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  • Writer's pictureAFG - Fiji

Speech from AFG Assistant Coordinator, Ms. Komal Narayan at Global Landscape Forum in Tokyo, Japan

Tuesday 14th May, 2019.

The ocean is their friend, their source of livelihood and food. But now my people are building seawalls to stop their friend, the ocean from destroying their homes.

Bula and Good morning to you all, I speak to you today with heavy burden on my shoulders. The burden now borne by more than 1.1 billion youths around the world, who are hopeful that there is still time to save our planet from the perils of climate change.

I speak to you on behalf of youths in Africa working dry lands in hope of sustainable crop yields. I speak to you on behalf of youths in central Asia hoping that salt water intrusion will not damage the fertility of their coastal lands. I speak to you on behalf of youths in South America hoping that upstream industrialization will not pollute their rivers downstream. I speak to you on behalf of youths in the Pacific hoping that mangrove ecosystems in their coastal communities will not be removed to make way for development.

‘Hope’ Ladies and Gentlemen, is a powerful motivator for youths and people in general. A motivator to rise up against the multiple growing threats of climate change, and how it threatens to destroy all that we hold dear today,while turning what is scarcely remaining into sources of conflict tomorrow.

Many of us here have been born in the 90’s or early 2000 when discussions around climate change and that of lowering carbon emissions were just emerging. Its 2019 now and yet still our governments and policy makers are telling us that they need more time to solve this crisis. Time – a luxurious commodity that we have close to run out of.

But it is not too late.

As we meet on the 22nd Anniversary of the Kyoto Protocol, we youths still have hope that countries will rally towards raising climate ambitions and ratify the Doha amendment into effect. We still have hope that the recent adoption of the Paris Agreement will herald a paradigm shift towards climate conscious and low carbon development. We have hope that the countries will stay true to the 2030 Sustainable Development agenda and achieve its targets.

We hope ladies and gentlemen, to inherit and as true custodians, pass on a habitable planet to the future generations. A world that is rooted in the principles of sustainable and holistic development completely cleansed of the vile destruction of human development we see today.

As a youth from a large ocean state with a population of less than a 900,000 people in the middle of the vast Pacific Ocean, I carry this message of hope to you. Despite the bleak and ominous findings of climate science, we youths are determined to shape a sustainable, inclusive, resilient and low carbon future. For as the great Martin Luther King Junior once said, “we must accept finite disappointment but never lose infinite hope”.

The Alliance for Future Generations – Fiji, the youth led network that I am a part of is all about transformative horizontal and vertical integration to operationalise sustainable development. For example, we lead a community wide programme of mangrove planting in low lying urban and rural coastal areas in Fiji with over 20,000 seedlings planted to date. We partake in policy consultations and dialogues and ensure that youth voices are equally represented, not only being physically present there to show our representative, but fully engaging in the discussions and voicing out our opinions.

Hope! Hope and Hope! I stand here with nothing but Hope that tomorrow my children will have a place to call HOME. A hope, that it does not take 10 years for us to put an end to the use of fossil fuel. A hope for my leaders to ACT URGENTLY towards meeting the 1.5-degree goal by building upon the findings of the recent IPCC 1.5 Degrees special report.

Half of the world still does not know that human footprints affect 83% of the global terrestrial land surface, which has degraded about 60% of the ecosystem’s services in the past 50 years alone. Land use and land change has been the most visible indicator of the human footprint and the most important driver of loss of biodiversity and other forms of land degradation.

Never before have we humans depended on land resources to sustain our growing consumption and production patterns in an unsustainable manner.For example, 1.6 billion hectares of total land are being cultivated worldwide of which 20% (0.3 billion ha) is on marginally suitable lands. In several regions, soil quality constraints affect more than half the cultivated land base, notably in sub-Saharan Africa, Southern America, Southeast Asia and Northern Europe.

In the Pacific, many of the low-lying coastal islands are on the brink of disappearing under rising sea levels. Many of the coastal communities in my country being relocated for this reason. In Fiji alone 3 villages have been relocated so far and another 43 has been identified for relocation.

Horizontal and Vertical Integration

We cannot catalyse transformational changes without employing holistic approach to development. Predominantly, governments particularly in developing countries continued to adopt to top down approaches to development by parachuting policies and programmes, expecting to make quick development gains.

This no longer works in a global society that is fast becoming diverse and opinionated through knowledge. It is crucial that programmes and strategies be designed through horizontal and vertical integration of ideas, innovation, collaboration with equal consideration of all segments of society. Youths must be a central part of this integrated approach being given a seat at the DECISION-MAKING table.

What we youths want are equal representation and involvement by the governments and policy makers. To be given the space and be supported to be innovative and vocal in voicing out what we want where our ideas will help shape the future we want.

Climate Change without any doubt is a challenge for all, regardless of race, gender or status. It affects us all. The challenges we face today can only be solved if we all work together. I am hopeful that we will have engaging discussions here today for the betterment of our environment and one and only planet.

As the WWF International rightly stated, ““The technology is here. The people are ready. Scientists have spoken. Progressive businesses are stepping forward. Now we need governments to take climate action!”. There are actually only two options that we have here, that is, to ruin our future or to step up together and fix our future.

Vinaka Vakalevu. Thank you.


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