Peace Boat’s Ocean and Climate Youth Ambassador Program (OCYAP) is a program which brings together young leaders from Large Ocean States to join a Peace Boat global voyage for 3 weeks, to raise awareness and advocate on the issues of climate change and ocean degradation.
I was honoured to be chosen to join the 2nd iteration of the program with fellow young leaders from Palau, Timor Leste, Singapore, Mauritius, Seychelles and Barbados. We began our journey in Stockholm, Sweden then travelled to Copenhagen, Denmark; Bergen, Norway; Reykjavik, Iceland; Halifax, Canada; and ended in New York, USA. Along the journey we had the privilege of learning from guest educators, volunteers and fellow participants on board and meeting with government officials, civil society representatives and concerned citizens at ports.
It was not only my first time visiting many of these countries but also my first time spending so much time on a ship. Stepping onto the deck after the ship had reached Open Ocean was incredible. The beauty of the ocean is so enchanting.
It is also terrifying because if the current rate of climate change continues, the ocean may be all that remains of the Pacific Islands which I call home. This was part of the message I took with me on this trip: climate change is real, vulnerable communities are already facing devastating impacts and we need a safe and just transition to renewable energy as soon as possible.
As we shared the stories of our islands with those we met, we learnt about what some developed countries are doing to address this problem. In Stockholm, during our first OCYAP event we participated in group discussions sharing problems faced and possible solutions to climate change such as phasing out fossil fuels and increasing investment in renewable energy. In Copenhagen, we learnt about sustainable solutions being implemented by the private sector (SUSTAINIA) and government (House of Green). We also visited a wind farm to see how Denmark is transitioning to renewable energy. In Bergen, we had an event at the University of Bergen with Small Island Big Song (a group of musicians from island countries) and visited the museum to learn about plastic pollution in the ocean. In Reykjavik, we spoke to members of the Arctic Youth Council, visited an ice cave constructed inside the Perlan museum, and learnt about glaciers and how Iceland uses geothermal energy. In Halifax, we met with members of the Halifax Regional Municipality and learnt about how they are encouraging their citizens to be more sustainable through school programs, loans for residential solar panels and recycling. We also met with volunteers of Greenpeace Halifax and concerned citizens, sharing the realities of climate change on our islands and how developed countries can help. Our journey culminated in New York where we shared our message with the world during Peace Boat’s Partnership Expo and at a side event during the United Nations High Level Political Forum.
It was truly a journey of learning and sharing, discovering new places and solutions, realizing the potential we all have to address climate change and ocean degradation. The best part of the program was meeting and traveling with the other young leaders. We are 7 different people with different backgrounds, educational experience and expertise, all with the same goal: a more sustainable future for all. It is comforting to know that we are not doing this work alone, and going forward, we will always have support for the work we do. This program gives the opportunity for passionate young people to learn and grow, to create partnerships and build lasting friendships as we work towards a better world. It is an experience I will never forget, and I encourage young people from Large Ocean States to apply for the next edition of the program when Peace Boat announces it.