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River Above Asia and Oceania Ecclesial Network

Towards a fossil fuel-free future: Protecting the dignity, identity, and existence of Pacific Islanders

RAOEN shares an intervention made by Archbishop Peter Loy Chong at a COP28 high-level Party event hosted by Tuvalu entitled Nation-states join forces to pursue a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty negotiating mandate on 2 December 2023. The Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative is a movement calling for nations to halt the expansion of new coal, oil and gas projects and manage a global transition away from fossil fuels. The treaty has three pillars: 1) non-proliferation, 2) a fair phase out, and 3) just transition. Since its inception, small island developing states (SIDS) have endorsed the treaty and are leading the charge for its inclusion as a negotiating mandate in the UNFCCC COP process.

In his intervention, Archbishop Loy Chong brought forward the concerns and voices of the ocean states by highlighting the Indigenous spirituality the Pacific Islanders have with the ocean, and that the treaty is a step towards the protection of human existence, identity, and dignity.

Who am I?

I am the Reba, the Goshawk (Accipiter rufitorques).

I am the Yasi, the Sandalwood (Santalum yasi).

I am the Yawa, the Milk Fish (Chanos chanos Forskal).

These are three things that define me as a Fijian. These are three totems that define many of the Pacific Islanders’ relationship with the land, creation, and the ocean.

Life for many Pacific Islanders is defined by this relationship. My mother told me that when I was born, she buried my umbilical cord with a taro plant (Colocasia esculenta) to show that the cord that connected me to my mother, is now planted to the bigger mother – the Earth. The Māori’s identity is also defined through the saying Ko Au Te Awa, Ko Te Awa Ko Au or “I am the river and the river is me.”

Dear friends, the call to eliminate fossil fuels is good news for island people whose life is grounded on their relationship with the Earth, the sea, and plants. Ending fossil fuels protects the very existence, identity, and dignity of Pacific Islanders. I want to thank all of the Pacific Island leaders that have adopted the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty. Being unable to pursue a fossil fuel-free future deprives us Pacific Islanders of our dignity and existence.

I congratulate the Hon. President of Tuvalu, Mr. Kausea Natano for hosting this High-Level Party Event, and I pray that God may bless this very important work we are doing.

Thank you.

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