29 Years old, iTaukei man
Lavetanalagi Seru is a youth activist with a work background in youth development, gender, human rights, and SOGIESC inclusion in disaster risk reduction. He currently works as the Climate Justice Project Officer for the Pacific Islands Climate Action Network (PICAN), the regional umbrella body for civil society organizations working on climate change in the Pacific.
Lavetanalagi is also the Co-Founder and Coordinator of the Alliance for Future Generations – Fiji, a young people led network on sustainable development.
“Unfortunately, COP 26 was one of the most exclusionary COPs and didn’t deliver on either equity or inclusion, and so we need to do a whole lot more over the next 12 months to ensure that this particular experience of being excluded from the formal climate negotiations does not happen again.”
I have been working in the climate justice space for the last 6-7 years, and it was a journey that began out of passion and also out of concern for the future and for the environment. I come from a coastal community, and I have seen firsthand the impact of sea level rise. Then, in 2016, we experienced one of the strongest Tropical Cyclones that made a landfall in Fiji, known as TC Winston. My village was one of those that suffered extensive losses and damages. Almost 75% of the houses were completely destroyed, with heavy losses to the agriculture sector which many rely on for their livelihood. In my work, I have come across vulnerable and often marginalized groups such as LGBTQI, sex workers and people with disabilities who experience climate-induced disasters at a much more disproportionate level. Inaccessibility to food and water, job losses as a result of frequent and intense climate induced-disasters and stigma and discrimination push these groups further to the periphery in the climate crisis.
These stories and experiences have further fueled my passion to seek reparations for the climate injustices that many other Pacific communities are experiencing, including climate relocations, internal displacements and loss of traditional knowledge, customs, heritage and ancestral lands – things that we hold dear and that cannot be quantified in economic value.
I focus on centering climate justice and human rights in the climate discourse by working in a multi stakeholder approach, forming strategic partnerships in order to elevate our Pacific Climate Justice Demands. My work aims to ensure that these demands are translated into policy actions, inclusive programs, and access to technical and financial resources for the communities who need to mitigate and adapt to the climate impacts.
Our work is about justice, and so we are constantly pushing to ensure that these issues are not only looked into, but that the communities themselves are part and parcel of the process of policy design and implementation. We monitor progress, irrespective of whether initiatives are led by the Government, civil society organizations or by development partners.
Recently, I attended COP 26 in Glasgow – bringing to the forefront, the voices of the vulnerable and marginalized communities. We had a number of events, participated in climate strike marches, gave media interviews, attended strategy meetings and daily coordination meetings. We constantly highlighted the intersectionality of climate justice, and this conversation and action originated from a regional Pacific Climate Justice Summit. During this summit we ensured that there were a number of speakers representing those groups or organizations that are mandated to serve the vulnerable groups and communities, and their demands were reflected into our Pacific Climate Demands, which we took with us to Glasgow.
Unfortunately, COP 26 was one of the most exclusionary COPs and didn’t deliver on either equity or inclusion, and so we need to do a whole lot more over the next 12 months to ensure that this particular experience of being excluded from the formal climate negotiations does not happen again. This is a manifestation of the deepening inequality, inequity and injustice; and we as people, the “scattered majority” must come together to mobilize and demand that we have a more direct engagement within the UNFCCC to ensure that negotiations about our future are transparent, ambitious and coherent to international human rights law. We cannot let the most vulnerable and marginalized in our communities, such as the LGBTQI, sex workers, elderly, people with disabilities and our future generations pay for our governments’ climate inaction.