First Person

Youth climate activist Christina Ora: “Listen to the voice of Pacific Islanders”

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Emily Gertz is a freelance journalist, editor, and blogger covering the environment, technology, science, and sustainability. She reported on the Copenhagen climate talks on behalf of Oxfam America.

People are looking weary around the conference center at 9:00 pm, but the mood feels pretty even. I think the reason is that if the heads of state are still confabbing, which they are, it means that the 2009 climate talks have yet to crash and burn completely.

In the main hall, I caught sight of youth activist Christina Ora, from the Solomon Islands, being interviewed for TV.  My very first report here from Copenhagen, the weekend before the climate talks began, covered my conversation with Ora at Council of Youth.

Ora is still energetic and articulate two weeks later, despite knowing that the deal likely to emerge here won’t meet the key demand of small island nations.  The small island countries want the industrialized nations to hold mean global temperature growth below 1.5 degrees Centigrade by 2010, a level more likely to stave off catastrophic sea level rise, instead of the 2 degrees C target that they’ve established over the course of this year.

It’s not clear that this number will make it into the final draft of the “Copenhagen accord.”

Ora described to me what she’s been doing at the climate talks, how she feels now, and what she plans to do next.  She’s not giving up on attaining climate justice: the preservation of her home, and help with adapting to the inescapable impacts of global warming.

Ora has a message for “the top people with the power,” the negotiators, ambassadors, and heads of state carving out a new climate treaty:

“If you happen to be reading or hearing this, we wish for you to listen to the voice of Pacific Islanders,  to listen to the vulnerable countries. Because in your hands, you hold our future, our life.”

About President Obama, still present in the building at this writing, Ora said that if he happened to walk by, she’d try to get him to stop and sit with her for a cup of coffee.  I’m sure that even with the rock star president, teenage Ora would bring her impressively well-spoken self to bear and give Obama something to think about during the remainder of these negotiations. Facebook Twitter Instagram YouTube Google+