HONIARA/APIA (SPREP)—Gladys Habu of Solomon Islands Friday 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.
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,” 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.
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 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 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,” 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.”
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. ….PACNEWS