With the Rio+20 world summit just around the corner (20-22 June), activists, organisers and governmental representatives young and old are getting ready to make their way to Brazil. In Brazil the 350.org team are busy preparing to make the climate movement’s voice heard at side events and actions.  Here in the Pacific region there is a crew of young people who are getting ready to pack their bags and head over. I managed to catch up with a couple of them – Jinty MacTavish (New Zealand) and Kelvin Anthony (Fiji) – to hear their aspirations and reasons for travelling to the summit…

Jinty MacTavish – 27 – after a rich history as a driving force behind 350.org in New Zealand, in 2010, Jinty was elected to the Dunedin City Council. Since then she has been working tirelessly to ensure that Dunedin city becomes a leader on climate change.

Kelvin Anthony – 24 – is a journalist from Fiji, who has been busy organising with 350.org Pacific over the last year and more. He’s been selected as the Fiji youth delegate and has scored a post with UNICEF Pacific to report from Rio+20 as a Pacific youth voice.

Why are you going to Rio+20?

Kelvin: 1.To learn as much as possible about climate change and sustainable development, 2.To contribute by sharing experiences on common issues and challenges faced by young people in the Pacific and around the world, and identify possible solutions, and 3. Bring the knowledge gained from this experience back – to share with the youths at home in Fiji and the Pacific.

Jinty: I’ve been lucky enough to be selected to go with ICLEI Cities for Sustainability – basically a network of cities from around the globe that are committed to becoming increasingly sustainable. As an ICLEI delegate I will be helping build the case that sustainable development is not only imperative but also desirable, as evidenced by the experience of cities around the world that are finding that the sustainable development approach results in happier, healthier, more equitable, more fulfilling lives for their citizens.

Why is Rio+20 important for addressing climate change?

Kelvin: It is simple – we can’t wait for another 20 years to find solutions for the threats we face to our survival now.

Jinty: I think Rio+20 offers the opportunity for us to have a wider discussion as a globe around the development direction we are headed in and whether that is where we want to be going. Climate change is basically a symptom of a development approach gone wrong, and I do wonder if the lack of action on climate change at an international level is in part because we are trying to deal with it as an issue in and of itself. I’m hopeful that Rio+20 may offer us the opportunity to step back and look at the interrelatedness of all the problems we are facing, and the solutions that will address all of the issues together. Perhaps then we might get some progress in addressing issues like climate change.

What outcomes do you hope to come out of Rio+20? – both at the global and personal level.

Kelvin: I hope world leaders will stop talking the talk and start walking the the talk. It is apparent that even before the Rio+20 decisions are to be made, a lot of people have little hope that  this time things will be any different. Will Rio+20 be another of those international negotiations which comes to nothing? Little has been achieved from what was laid down two decades ago. Will the outcomes of the Rio+20 change anything for the better?  I know it can! Hope the world leaders think that too.

It is vital for young peoples views to be taken into account. We have the potential to make things happen. Our strength lies in our creativity. Our voice need to be listened to and respected. I do not want to be part of a failed discussions and then in another 20 years time not be able to face up to the future generations.

I hope that young people , particularly in the Pacific region start realizing that every single voice matters in the fight against climate change. You don’t have to be a climate change expert to contribute positively and make change happen. What we do now – to find sustainable solutions to this global crisis – will determine the kind of future we want.  

Jinty: At a global level, some acknowledgement of the interrelatedness of the problems we are facing, and some clear, measurable steps to address them rapidly. The UN states that, at the conclusion of the conference, ‘Governments are expected to adopt clear and focused practical measures for implementing sustainable development, based on the many examples of success we have seen over the last 20 years.’ I would really welcome this outcome. At a personal level I am really looking forward to meeting other people working towards sustainability in the local government arena. I think there’s an awful lot to be learnt from other cities around the globe that are streets ahead of us here in New Zealand, and I’m hopeful that some of what I learn will be applicable and useful back home. ICLEI is a forward looking organisation that highlights and focuses on successes and approaches the emulate – so a good dose of inspiration and positivity will be most welcome!

A massive thanks and happy travels to Jinty and Kelvin. Readers – stay tuned – there’s lots of climate action planned for Rio+20! If you haven’t already, please do sign and spread the End Fossil Fuel Subsidies petition far and wide! Just click here.