My name is Okalani Mariner, and I’m at COP27 in Egypt this week. The UN climate conference is a busy time, full of politicians, negotiations and media. But what you won’t see on TV is how a day in the life of a climate activist looks. So I’m inviting you to follow along!
First, a little about me: I’m 20 years old, and I come from Samoa, a small Pacific Island State. I’m at COP27 as part of the Pacific Climate Warrior delegation. Together with activists from other Pacific nations, I’m here to speak our truth: to us, climate action means survival.
This is my first time at COP, and I came here to launch the Kioa Climate Emergency Declaration. We wove many different voices together to create this Declaration, including mine — I helped draft it as one of the voices of the Pacific youth, along with those of our elders and religious and traditional leaders. The Kioa Declaration reflects the fear and hope and love for our islands that we all share, no matter which generation we belong to. It feels surreal and beautiful to bring it here to COP27, the implementation COP, where — for the first time — we have an official Children and Youth Pavillion Pacific Pavilion.
So, a day at COP. It means a lot of walking, and a lot of talking! I started my day today bright and early, meeting my team at breakfast at 7:00 am, before heading to the conference center for our first public event. At 9:00 am, all of us who drafted the Kioa Declaration sat together on the stage in the Pacific Pavilion, and spoke about what it meant for us to represent our communities at the climate conference, and to spread the message of climate urgency as widely as possible. It was a powerful moment, and I was proud to be there speaking for the Pacific youth. We ended on a high-energy note, with a group of Tongan youth performing a traditional dance!
After such an intense morning, I joined other Pacific Climate Warriors in a number of small-group meetings. My main goal for the rest of the day (and the rest of COP27) is to speak to leaders, delegates and civil society about the Kioa Declaration, and share its message with those who can take it forward into their constituencies and committees.
After grabbing a quick lunch, I checked out the Children and Youth Pavilion at the conference venue. As a youth activist, it’s really important to me to see this space — and it’s the first in 27 COPs that young people and children were given their own meeting and event pavilion.
My afternoon and evening is filled with more events and meetings. I’m going to support my fellow Climate Warriors, Kathy and Brianna, during their speeches and news interviews. Then, our group will meet with a number of United Nations officials and delegates, to formally deliver the Kioa Declaration, and raise our voices for urgent action to keep global warming to below 1.5C.
What’s my main hope for this COP27? To be able to bring to my community back home a tangible result. Pacific islands urgently need action to stop the worst impacts of the climate crisis — and we equally urgently need money to help us live with the losses and damages already caused by hurricanes and flooding each year.
Communities across the Pacific Islands keep fighting and we hope for the best, but we’re also hard at work preparing for the worst. Climate adaptation projects, like disaster shelters, flood protections, and infrastructure to prepare and secure schools and hospitals against the rising ocean — all of these need funding too.
Some countries are starting to hear us and chip in (thanks, Scotland, Austria, and New Zealand, who pledged new funds on Tuesday) — but it’s nowhere near the amount of money that was promised years ago, the need is only growing, and many more countries continue to make empty promises or ignore our calls for loss and damage finance altogether.
We need more from the delegates at COP27. I’m hoping for a robust (and large) loss and damage fund that actually puts real money into the hands of the people who need it, and I’m hoping that the fight for 1.5C stays alive in the hearts of everyone here in Sharm El-Sheikh.