Everywhere you turn at COP21 there are exciting stories – stories of unprecedented financing partnerships to ramp up renewable energy technologies; stories of global knowledge exchanges on successful strategies for adapting to climate impacts; stories of cities leading breakthrough initiatives in energy efficiency; and more.
Behind the scenes, though, in rooms open only to official country delegates, there are negotiations (now at the ministerial level) on a draft text of the Paris Outcome that still has many issues, even at this late date. The results will impact every single person on the planet, and it could be a very sad story. In fact, according to Stuart Scott, host of Climate Matters, a video series covering COP21, “[i]f you’re paying attention to what’s going on here, you can’t talk about the negotiations as an honest effort.”
Scott’s guests today offered a piece of that sad story already unfolding- the one of vulnerable individuals, communities and nations suffering heartbreaking impacts of climate change right now all around the world. His focus was the Pacific Islands.
To the backdrop of powerful images, Tinaai Teaua of Kiribati and Maina Talia of Tuvalu both spoke of the physical and emotional losses they’ve experienced and witnessed in the face of king tides, cyclones and water shortages. Teaua described how the king tides wipe out homes, how coastal erosion is destroying the tree fruit crops on which her people depend, and how people are scared. They don’t want to leave home. “Without our land, we are nothing. Our land is our identity.”
Talia’s home of Tuvalu is a group of 8 islands with no land at more than 2 meters above sea level. Climate change is forcing many to relocate; nearly 5,000 have already moved to New Zealand. He echoed Teaua’s words.
Another guest, Maria Tiimon Chi-Fang of the NGO Pacific Calling Partnership articulated the climate justice reality permeating the room: “It is not just about moving people to a safer place. It is very unjust for developed countries to keep doing what is so wrong, to keep jeopardizing the lives of our people.”
“The youth look into my eyes, saying ‘Why must we move?’ This is where we were born. Our ancestors are buried here.”
The message Kiribati’s Teaua has been taking to the delegates is clear: “You are not immune, no matter where you live. If you save me and my future, you save the world.”