Oceania 21 – Third Pacific Summit in New Caledonia

May 13, 2015

Jean-Michel speaks with the young future leaders of tomorrow at Oceania 21 Conference in New Caledonia. © Nicolas Imbert

Last year I had the immense honor of attending the Oceania 21 Meetings for the Second Pacific Summit for Sustainable Development in New Caledonia. Here, small island nations of the South Pacific and other world nations came together to discuss the future that their countries and their people face as the devastating effects of climate change continue to disrupt their native ways of life. Rising sea levels, increasing storms and more powerful hurricanes and cyclones are all consequences of rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, which humans are responsible for accelerating. The first to be affected by climate change will be low-lying islands and those in remote isolated regions with few natural resources, many in the South Pacific.

Last year, I asked all of these nations to come together and unite their common goals. This year, my hope for them is the same – for all nations to unite and form one Voice of the Pacific so that the world may hear their struggles and take real action to slow the effects of climate change, and offer their countries and resources to those who will be affected most. Together, we can accomplish this vital goal.

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Below is the speech I presented for the world leaders of Oceania 21 – the Third Pacific Summit in New Caledonia in April 2015:

Ladies and Gentlemen, good afternoon. My name is Jean-Michel Cousteau and it is my privilege to speak with you all today.

Last June I had the honor of attending the Oceania 21 Meetings for the Second Pacific Summit for Sustainable Development in Noumea, New Caledonia. Listening to the presentations from Pacific Island leaders, prime ministers, presidents, government officials and others, I felt immensely connected to this cause and passionate about making real changes to help the future of the Pacific Island nations.

What we need is action, with targeted, tangible, and effective goals. We understand the global problem. The planet’s climate is changing due to humans accelerating the process through burning fossil fuels, which increase concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The consequences include warming oceans, rising sea levels, increasing storms and droughts, acidifying oceans and stronger and more unpredictable weather.

It’s already happening. The tragic devastation caused by the recent Cyclone Pam destroyed lives, homes, food and freshwater resources to those living in Vanuatu. Many more people in Pacific low-lying islands will continue to face challenges as seas rise and storms become more powerful. These people are all part of our collective global family – the human family. I desperately urge all nations to open their home to the people and nations whose Pacific island homes will likely disappear. And I urge us all to open our hearts to our neighboring human populations that will need new homes as climate change continues to impact and change our global world.

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As we prepare for the United Nations Climate Change Conference happening in Paris this December – it is critical that we create a plan of action and agree on unifying solutions to address climate change well before we sit down with the rest of the world’s leaders for the discussion in 2015.

What would that plan be? Together, your voices represent the Pacific, a region of our planet covering an area larger than any single country alone. Together, the voice of the Pacific has more influence than any single country alone. As residents of Pacific island nations, you all understand first hand the significance of a healthy ocean, and what it means for a healthy quality of life. The solution to this global problem is our unity.

Coming together, One Pacific Voice can create a plan of action – to convince governments, policy and decision makers, gather the support of large industries and businesses, and together take the right steps that lead us to decreasing emissions of carbon dioxide and instead investing in renewable sources – from the sun, the winds, and the tides – we can find and make available clean energy that will sustain us, our children, our grandchildren, and the future generations to come.

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Today, in what I call the communication revolution, we can now connect every person to one another. What I ask from each one of you today is to make a commitment to stand together as One Pacific Voice, to reach out to tiny islands and nations and support them with freshwater, food, and energy resources to those impacted by climate change, and to openly and courageously invite and welcome these people into your homes and countries such as France, the Marquesas Islands, the Society Islands, the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand, among others.

We are all are connected to the Pacific, one way or another. Today we have not only the responsibility to care for our ocean home, but also the privilege – the only species – that has the choice not to disappear. We can do it, we can make it happen, but we need action now.

Now is the time we unify. Now is the time we agree that carbon emissions must decrease and end by all countries, but especially by those who pollute the most. Now is the time we agree that renewable energy is the path of the future and every nation, including those in the Pacific, must commit to substantial renewable energy targets. There is no longer a debate. Now is the time to take real action and communicate to the world the one unified voice of the Pacific.

When I was in Noumea, New Caledonia last year for Oceania 21, I was moved by how many nations came together and agreed that concrete action is essential and that by coming together, one voice of the Pacific would be heard by the world. Let us continue that cooperation and continue to stand together as a single voice that demands to be heard so that action can to be taken now!

Thank you for your time today. I look forward to the decisive action to come from this year’s Oceania 21 Meetings, and I look forward to the commitments that must be made to move us in the right direction. Together, we can speak up as One Pacific Voice and take action that unites our common goals. Thank you and au revoir.

Warm regards,

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Jean-Michel Cousteau
President, Ocean Futures Society

First Photo: Jean-Michel speaks with the young future leaders of tomorrow at Oceania 21 Conference in New Caledonia. © Nicolas Imbert

Second Photo: Rangiroa, about 355 km Northeast of Tahiti, is one of the largest atolls in the world. The highest elevation is 12 m or 39 ft. The Ocean Futures Team filmed there in 2002 during the Sharks at Risk expedition. © Tom Ordway, Ocean Futures Society

Third Photo:The aftermath of Cyclone Pam. Image courtesy UNICEF Pacific

Fourth Photo: Marine protected areas will give sea life a chance to recover from decades of overfishing. © Carrie Vonderhaar, Ocean Futures Society