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Pacific Islanders Demand End of Fossil Fuels to Create 'Better, More Just World'

Coalition from low-lying region, endangered by rising seas and intensifying storms, calls for bold climate action

The Pacific Climate Warriors staged a demonstration in Bonn, Germany on Wednesday as world leaders met for an annual summit on climate change. (Photo: @350Pacific/Twitter)

Members of Pacific island communities on the frontlines of climate change, assembled in Bonn, Germany on Wednesday to call for far-reaching action to combat global warming—including a complete end to fossil fuel development.

As world leaders at the 23rd Conference of the Parties (COP 23) gathered for the third day of the summit on climate action, the Pacific Climate Warriors delivered their Declaration on Climate Change to representatives of the Pacific region.

"We are calling for world leaders to commit to building a better, more just world for ourselves and for generations to come," read the Declaration, which has been signed by more than 23,000 supporters. "Climate change is real and impacting now, and it's imperative that we stand up for the Pacific, and the global community, and act now to avoid further climate catastrophe. This COP should be about the people, not the profits and the polluters."

The Pacific Climate Warriors argue that the United Nations' Framework Convention on Climate Change is not aggressive enough to keep the global temperature from rising to dangerous levels—leading to higher sea levels that will threaten Pacific Islanders before most of the world is impacted.

Their declaration calls for an immediate phase-out of all fossil fuel exploration, the banning of new projects, and "the prohibition of the fossil fuel industry from participating in the UNFCCC processes so that they can no longer delay, weaken, and block action on climate change."


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Industry groups representing companies such as ExxonMobil, Shell Oil, and British Petroleum have been permitted to attend meetings regarding the UNFCC, often lobbying against policies that would limit carbon emissions.

"We must hold the drivers of climate change accountable, and impress upon them the urgency of action needed to keep fossil fuels in the ground, where they belong," said Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, a Climate Warrior from the Marshall Islands.

"We hope world leaders will acknowledge the significance of this moment, and honour their commitments to secure real climate justice," said George Nacewa, who traveled to Bonn from Fiji. "For more than two decades, negotiations have failed to deliver the action required to protect Pacific homes and livelihoods from dangerous climate change. We are fighting to protect our beautiful shared home."

Thousands of residents have fled the Pacific islands of Tuvalu and Nauru in recent years, with about 15 percent of the former's population leaving in the last decade, citing rising sea levels and extreme weather that's been exacerbated by climate change.

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