The COP23 climate talks’ ‘Fijian flavour’ tastes a lot like tokenism

Kera Sherwood-O’Regan (Kāi Tahu) is an Aotearoa Youth Leadership Institute delegate to COP23, the United Nations Climate Conference in Bonn, Germany. Over the next three weeks, she’ll be reporting on the conference’s outcomes for indigenous peoples.

“Talk to any climate nerd about this year’s UN Climate Negotiations, and you’ll likely be met with excited proclamations about ‘the first Pacific COP’. After all the hot air (pun intended) of Trump’s apparent exit from the Paris Agreement, I’ll admit it’s nice to have something to celebrate. Certainly, throughout the first day of the conference, it’s been impossible to escape the air of optimism and hope among attendees.

Whether in the queue for extortionately priced organic pretzels (justifiable only due to the palaver that is getting through UN security to get in or out of the centres); in the various briefings; or amongst the international displays and pavilions, everyone is revelling in the unique ‘flavour’ brought by Fiji’s presidency this year. Phrases like the ‘Talanoa dialogue’, ‘bula spirit’ and ‘Fijian flavour’ melt on people’s tongues like a buttery croissant, and mentioning that you’re indigenous is met with unanimous good cheer, support and interest.

On the surface, it all seems quite delightful. Dig a little deeper though, and I feel like the so-called Fijian flavor has got a slightly bitter aftertaste… and it tastes a lot like tokenism…”

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