Crowdfund helps Fijian activists take home truths to UN climate conference

Image from Twitter showing the activists on their campaign Source: Samuela Kuridrani‏

Australians have crowdfunded the travel for young Fijian environmental activists to take the message of ordinary Pacific Islanders to the UN climate conference.

The influence of Fiji's presidency permeates the UN climate conference in many ways - the canoe in the foyer, the kava ceremony at the opening, the efforts to build open debate in the Pacific's Talanoa spirit.

But away from the official delegations and decorations, the influence and hopes of ordinary Fijians are manifested in Samuela Kuridrani and Alisi Rabukawaqa.

The pair have arrived in Germany - thanks to crowdfunding efforts largely from Australian Greenpeace supporters - to try and demystify the negotiations on behalf of their fledgling environmental group, Pacific Island Represent.

"The conversation here can get complex so we want to translate it in a way that everyone can understand that this decision has been made and this is what it means for us back home and in our communities," Ms Rabukawaqa told AAP in Bonn.

For Pacific Islanders, climate change is all too real.

"Most discussions are looking at 2020, 2050 and for us it's happening now," Ms Rabukawaqa said.

"As far back as five years ago, that's when the first village was relocated because of rising sea levels."

Those rising sea levels are now eroding the beaches in Mr Kuridrani's home of Matakula, where they've started planting more mangroves in a bid to stop the erosion and adapt to climate change.

"We hope that's not going to be the way forward, to keep adapting to it," he told AAP.

"We want world leaders to actually work together and reduce their carbon emissions and stick to the 1.5 degree Paris target that was agreed on."

However, they're hopeful Fiji's presidency of COP23 will make the world listen to the Pacific Islanders' message of urgency.

"It means a lot to us because this is our opportunity to step up and show the world how to actually tackle climate change," Mr Kuridrani said.

And their message to Australia?

"Keep fossil fuels in the ground," both say almost simultaneously.

"Keep to the Paris agreement and be a true friend of the Pacific," Mr Kuridrani adds.

"And stop opening these coal mines because climate change is already here, we are experiencing it in the Pacific."

Source AAP - SBS

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