Tokelau leader lauds the importance of Polynesian youth in a region threatened by climate change

27 August 2015
The first climate change conference for young people from Tokelau, Samoa, Niue and Cook Islands was officially closed by Tokelau’s leader, Ulu-o-Tokelau Siopili Perez earlier today.
In his keynote address, he emphasised the importance of youth to the future of their countries facing uncertain futures under threat from climate change. And to walk the S.A.M.O.A pathway that will allow them to innovate and create partnerships that will grow a prosperous Polynesia under a global economic landscape morphing from fossil to green.
“We recognize the critical importance of the development of you, our young people,” Mr Perez told youth delegates and guests.
“You have been diligently worked over the past three days to address a matter of global importance to the world – Climate Change.
“I trust your efforts have produced many successes and that the people that you have met, stories shared and environmental projects you have visited here in Samoa been a source of inspiration for you to carry on when you return to your home countries.”
The main aim of the conference was to develop national and sub-regional action plans on climate change and align the plans with national youth strategies. And from those synergies, forge a sub-regional position on Climate Change.
He re-emphasised the importance of developing and empowering today’s Pacific youth as the way to ensure the growth of each Pacific island economy is sustained and maintained.
With the major developed countries looking at innovative ways to meet their greenhouse gas emissions targets, Pacific youth must be given direction and point to opportunities through technology innovations and skills transfer that will create future employment for Pacific islanders and self-sustainability within the rapidly growing global green economy.
It is why Mr Perez gave his full backing to young people’s views and ideas.
“In the context of climate change and the need to adapt sustainably, I wholehearted welcome the views of young people where our interventions can effectively link job growth and a green economy to address youth unemployment.
“We want to hear from you, our youth where our policies and programmes can be further developed and strengthened.  Your voice and contribution counts and I am committed that your messages are conveyed to the highest levels.” 
And there appears to be divine intervention in terms of timing as the youth conference comes at a time when Pacific vision has never been clearer and definite direction has been agreed to by Polynesian leaders where these youth views will be channelled and considered he said.
“The Sub-Regional Youth Conference on Climate Change in Samoa has come at the most opportune time for Pacific Island leaders as we prepare to present our strategic vision to the world community in various forums leading up to COP21 and beyond.” 
He added that the Pacific direction is guided by the Outcomes of the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS Conference) that was hosted by Samoa in September last year.
“The SIDS Outcomes is also commonly referred to as the S.A.M.O.A Pathway produced a framework for action on climate change by protecting biodiversity and sustainable use of oceans and seas and their resources and by adopting strategies for the promotion of renewable energy.
“We reaffirm that effectiveness in building resilient societies and economies is reliant upon adequate and coordinated support from the United Nations system and all our partners.” 
He commended the proactive actions taken by some of Polynesia’s youth in collective campaigns such as the ‘coal blockade’ in Australia last year headed by Tokelau’s youth were at the forefront of the Australia event and was cause for ‘inspiring’ Pacific leaders to negotiate harder.
Said Mr Perez, “These actions like serves to reinforce our own resolve as Pacific leaders to secure an agreement for global warming below a 1.5 degrees Celsius limit.”
In conclusion, acknowledged the support by Australia Aid and the Adaptation Fund through UNDP and GEF Small Grants Programme, ILO, Digicel, the support from the Governments of Samoa, Tokelau, Niue, and Cook Islands, all the UN agencies and Regional agencies participating in the conference, and respective National Youth Councils.