Ms Gladys Habu of Solomon Islands today delivered a plea for hope to Pacific leaders who had gathered for the Environment Ministers’ High-Level talanoa, which was held on the curtails of the 30th SPREP Meeting of Officials this week.
Ms Habu is a former Miss Solomon Islands, and is a passionate climate change activist, who in her recent address to Pacific leaders at the United Kingdom Pacific High-Level Dialogue hosted by the COP26 Presidency in July, called for each respective Pacific island country to prioritise the climate crisis by declaring a climate emergency.
She was given the opportunity to address the gathering of Pacific environment leaders to deliver an impassioned call on behalf of young people and the future generations of the Pacific, a responsibility which she said weighs heavily on her shoulders, but one so significant that she chose to carry and deliver in the hope that Pacific leaders will take their voice seriously.
“Good Ministers, whilst we are still fortunate to have many islands left intact to call home, let us remember that there are many places in our region where we once had a secure sense of belonging, now engulfed by the anger with which our ocean today carries,” Ms Habu said.
“Nature is taking back and she is taking back fast. It doesn’t surprise me because after centuries of providing, the gradient of this imbalance between nature and humanity continues to be a devastating increase despite the various conservations and so-called actions we have had in recent years,” she added.
Ms Habu acknowledged Pacific leaders who have continuously expressed that climate change is the single greatest threat to the region both regionally and internationally through the Kainaki II Declaration, the Boe Declaration, and most recently the 51st Pacific Islands Forum Communique.
She also extended her gratitude to the presence of High-Level representatives from Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom and the United States of America.
According to Ms Habu, the declaration of the climate emergency by the New Zealand government under Jacinda Ardern’s leadership is a pivotal move which she believes Pacific island nations must learn from. She added that although much further out geographically, the executive actions of the Biden Administration in the United States is taking towards action is also a better way forward. She also thanked the great commitment shown by the United Kingdom as the COP26 president.
“But more closely influential to us is the actions taken by the Australian government in the climate space. I believe there is more that Australia, as a bigger Pacific brother, can do to rally and lead the Pacific in the global stage,” she said.
The impact of sea level rise on Pacific people is of immediate concern to the youth, according to Ms Habu. She shared a personal story from Solomon Islands, of her family losing their beloved Kale Island as Solomon Islands observed sea level rise at three times the global average from the period of 1994 to 2014.
“An island that was once over 48,000 sq meters, home to my grandparents and a diverse range of plants as well as animals, is now no more,” Ms Habu said.
“With every millimeter at which the ocean rises, our people, especially youth and children, lose access to some of the most basic human rights. Whole communities are being displaced, livelihoods destroyed, and all along, the present remains as uncertain as the future.”
Ms Habu stated that she would not continue to remind the Ministers of how the ocean and climate change will impact her generation and those who will come after her, because she was sure they are well aware.
“It is not why I took up the responsibility to make this address,” she said. “I did so, in search of hope.”
“Hope that this current generation realises that your inaction today is crippling our chances to live a good life tomorrow, hope that you are listening and taking our concerns seriously, and hope that you care for the life we live today as much as the life we will live years from now when you are no longer with us.”
She concludes her statement by calling on Pacific island countries to act today, act now, and act for hope by declaring a climate emergency in their respective countries before COP26.
“Let us genuinely express to the world that this crisis is indeed a matter of life or no life for our Pasifika people,” she concluded by saying.
Editor’s Note: Ms Gladys Habu’s address was cut short due to technical difficulties and connectivity issues. Her full address is published below, ad verbatim:
A Plea for Hope - By Gladys Habu
● Director General for the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme
and Master of Ceremony for the Ministerial High Level Talanoa, Hon Kosi Latu
● Chair of the Environment Ministers’ High-Level Talanoa, the Tokelau Minister of
Environment Hon. Kelihiano Kalolo,
● Environment Ministers of all Pacific Island nations present today,
● Distinguished Climate and Ocean leaders,
● Representative voices and supporters of this very crucial meeting.
I am humbled to have the opportunity to address you all today, on behalf of our young people, our children and our many generations to come.
A responsibility that weighs heavily on my shoulders, as I gather the words to share. Yet one so significant that I chose to carry and deliver in HOPE that you would take our voice much more seriously.
Allow me to begin by acknowledging the presence of all you very important regional leaders in the environmental space. Thank you for seeing value in this meeting and taking the time to genuinely contribute to ensuring our region is ‘Accelerating Actions for a Resilient Blue Pacific’.
By now, you would have all heard and discussed together the three key focus issues highlighted in this High Level Talanoa: Ocean and Climate Change, Ocean and Pollution, Ocean and Deep Seabed Mining. Today I will be speaking on Ocean and Climate Change.
Let me take you along a very grounding journey. To remind us of what it feels like to have our feet firmly tucked in the sand and look out into the sea. The ocean, as we all know, holds some of the most beautiful life on the planet. Life that relies on our protection as much as it protects us, but unfortunately one we rely on more than we actually give back. It is where many of us feel most calm, at peace, or simply at home. But even beyond this beautiful life, lies the most deepest and darkest secrets, many of which we are still slowly discovering. The ocean is also where we hold years of personal grief and loss that have continued to compound over time.
Good Ministers, whilst we are still fortunate to have many islands left intact to call home, let us remember that there are many places in our region where we once had a secure sense of belonging, now engulfed by the anger with which our ocean today carries.
Nature is taking back and she is taking back fast. It doesn’t surprise me because after centuries of providing, the gradient of this imbalance between nature and humanity continues to be a devastating increase despite the various conversations and so-called actions we have had in the recent years.
Climate change affects everyone in different ways. What we experience here in the global South will be so much different to what someone in the global North goes through. Similarly, the way in which the ocean affects our lives is also very different to other regions. Therefore our actions here in the blue Pacific should certainly differ to that of people living on continents that are more land than ocean.
For a very long time now, our people have been subjected to various natural disasters as well as other existing pressures such as gender based marginalisation and inequality.
The past couple decades however have proved that the single greatest threat to our region is the Climate Crisis.
On that note I like to acknowledge Pacific leaders who have continuously expressed this both regionally and internationally through the Kainaki II Declaration, the Boe Declaration and most recently the 51st Pacific Islands Forum Communique.
I also extend my sincere gratitude to the presence of Environment Ministers and representatives from our neighbouring countries, especially New Zealand, Australia, United Kingdom, and the United States of America.
The declaration of a climate emergency by the New Zealand government under Jacinda Ardens leadership is a pivotal move which I believe Pacific Island nations must learn from. Although much further out geographically, the executive actions that the Biden administration is taking towards climate action is also a better way forward. Similarly I also like to thank the great commitment shown by the United Kingdom this year as COP26 president. But more closely influential to us is the actions taken by the Australian government in the climate space. I believe there is more that Australia, as the bigger pacific brother, can do to rally and lead the Pacific in the global climate stage.
Of immediate concern to us is the impact of sea level rise on our people. The impact of global warming on the Pacific ocean is a huge threat to our regional and national security. In Solomon Islands we have observed the sea rising at three times the global average, particularly from the period of 1994 to 2014. It was in this period when my family lost our beloved Kale island. An island that was once over 48,000 sq meters, home to my grandparents and a diverse range of plants as well as animals, is now no longer. Some Pacific countries have experienced rates of sea level rise at even up to four times the global average and of heightened risk are our atoll nations.
Whole communities are being displaced, livelihoods destroyed, and all along, the present remains as uncertain as the future.
This is no longer a foreign matter to us. Not any more.
But can we say the same for our rural population? Do they understand why this is happening? Do they know what their rights are in this fight? Are we actually doing enough to achieve a climate safe future?
Unfortunately, the same cannot be honestly said for other island nations, and this is where our biggest gap lies. A vital step in attaining sustainable solutions to address this crisis, is working as a team, as one pacific. Where each island nation is equally and seriously invested in prioritising the climate crisis, in order to hold those responsible for heavily emitting greenhouse gases, accountable for their actions.
If the wholesome commitment of a handful of countries has got us this far, imagine if every Pacific Island nation was fully committed.
Distinguished leaders, some of you today may recall my address to Pacific leaders at the UK Pacific High Level dialogue hosted by COP 26 President in early July. In that, I made only one simple request:
I realised that raising climate awareness and leading the fight for climate justice would be a completely different picture, if our people acknowledged the climate crisis for the seriousness of its impact on us. That we are living in a climate emergency.
And the only best way for us to act in this situation, is to do so knowing the urgency with which our action is needed.
Therefore, understanding that COP26 is rapidly approaching, I saw it as a timely call. Although it got quite the attention during the event, to this day, I still have not seen any other country take this step.
A very disheartening result, especially after involving a youth voice in the first place.
Yet one I did expect, because as a representative of the population who will be affected the most, today I am also fighting to have our voice genuinely valued.
I will not continue to remind you of how the ocean and climate change impact my generation and those who come after me, because I am sure you are well aware.
It is not why I took up the responsibility to make this address.
I did so, in search of HOPE.
Hope that this current generation realises that your inaction today is crippling our chances to live a good life tomorrow.
Hope that you are listening and taking our concerns seriously.
Hope that you care for the life we live today as much as the life we will live years from now when you are no longer with us.
My good Ministers, time is at its essence.
I cannot emphasise it more.
It is my hope that you take this call to heart and help us to rise up at the face of this crisis.
Act for Hope.
Declare a climate emergency in your respective countries before entering COP26.
Let us genuinely express to the world that this crisis is indeed a matter of life or no life for our pasifika people.
Thank you very much.