Systematic change has been a call from many citizens within the Pacific as we navigate tackling carbon emissions and protecting our environment. Systematic change is high level large-scale change; the responsibility of our governing bodies and supported by individual actions. We can all recall proactive actions by communities, businesses, individuals and institutions to influence systematic change as well as demand for leadership of climate change to connect environmental, social and corporate governance.

In March I joined panellists at the CPA UK Commonwealth Parliamentary Asia Pacific Climate Change Forum to discuss the role of parliamentarians in holding governments to account, setting ambitious climate commitments and complying with international agreements. The session concluded the forum by outlining the Pacific context and the sustainable climate agenda. The topics included concerns in the Pacific (North and South), and collective action.

Having being involved in organisations for youth and groups of young people coming together for progress over the last decade, long standing issues are more and more prominent. These issues are being targeted through different angles of policy, advocacy, communication, galvanising social action, consciousness and raising capital. We’ve learnt and grown our perspectives. The basis for initiatives are collective agreement and behavioural change. At the moment for climate change that means unifying acts towards a more restorative and adaptive way of life.

When I first started preparing for the fora I thought about diplomacy and the Pacific’s place in the world - small nations coming together, calling for a united effort and sharing our knowledge and informed solutions. As I think back on the session we discussed the social and environmental impacts of climate change, the extreme weather events, and the required support and resources. We raised climate justice and acting where possible on areas like carbon reduction.

So what happens after these discussions and what do you do with these shared insights? These conversations will continue with countries coming together namely in November 2021 for COP26. As a result of the Forum a Commonwealth Parliamentary Climate Change Working Group was formed.

Organizing between people and contributions from communities are a cornerstone for change. This month I attended a community clean-up of a local urban river. What we're seeing is that the rubbish is changing, it's certainly all plastic and it's getting harder to pick up.

These pieces of rubbish are convenience food wrappers, bottles, cups, polystyrene, bottle caps, disposed masks and waste from homes. Some of these should have ended up in recycling and some landfill, however it has ended up on the banks of the river, in the mangroves and in the water itself. The plastic is breaking down into smaller and smaller plastic pieces. By removing this rubbish it means the rubbish we prevent it from entering other waterways and removes micro plastics.

We all need to act now for a better climate. 


Shelley is a young professional based in Auckland Tāmaki Makaurau, Aotearoa New Zealand. She has represented many youth-led and community driven groups as a volunteer. Shelley leads the Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Environmental Working Group for the Royal Commonwealth Society and is a committee member of RCS Auckland.

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the Royal Commonwealth Society.