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COP25: Small Island States, youth leaders task emitters on climate emergency

The Association of Small Island States (AOSIS), a coalition of 44 countries that are among the most vulnerable to the climate crisis, and youth climate strike leaders from across the Caribbean and Pacfiic joined together on Friday, December 6, 2019 at the COP25 climate talks in Madrid, to demand that major emitters and rich countries do more to meet the scale of the climate emergency.

Ambassador Janine Felson  COP25: Small Island States, youth leaders task emitters on climate emergency Ambassador Janine Felson
Ambassador Janine Felson

“Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what label you put on us, what matters is that we represent the very people I have next to me, we represent the youth,” said Ambassador Janine Felson, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Permanent Mission of Belize to the United Nations and AOSIS deputy chair.

She turned to the youth on the panel and continued, “AOSIS stands in solidarity with you. We fully affirm your just demand for a prosperous future in your homelands and we are fighting to ensure that by holding developed countries and ourselves accountable so we can sustain the course for a 1.5° world.”

AOSIS has been calling for increased emissions reductions here at COP25, as well as action to compensate small island nations and other vulnerable countries for the loss and damage they are already experiencing from climate impacts.

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The young people participating in the press conference on Friday emphasised the need for island leaders and youth to come together in order to fight for climate justice.

Brianna Fruean, with 350 Samoa and the Pacific Climate Warriors, said that it was critical to remember that some nations here at the COP are fighting for their survival.

“We also need to be highlighting the great leadership that is coming out of COP. It’s coming from the islands,” she said. “World leaders need to know that people like me are watching them. The text we put down today on paper at COP is what our future will look like.”

“I’ve had typhoid. I’ve had malaria. My grandmother died from cholera. I know what I’m talking about,” said Jimmy Fénelon, the National Coordinator of Caribbean Youth Environmental Network (CYEN) in Haiti. Many young people choose to leave Haiti, Jimmy explained, but, “I decided to stay, to fight. We need to raise awareness amongst young people. We can get them to work together and send a strong message.”

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“For us climate change is no longer a concept or theory, it’s our new reality. It’s affecting our lives,” said Renae Baptiste, the Vice President for Grenada chapter of CYEN. “Step up, do your part, no matter the action you’re doing, in the end it all adds up and has a great impact.”

“These things are not games. They’re getting worse. They’re affecting millions of people around the world,” said Miguel van der Velden, also with CYEN in Aruba. “I come here not because I’m scared–I’m scared–but I come here because I have hope that we can work together. We don’t have anything to lose if we work together. If anything, we can create a much more beautiful world.”

Ambassador Felson ended the press conference by reflecting on island leadership inside and outside the UN Climate process and the need to work with young people to build the political pressure necessary for change.

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“We’ve also resolved to move to 100% renewable energy by 2030. We’re looking to build climate resilient infrastructure. We’re looking at nature-based solutions. We’re exploring every avenue possible. Because we do not want to leave our homes, we don’t want to put our children in a position where they will have to leave their homes.

“Beyond the process, there is a lot of action occurring, but without a doubt, our action alone will not deliver the type of ambitious results we need to achieve a 1.5° world. We absolutely need the major developed countries who have contributed significantly to what we have now, we need them to raise their ambition.

“We know that even at 1.5°, all of the islands represented on this podium will still be feeling the impacts of climate change. We will need significantly scaled up support to ensure that we can have resilient infrastructure, resilient homes, so that we can face the consequences.”

Briana Fruen summed up the core message of the day: “It would be the greatest injustice the world has ever committed in our lifetime if we lose an island and people don’t have a home to go back to.”

Young people will be keeping up the fight for climate justice with a massive climate strike today in Madrid, in Santiago, and in other locations around the world.

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