The Race to Net Zero: A Young Fijian’s Call for Climate Action

Natasha Dury

As a young millennial from the vibrant islands of Fiji, my mum and her family grew up with the sound of waves crashing against the shore and the smell of salty breeze. But behind this idyllic paradise lies a harsh reality that looms large – the ever-increasing threat of climate change.

As neighboring countries in the South Pacific grapple with rising sea levels, extreme weather events, and environmental degradation, my concerns for our collective future have grown more pronounced than ever.

My journey towards becoming an advocate for climate action began unexpectedly, at a UN-style round table hosted by the Green Sheikh of Ajman, right here in the United Arab Emirates where I represented Fiji islands. I was just young at the time, yet the gravity of the discussions ignited a spark within me. I was awakened to the immense challenges our planet faces and the pivotal role that young people like me have in steering towards a sustainable future.

One of the most poignant lessons from that experience was the notion of our individual carbon footprints. It dawned on me that each action we take, each choice we make, leaves an indelible mark on the Earth. From that moment on, I was determined to be part of the solution, to advocate for change, and to inspire others to do the same.

Coming from the South Pacific, where the effects of climate change are evident, has given me a unique perspective. My relatives have witnessed the erosion of coastlines, the increasing frequency of cyclones, and the displacement of communities. These experiences serve as a constant reminder that climate change isn’t a distant threat; it’s a reality that we must confront head-on.

In Fiji, we have a concept known as “Talanoa,” which emphasizes open and honest dialogue. It’s a tradition that fosters understanding, empathy, and collaboration – qualities that are essential in the race to net zero. I believe that the voices of young people must be amplified through these conversations. We are not just the leaders of tomorrow; we are the activists, innovators, and change-makers of today.

While the challenges are immense, I draw inspiration from the countless individuals and communities across the globe who are taking tangible steps towards sustainability, especially my host country, the UAE which will be hosting the COP 28 soon. From adopting renewable energy sources to rethinking consumption patterns, the movement for positive change is gaining momentum.

As a Fijian, I feel a deep responsibility to protect our oceans, preserve our biodiversity, and ensure a future where generations to come can experience the beauty of our islands. But this responsibility extends far beyond borders. It’s a global effort that requires collective action, collaboration, and a relentless commitment to creating a world where net zero is not just a goal, but a reality.

Together, we can rewrite the narrative of our planet’s future. By raising our voices, advocating for change, and demanding climate action, we can create a ripple effect that reaches every corner of the Earth. The race to net zero is not just a competition against time; it’s a race to safeguard the very essence of life as we know it. And as a young Fijian, I’m determined to run this race with unwavering resolve, carrying the hopes of my island home and the aspirations of a generation determined to make a difference.

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