Nov 10, 2017

Okeanos Sails Into COP23, Full Steam Ahead

Bula from Bonn!

While the 23rd United Nations’ Conference of the Parties is underway in the idyllic German city of Bonn, COP23’s host country, Fiji, makes this year’s climate discussions ever more relevant as the first Pacific island nation to host the conference.

Okeanos Director Dena Seidel and Okeanos Skipper Iva Vunikura, Fiji’s most experienced female voyager, meet with Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama at COP23.

Okeanos Foundation for the Sea has joined thousands of NGO’s and world leaders to participate in the global discourse of how to effectively combat climate change, with the host country drawing necessary attention to the critical and urgent threats facing the Pacific.

“Cyclone Winston, which struck the Fiji Islands last year and claimed 42 lives, can be attributed to climate change,” said Okeanos’ Iva Vunikura, Fiji’s most experienced female skipper in traditional sailing. “Wind speeds up to 230 kilometers per hour were even better for the storm-tested islanders,” she told German press.

Iva has joined our team in Germany to present her firsthand accounts of climate change impacts and sea level rise after six years of sailing nearly 60,000 nautical miles aboard Okeanos-built sailing canoes throughout the Pacific.

In 2011-2012, Iva sailing aboard the Fijan vaka moana Uto Ni Yalo during the two-year Te Mana o Te Moana voyage where she circumnavigated the Pacific with a fleet of Okeanos-built sailing canoes. In 2015, Iva worked with the crew of Okeanos Vanuatu to provide disaster relief goods to victims of Cyclone Pam – one of the strongest storms to slam Fiji in recorded history. Most recently, Iva has been training and sailing with Okeanos Marshall Islands in Majuro, which escorted Hokulea home from Tahiti this summer during the final leg of the historic Malama Honua Worldwide voyage.

Fiji-native Iva Vunikura has been sailing with Okeanos Foundation for the last 6 years.

“Since joining Okeanos Foundation, I’ve been learning heaps more about sailing and about the people of the Pacific and people of the world,” says Iva.

This week, Iva, along with Okeanos Chairman Dieter Paulmann & Director Dena Seidel, met with Fijan Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama who thanked Okeanos Foundation for the building and gifting of Fiji’s cultural icon the Uto Ni Yalo, that has since appeared on national stamps across the country.

Roko Sau Roko Josefa Cinavilakeba, the Pacific Blue Foundation’s government and community relations director, shares photos of the Veitau Waqa (a traditional drua) from his region with the Okeanos team.

For the duration of COP23, Iva and Okeanos US team member Gabriela Figueredo are facilitating an exhibit with our partner Ecoship on sustainable sea transportation, offering the 25,000 Conference visitors an opportunity to speak one-on-one with Iva about her experience voyaging with Okeanos’ traditionally designed, fossil fuel-free sailing canoes.

Iva & Okeanos US team member Gabriela Figueredo manning our joint exhibit with Ecoship in the Bonn Zone.

A Fiji Voyaging reunion at Bonn with Iva and Uto Ni Yalo Vice President Monifa Fiu

On November 14th, Iva will be speaking at the COP23 Side Event “Sailing The Past into the Future” hosted by Palau President Tommy Remengesau, Marshall Island President Hilda Heine, Nauru President Baron Waqa, FSM Vice President Yosiwo P. George, and Japan’s Overseas Environmental Cooperation Center. Joining her in speaking will be Dieter Paulmann, as well as Pacific Ocean Commissioner Dame Meg Taylor and OECC Senior Researcher Dr. Emiko Matsuda.

While it’s still too early to weigh in the outcomes of COP23, one groundbreaking victory came on Tuesday with Syria’s commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement. This announcement adds more pressure on the United States (historically the world’s top carbon emitter) as the only nation to stand outside the pact to keep global temperatures from rising 2 degrees.

For Pacific Islanders like Iva, these 2 degrees is a matter of whether her home will stay above water.