Teruabine Anna Nuariki from Kiribati attends COP25

04 Dec 19

Teruabine Anna Nuariki from Kiribati Climate Action Network is attending COP25, happening now in Madrid. Anna has delivered an incredibly powerful speech at a press conference, representing her people and the concerns of thousands who call the Pacific their home.


(This is blog 1 of 2 in a series on Anna's experience at COP25. After you've read this, see blog 2.)

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Teruabine Anna Nuariki amongst the mangroves in Kiribati. Credit: Zhi Yan

Teruabine Anna Nuariki from Kiribati Climate Action Network. Credit: Zhi Yan.

Jointly funded by Caritas AustraliaPacific Calling PartnershipOxfam and PICAN, Anna presented at The UN Climate Change Conference COP 25 in Madrid on the 4th of December 2019.

Below is the script of this speech.

***

Kam na bane ni Mauri.

A warm greeting all the way from Kiribati, a welcoming country placed on the equator, north of Fiji

The takeaway message that I wanted to leave with you is: LOSS AND DAMAGE is the biggest issue for Kiribati.

Kiribati is only 2-3 meters above the sea level, which makes loss and damage the biggest threat for my people. Our livelihood, well-being, culture and security are all threatened by Climate Change. How will you feel if your country is in this situation?

I will be focusing on two points and explain how these have rising impacts and consequences on the communities:

1. Land erosion leading to land loss

2. Water inundation leading to loss of human rights.

Our country has been experiencing land erosion, which has a great impact on communities and the environment. This is affecting human rights, where communities are uprooted from their homes and have to move inland. This is already causing land disputes where families and communities fight each other for land to live on. Two years ago, a cascading event happened which seriously affected two southern islands called Tamana and Arorae. The sea hit the lands, destroying homes, killing livestock and fruit crops. The sea level got to my knees, all the belongings of people were floating right in their homes. This is causing the loss of land and human rights.

These events leads to water inundation. The underground water becomes very thin and contaminated which also has great impacts on people’s health, especially children and living species. Since underground water is the only means of fresh water we have in Kiribati, as we are coral atoll islands, this is risking the livelihood of living organisms. This also causes the newborn diseases spreading in the country, which mostly affect the lives of children. As native people of the land, who are so rooted in their culture, beliefs, skills and knowledge with powerful local medicines, we are now unable to practice beliefs and expertise in local medicine since nature has been damaged and loss by the onset sudden events caused by climate crisis.

With these two impacts on the loss and damage, communities have been greatly affected.

  1. Their human rights have been taken to leave their homes, as they have to find new homes to settle.
  2. Their culture, beliefs and practices are destroyed since their environment is damaged and lost.

However, My government is working really hard to save her country and people. The policies are in-place now and will focus on:

  1. Adaptation
  2. Building resilience.

In relation to the loss and damage, she is now looking at the extreme weather events. With the disaster fund she has, Kiribati can only use it to build seawalls in eroded areas but cannot repay for the loss and damage affecting people life. It will be installing desalinating systems in most affected areas but not to the whole country due to financial issue, she is facing.

 

To conclude, with these devastating events, communities are seriously affected, physically, mentally and spiritually as they are becoming foreign people in their own land. It is taking their human rights by uprooting them from their homes and causing land dispute. However, we are still fighting and adapting to the changes happening in our home because it is:

  1. our roots
  2. our culture,
  3. our identify
  4. our life.

It is who we are as Ikiribati. We want to protect our islands, culture and our right to stay and enjoy our traditional lifestyle and the beauty of our land, the land of our ancestors, which we are deeply connected to. Therefore, we do not opt for migration but to fight a battle against climate change.

Now we are living in a critical condition we did not create because developed countries are continually putting profit over people.

Together with you, I believe we can make this world a better place to live for our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.  

My ask in this conference is: Let us walk hand in hand to act and amplify our voices as one, singing the same song to save my world, your world and our world.

LOSS AND DAMAGE is the biggest issue for Kiribati.

I crown you with the Kiribati crowning: Te mauri, Te raoi, Te tabomoa
which is: Health, peace and prosperity.

Kam rabwa. Thank you.

***

This is blog 1 of 2 in a series on Anna's experience at COP25. Check out blog 2: 'Kiribati and Sea Level Rise: How Mangroves Help'.

Alice McGowan is a Digital Communications Specialist at Caritas Australia.