions over the last three days, and that you have met the objectives of the conference. Well done and congratulations. The progress that you have made builds upon a number of other high-profile climate events that have been hosted in Fiji this year, all of which, together, are helping to move the needle and protect the future of our planet.
I am advised that the Local Conference of Youth aims to provide a national platform for young people advocating on climate change to mutually discuss or talanoa and work towards producing an outcome document which will be presented to the Global Conference of Youth in Katowice, Poland, later this year. The Global Conference of Youth will take place a few days before the 24th Conference of the Parties or COP24. The Outcome Document and videos from your meeting over the past three days will also be used by COP23 during the COP24 meeting, and other events and awareness activities.
The purpose of the Local Conference of Youth is to bring together local youths of various backgrounds who are passionate about addressing climate change, sharing their experiences, and help promote a sustainable lifestyle. Conferences such as this provides a platform for youth leaders around the Pacific to gather and create adaptive solutions to combat climate change issues.
As Fiji’s President and Head of State, I am particularly pleased to see our youth actively participating in addressing issues that profoundly affect the lives of our people. Because as the leaders of today pass the baton in our fight against climate change, it is our young people who will carry us forward. As I see the faces in this room, and as I have seen young Fijians all across our nation passionately tell their stories of how severe weather events have impacted their lives, I am inspired, and I am given great hope. It’s clear that you are a green generation unlike any our nation, or our world, has ever seen. You are a generation of conscious consumers, a generation of resilient storytellers, and a generation of climate warriors. And when I talk to young people of the Pacific, I am confident that this enthusiasm is not just a passing phase or a trend that will fade as you grow older. No –– it is clear that you feel the urgency to fight this battle deep within your core, and you will carry this principle, and this drive, within you for the rest of your lives.
My friends, climate change already has negative effects on our people. We have started to lose vital land areas that contribute to our people’s sustainability and survival.
In Fiji, we have started to relocate entire villages, and will continue to do so. We’ve invested hundreds of millions of dollars in climate resilience and adaptation. We’ve taxed plastic bags to discourage waste, with a plan to fully phase them out by 2020. We’ve created innovative green funding mechanisms to attract private sector involvement. Because while the world negotiates to address climate change, here in the Pacific, we don’t have the luxury of waiting. Our seas our rising, our cyclones are getting stronger, and we are taking action for our people today. The world realises that if we don’t manage climate change now, it will ultimately affect the very survival of the future generations the world over.
Your conference, therefore, is a most welcome addition to the efforts of the Fijian Government in addressing climate change through our presidency of COP23.Ten months since taking on this world leadership role, Fiji as a Nation remains committed to the global efforts to fight climate change. We have in fact done, and continue to do, all we can to convince world leaders to decisively address climate change.
The Prime Minister and president of COP23, Honourable Voreqe Bainimarama continues to lead the charge in rallying the support of national, regional and international leaders to wholeheartedly embrace and expedite their Nationally Determined Contributions in order to meet the targets of the Paris Agreement. Just this week, he’s been in San Francisco, California to continue to push for progress at the Global Climate Action Summit, where he is bringing the voice of Fijians, and all Pacific Islanders, to the international stage.
I take this opportunity to acknowledge the work of Project Survival Pacific whose aims are to mobilise, influence, motivate, empower, and engage our youths. It was initiated out of the Survival campaign of the International Youth Climate Movement during the 14th session of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiations in Poznan, Poland, in December 2008.
With the assistance of Project Survival Pacific, youths are part of programmes, projects and activities to help contribute to sustainable development. Some of the major events included the creation of an arts and community outreach, the youth-led climate ambassador programme, and the development of climate change policy, among others.
I also wish to congratulate Project Survival Pacific on your 10th anniversary this year and your achievements so far which have included lobbying for the imposition of a tax levy on the use of plastic bags last year, the Germany-Fiji exchange programme, initiating the training of youth in capacity building, and the planting of close to 1000 mangroves on a monthly basis around Fiji.
At last year’s Local Conference of the Youth, Fiji targeted 20 tertiary level students to share their perspectives and ideas on sustainable development. It created an opportunity for promoting the engagement of young people at all levels. Participants had the opportunity to work on local issues such as transportation, energy, agriculture, health and biodiversity. These Talanoa sessions included ways to reduce the use of vehicle emissions, eliminate single-use plastics and promote composting. One of the major outcomes was the implementation of the levy on the use of plastic bags, to help reduce the use of plastics and eliminate ocean pollution.
I am pleased that the number of youths participating at this Conference has increased from last year with 44 youth delegates present at this year’s Local Conference of the Youth. The increase is indicative of the commitment and passion that Fijian youths have to help fight the impacts of climate change. This youth-led conference has promoted leadership opportunities and is an excellent indication that the voices of youths need to be heard.
I encourage you to continue your noble work to motivate and further empower young people to raise concerns at the community and national platforms, and to provide sustainable solutions for these concerns for a better future.
Vinaka vakalevu, thank you, and may Almighty God continue to bless you all and our beloved nation Fiji.