Seychellois youth make their voices heard and actively support Sids at COP27 |17 November 2022
Young people in Seychelles are environmental champions and they showed that at the 27th Conference of the Parties (COP27) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) taking place in Sharm el-Sheik Egypt.
Four Seychellois youth ‒ Nathalia Lawen (21), Victoria Alis (26), Elissa Lalande (28) and Jeremy Raguain (28) ‒ are supporting the Seychelles delegation in Sharm el-Sheik and the Alliance of Small Island States (Aosis) ‒ a negotiating bloc representing 39 small islands and low-lying developing states in international negotiations ‒ in various ways.
Climate change poses an existential threat to small islands developing states (Sids) like Seychelles. This year the issue of loss and damage ‒ the destructive economic and non-economic impacts of climate change ‒ has dominated COP27 headlines and negotiations. With Sids incurring average annual loss and damage costs of 2.1% of gross domestic product (GDP), Aosis is calling for the establishment of a new funding mechanism to ensure Sids’ survival.
This is Nathalia Lawen’s and Victoria Alis’ second COP. At Sharm el-Sheikh, Nathalia spoke on the importance of having strong connections between large ocean states for climate action and how important youth empowerment is while underlining Seychelles’ reality vis-à-vis the climate crisis.
She also had the opportunity to pose questions to the Commonwealth secretariat as part of an intergenerational dialogue entitled ‘Youth voices for sustainable oceans and energy’.
She has also attended Aosis coordination meetings exposing herself to the bloc’s strategic discussions and learning more about Sids’ key priorities and concerns at COP27.
With this exposure, she is keen to apply her learnings to her degree and bring her experience home.
Reflecting on her time at COP27 Nathalia said “although hectic, this week has been a learning curve. My brilliant peers from Seychelles have been teaching and guiding me a lot and for that I am grateful.”
Nathalia’s week-long participation at COP27 was made possible by Peace Boat ‒ a Japan-based non-government organisation (NGO).
As a member of YOUNGO, the official youth constituency of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and the steering committee member of the COP27 Youth & Children Pavilion, the first of its kind in a UNFCCC COP, she was able to shape COP27 even before arriving. Moreover, as the coordinator of Seychelles’ second YOUNGO-registered Local Conference of Youth (LCOY) Victoria, she had many occasions to pass on key concerns and views of Seychellois youth to COP27 participants. The LCOY served as a space to expose and inform young people of Seychelles’ Nationally Determined Contributions and efforts on climate adaptation and mitigation action as well as local and international tools and opportunities available to youth.
Nathalia is a student at Aberystwyth University, Wales, studying Economics and Climate.
Talking about her first week, Victoria Alis said “this opportunity is allowing me to bring a Sids, climate-ocean and youth agenda to the ‘African COP’. Through intergenerational consultations, panel moderation and discussions I have been able to voice the concerns raised during our recent LCOY to other African youth and an international audience.
“At COP27, I am seeking to build partnerships and bring forward opportunities to young people in Seychelles and local authorities. COP27 is a reminder of the importance of meaningful youth engagement to achieve the Paris Agreement,” said Victoria.
Victoria’s participation at COP27 was made possible through the Wangari Maathai African Young Climate Leadership programme.
While advocacy is a key part of the COP, the negotiations are an essential part that other Seychellois youth are actively involved in. COP27 was marked as the implementation COP whereby negotiations would focus on the 2015 Paris Agreement’s implementation. As such, the Egyptian COP presidency’s efforts to move the needle on mitigation, reducing greenhouse gas emissions enough to limit global warming to well below 2C° (1.5C°), adaptation, transforming entire systems and societies to be climate change resilient, and finance largely realising the Global North’s promise of US $100 billion in annual climate change funding to the Global South. It has been an intense first week.
Victoria is an environmental and sustainable development consultant working and volunteering with different NGOs in and out of Seychelles. She is also a member of YOUNGO, the official youth constituency of the UNFCCC, and the coordinator of Seychelles’ second YOUNGO-registered Local Conference of Youth (LCOY). She is also a steering committee member of the COP27 Youth & Children Pavilion, the first of its kind in a UNFCCC COP.
Two young Seychellois trained by the Aosis Fellowship, a unique Sids-designed programme that strengthens the capacity of early career professionals from Aosis member countries went to New York for one year to participate in environmental diplomacy with their country’s delegation at the UN headquarters and at international negotiations. They were Elissa Lalande aged 28 and climate change and energy department’s senior policy analyst, and Jeremy Raguain, the Seychelles mission to the UN’s climate change and ocean advisor.
This year, Elissa is Aosis’ response measures. Response measures is a significant issue for Sids as it aims to minimise the negative impacts of reducing dependence on fossil fuel by promoting its positive impacts. A ‘just transition’ is a major topic for these discussions as it considers the negative and positive impacts of implementing the Paris Agreement by ensuring that incomes and livelihoods are safe for the people.
Elissa is also proud of how her new role allows her to promote gender balance and the youth’s voice at the technical negotiations.
“While this is not my first UNFCCC COP, it's definitely the first one being an Aosis’ coordinator with higher responsibilities. As a coordinator, I get to attend the technical negotiations, not only for Seychelles but on behalf of all Sids, ensuring that our views come across strongly. It is a great experience and I look forward to the best outcomes of COP27,” said Elisa.
For Jeremy Raguain, who graduated from the Aosis Fellowship at his first UNFCCC COP, the negotiations followed on from an intense year of learning in the fields of international environmental law and negotiations. While COP27 is particularly challenging, Jeremy found it to be an excellent baseline for a lifelong responsibility of defending Seychelles and the most vulnerable.
Speaking about his experience he said: “Last week I had to balance my time between speaking engagements that allow me to communicate the experiences and interests of Sids and young people with technical negotiations on the Global Stocktake ‒ the Paris Agreement’s ‘report card’ ‒ and the ocean climate ‒ nexus ‒ which focuses on the strong relationship while networking and engaging experts. I arrived in Sharm on October 31, like Elissa, the Seychelles UNFCCC focal point, Wills Agricole, and Aosis legal advisor and deputy Fellowship director, Angelique Pouponneau, for pre-negotiation preparations. All in all, I am moved by the many people who are doing their best to fight the merciless tactics of those most responsible for this climate crisis. It's especially fitting that I graduate from the Fellowship at this COP surrounded by Seychellois fighting to save our country.”
Jeremy’s participation at COP27 was made possible through the Aosis Fellowship.
Elissa Lalande is the Climate Change and Energy Department’s Senior Policy Analyst and Aosis Response Measures Coordinator for COP27.
COP27 will end on November 20. While some parts of negotiations are running relatively smoothly, the fate of others are yet to be decided. Watch this space for more information and updates from our young environmentalists!
Press release from the Ministry of Agriculture, Climate Change and Environment