Interview with Filipe Veisa, Youth Ambassador for Climate Change in the Pacific Region
THE YOUTH TAKES THE LEAD ON CLIMATE ACTIONS IN THE PACIFIC
Interview with Filipe Veisa, a particularly active Youth Ambassador for Climate Change in the Pacific Region.
Amongst his different responsibilities, Felipe is the current student coordinator for the Climate change program at the Pacific Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development, University of The South Pacific  (USP PaCE-SD), which is one of the main partners of the Intra-ACP GCCA+ Programme in the Pacific.
Through his advocacy work, Felipe has contributed to increasing the numbers of students enrolled in the climate change program throughout the Pacific region. He is also active at the level of choir, church and wider community in Fiji, where he mobilises youth groups to raise awareness on climate resilience.
Question: “How do you concretely play a leadership role to support Climate change in your Region?
Taking a leadership role in supporting climate change is very challenging and at the same time a rewarding task. It requires commitment and support from all walks of life, including at grass root level. I am thankful to our Pacific region that we are taking actions now. Fiji, where I am from, for example, was the COP23 president which led the global climate meetings and negotiations. I am glad that I had participated in assisting most of our students to attend Pre-COP and COP meetings to build students’ capacity and understanding of how things happen at a global level in combating climate change. With my current role at the Centre, preaching and walking the talk on issues relating to climate change is pivotal. Indeed we are an academic institution and building the capacity of our Pacific region on climate change issue is our priority. One of my main roles is to promote the programs and courses that are available at USP PaCE-SD for youths, graduates and practitioners who have completed their first-degree studies and wish to pursue their careers pathways in the area climate change. This in turn will then assist them to go back to their countries, communities and apply what they have learnt in combating climate change impacts. Outside work, I also have talks with our youth groups in church on the importance of understanding climate change issues. This has also led to the initiation of one of our programs just being developed called the “Initiative Youth Program” (which, hopefully can be implemented after COVID19 restriction) which involves activities such as, “mangrove planting, fore shore cleaning and home gardening as means to be food secure.
Question: “What are the challenges and opportunities you encounter in this context?”
We always encounter challenges whenever we talk about climate change, but we can turn this challenges into an opportunity. For instance, when we share and preach the word climate change, the skeptics are always there to critique and pass comments, such as, “there is no such thing as climate change” but when you share the science behind it or the changes that our environment is currently facing, you can tell from their expression, that it gives them satisfaction and a better understanding on what climate change is and its impacts. And also, this the opportunity to stand up and say, as a result of sea level rise we have to move to higher places, we give them real life situations or evidences that will support the science argument.
(Photo on the right: Mangroves planting)
Question: What actions are you taking at the local level to raise awareness of climate issues among young people specifically?
There is quite a lot of awareness on climate change issue happening at our local communities and our youths are taking the lead role in making this happen. As mentioned, our “Initiative Youth Program” will resume, as soon as the Covid-19 restrictions are relaxed. Currently the only program ongoing is the home gardening initiative for food security. Apart from this, the department that I work in, also offers Massive Open Online courses (MOOC) on climate change and most of the youths in the regions do take this opportunity to understand climate change issues and their impacts.
(Photo below: With Pacific Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development (PaCE-SD) students leading the planting of mangroves as adaptation measures.)
Question: Do you have any inspiring message for the Youths in your Region and other ACP countries, on how they can concretely contribute to climate resilience?
Youths, we are the future! We have to start nurturing our planet now before it’s too late! Climate change is real and is happening right now. If we think globally and work locally, we will be able to stay below the 1.5˚C. Climate resilience starts at the individual level and in order for that to happen, education is key! We need to educate our youths on the reality of climate change and methods we can use to mitigate and adapt to the changing climate and to become more resilient.
(Photo on the right: In Tuvalu with a group of students, teachers, and practitioners interested to learn more about the climate change programme)
This interview was prepared for the GCCA+ Review of Climate Issues #5 on Youth Climate Ambassadors, published on 30 September 2020.
Download this issue here: https://gcca.eu/sites/default/files/documents/2020-09/GCC18001_ClimateIssues_N5.pdf
 The others are SPRES, SPC and PIFS