Delivered by Flora Vano at a Ministerial dinner hosted by the the Pacific Islands Climate Action Network and the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty during the Pacific Energy and Transport Ministers meeting in Port Vila, Vanuatu.
Excellencies, Hon. Ministers and Distinguished Delegates, representatives of Pacific civil society and members of the media.
Thank You for the opportunity to address you all tonight as the voice of civil society. My name is Flora Vano, and I represent ActionAid Vanuatu and the Vanuatu Climate Action Network.
In March earlier this year, as Minister Regenvanu reminded us in his opening speech, Vanuatu was struck by two consecutive Category 4 cyclones in the course of one week - causing severe destruction to homes, infrastructure, livelihoods, and our natural environment.
While the people of Vanuatu demonstrated the kind of resilience common among our Pacific Island peoples in the aftermath of this dual climate-induced disaster, we are still in recovery. While the leaves are returning to the trees in Port Vila, we remain mindful of the cost that our people and our communities continue to bear, as a result of delayed action.
I am a mother of four kids, and to bear witness to the devastation that we saw in the aftermath of the twin cyclones continues to worry me. I am deeply worried about the kind of future we leave to our children and future generations.
As you deliberate over the next few days, it is our resounding call as civil society that you secure the highest ambitions for our people and communities, through a deep, rapid and sustained emissions reduction in the energy and transportation sectors.
We have seen outcome documents from many meetings and we see language that simply “notes” and ‘acknowledges” and we are not at all impressed. We are facing a climate emergency, and we need to act like there is no tomorrow, because honestly, I feel that we are sleepwalking into a burning house.
Just today, a chief from Aneituym spoke to me, and he said that the sea has taken away everything, and left them only with stones and rocks. He went on further to say that they had a plan, and climate change took it away. They had a plan B and again climate change took it away. How many plans will it take before we act!
Leaders, we are on your watch! You are our leaders, and we ask you to lead. We will hold your hand, but we ask you to take the first step.
The ambition signaled by the Port Vila Call to Action for a Fossil Fuel Free Pacific is the kind of ambition that Pacific civil society and communities want to see more of from our Leaders. Addressing the existential threat of climate change by transitioning away from fossil fuels is not only economically sensible, it is a moral imperative.
Finally, we hope to see stronger and more inclusive engagement of civil society, women, youth and indigenous communities. Our communities are the backbone of our economies and social structures, and the custodians of our natural resources. They are the ones who feel the brunt of the damaging effects of carbon emissions, and are also the ones who define and uphold resilience in the face of whatever challenge we face.
Achieving true, sustainable development is not possible without them, and certainly not possible without us - the civil society.