Kiribati youth leader hopeful for UN Paris climate summit

The Edmund Rice Centre’s climate advocacy initiative, the Pacific Calling Partnership, is hosting a Sydney visit of Tinaai Teaua a youth leader & climate advocate from climate-vulnerable Pacific atoll nation of Kiribati.

Ms Teaua is visiting Sydney as the guest of Oxfam Australia, in the lead up to her participation in the UN COP21 Climate Summit in December in Paris, which she will attend as part of the Pacific Calling Partnership delegation - representing the Kiribati Climate Action Network ('KiriCAN').

Ms Teaua is a community health worker in Kiribati, promoting education and holistic attention to self-care through exercise, nutrition and diet. But she is also actively involved with KiriCAN - the Kiribati Climate Action Network - where she participates as a youth leader from her local Seventh Day Adventist church in Kiribati. 

"Every second month about twenty young people from my Seventh Day Adventist church community spend about three hours planting mangroves,” she said. "For us, this is an important local response to the threats of climate change. Stronger mangrove growth is effective in slowing down the coastal erosion caused by the higher king tides and bigger storms that our communities have already been experiencing in recent years. This is a concrete task that we as young people can undertake."

"Different youth groups have been allocated different places to plant mangroves in this climate initiative supported by KiriCAN. Our group has had responsibility allocated to us for the area of the Tarawa coast close to the airport."

"I've been a member of SDA youth and KiriCAN for about three years. It's good for young people to work together for our country and have fun at the same time," Ms Teaua affirmed.

Two weeks ago Ms Teaua took journalists from the US, Sweden, Norway, France, and other EU countries to view areas in Kiribati impacted already by climate change, to give them opportunities to speak to local people about their experiences. She has taken various research students from Australia and other countries to talk to local people in fishing communities about their experiences. "KiriCAN is made up of many NGOs that help Kiribati to adapt to climate change and through KiriCAN we can advocate to the whole world and let people know that Kiribati is vulnerable and on the frontline."

"I'm doing it for the sake of my country. It is good for me to work in communities. I feel I need to do this and I must do it for Kiribati. I know Kiribati is vulnerable and I want to make sure it still exists. Kiribati is where I belong. It is where I was born and where my heart is - my traditional culture, my family - they all make me who I am today - my identity..."

"Going to Paris, and coming here to Australia, provide me opportunities to voice the concerns of people in Kiribati - to tell these big countries to also think of us smaller low-lying islands."

"We can work together to make sure that in this world no one will be harmed in the future, I know it is not just Kiribati, but also the whole world. Kiribati is not drowning yet. We are still fighting for our lives."

The Pacific Calling Partnership (PCP), an ERC initiative working for the past ten years to promote knowledge of and action with the people of low-lying Pacific Island communities who are most threatened by the effects of climate change. PCP delegations, with representation both from Australia and from the affected low-lying Pacific Island communities, have participated in past UN Climate summits and in December will be part of the UN's COP21 Climate Summit in Paris. 

Ms Teaua will speak at ERC at 12:30pm on Thurs, 15th October 2015 and will be available for interview. Contact: Sean Cleary 0403-434-512 or Jill Finnane: 0409-640-366 or email: [email protected]

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