Note: This is a speech delivered by Tabita Kaitamakin Awira Awerika, an I-Kiribati youth, at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP25) in Madrid, Spain. She came into the room with a traditional dance and a big, warm smile on her face. Speaking to a room that included the President of Kiribati, H.E. Mr. Taneti Maamau, and ministerial representatives from Tuvalu and the Maldives, Tabita spoke until tears ran down her cheeks as she pled for the international community to save Kiribati and its counterparts from rising seas, extreme weather events and slow onset events.

Thanks to Tabita, we have the permission to publish her entire speech on Green Transparency for the world to read, emphatise and act. To watch the session that followed Tabita’s speech, please follow this link.

 

 

 

Madrid, Spain

December 10th, 2019

Your Excellency Te Beretitenti Taneti Maamau, Honorable Ministers, Representatives here and to my fellow youth

I would like to once again in this lovely afternoon bring the greetings of the youth from Kiribati to you:

Kam na bane n Mauri!

First off, I’d like to thank the CAN-CC and Asian Development Bank for organizing this important event.

What I have noticed from all the discussions going around the issue of Climate Change impacts is the cry of our people, the people of Kiribati and the Pacific for their natural right to remain on their land which can only be possible through our unified actions against this devastating issue.

The latest IPCC report is very difficult for me to understand thoroughly but what I do understand is that my country has continued to suffer and soon will be erased from this planet due to rising sea level caused by global warming if global leaders fail to raise ambition now!

“… no one is listening.”

I also know that the rising global temperature is caused by industrial developments and wide scale deforestation to pristine locations. My leaders have voiced this concern to the global community over and over but no one is listening. Are we that insignificant for our cries of plea to fall on deaf ears? Kiribati and its’ people especially us, the youth of today are left to wonder what will happen to us in the future from a global disaster that our country and neighbouring countries contribute the least to. I am very sad to say that as the youth of many developed nations are enjoying their daily activities, our fellow youth in Kiribati are worried about what the future holds for us.

“I do not want to relocate or move to a foreign country. I will not leave the land of my ancestors. I refuse to leave the only place I call home. I will not abandon my motherland.”

I wish to make this statement today for I know that it is very difficult for the world leaders to make commitments to address this global issue if the citizens do not support it and therefore I call on you, my generation in the hope that you will join hands with us and do what is right so that the youth of my country can be assured that we get to live a happy life in our country, our beloved home.

Please tell your leaders that our motherland is suffering, Kiribati is suffering, we in Kiribati are suffering from the impacts of climate change and in particular, sea level rise.

The vision of the previous government was driven by the reluctance of world leaders to agree to concrete commitments to reduce global warming, and so it aims to prepare us to migrate with dignity. It adopted policies to build a well-educated nation so that when the time comes, should our islands be completely submerged underwater, we will be able to relocate to other foreign countries and be able to contribute as assets rather than as liabilities in our adopted countries.

However, as a youth of today and a future leader of my country, I do not want to relocate or move to a foreign country. I will not leave the land of my ancestors. I refuse to leave the only place I call home. I will not abandon my motherland. Why don’t we utilize these assets (the skills and knowledge of our people today) that we have now rather than to wait to use our knowledge and become assets on foreign soil? Why are we, in the first place, alone, fighting for our right to stay on the land of our identity when we contribute the least to climate change? You may have heard this plight before, but I must continue to burden your ears and conscience with it until you do listen.

Our government of today is implementing an integrated approach to achieve a climate proof Kiribati through the Kiribati Joint Implementation Plan (KJIP) that provides a roadmap on to counter key issues and vulnerabilities to ensure that we stay in our beloved country, our home. But despite all the efforts and precautions our government and its people take in trying to minimize the impacts of Climate Change; we, at present, are witnessing climate change impacts which are becoming more and more severe.

I am witnessing and living with proof of climate change impacts and seeing it all through rapid coastal erosion, brackish water from our wells, and the eradication of fresh water lens causing frequent spread of diseases and changes in fish breeding season that affects the food supply for the people. Seeing and witnessing all this in a place I call home, I do not feel like my country and its people especially the youth are included in your considerations for Climate Action.

My country alone, cannot meet the cost of adapting to the already existing effects of Climate Change for it is an overwhelming challenge which Kiribati cannot face alone. Developed nations which have enjoyed the rewards and luxuries of modernization at the cost of polluting and consequently threatening our livelihoods on our low-lying countries MUST KNOW that they are destroying the very world we live in. I am fighting to take back my country and I implore on the global citizens to be compassionate to this fight to help us nations most vulnerable to the effects of Climate Change and fight together to bring about significant change which can save lives.

“Together, we can do it.”

Changes in terms of lowering their carbon emissions, providing funds to assist our engineers, and be the leaders in spearheading the fight against the effects of Climate Change. These changes must also include and prioritize the voices of the youth in processes like the UNFCCC since we are the ones who will be living in a world shaped by your decisions today. The time for action is now, do not turn a blind eye or be deaf to our cries of plea for I believe that if we cannot prevent the destruction of my home, a domino effect will follow and we will lose the fight against climate change and everyone will lose their homes.

I implore you all, once again, to be united in our fight against the effects of Climate Change and make sure that our actions to eradicate the impacts of Climate Change leaves no one behind. Let us work together to heal my beloved motherland, my country, my home, my Kiribati. Together, we can do it.

Let me end my speech by bestowing upon you all the blessings from my country Kiribati; te Mauri, te Raoi ao te Tabomoa, Health, Peace & Prosperity.

Kam bati n rabwa, Thank you.