“We must double down on the fight for climate justice”

A heartfelt speech by climate activist Anjali Sharma at the Rainbow Warrior's Welcome Ceremony in Vanuatu

19 July 2023

The Rainbow Warrior is journeying through the Pacific Islands carrying courageous climate litigants from the Caribbean, Torres Strait, Philippines, India, Tonga and Solomon Islands and Australia who have come together to share stories, strength, and strategies for achieving climate justice. Climate litigant and activist, Anjali Sharma, shared her deeply personal story with members of civil society groups, local communities and representatives from the government of Vanuatu at the Rainbow Warrior welcome ceremony.

Anjali Sharma at the arrival ceremony in Vanuatu for the iconic Greenpeace vessel, the Rainbow Warrior.

© Greenpeace / Island Roots

My name is Anjali Sharma, and I believe in climate justice.

I come from central India, from a beautiful and tight knit community in Lucknow.

Despite having very little, my community are some of the happiest people I’ve ever met.

Like the people of Vanuatu, my loved ones back home have lived on the very frontlines of the climate crisis.

They’ve seen birds drop dead out of the sky through searing heatwaves.

They’ve watched the asphalt outside their homes melt and catch fire.

They’ve suffered through back-to-back heatwaves and floods.

They’ve lived through months in sweltering heat, only to have homes and roads submerged a few days later.

They can see, like your people can, that these extreme weather events are happening more frequently, and with more severity.

They are more unpredictable and more volatile.But they also see that they’ve done the least to cause it.

My life in Australia has been relatively sheltered from this.

But even as a teenager, I’ve always felt an enormous sense of survivor’s guilt hearing the stories from my community.

Stories of loss and damage, stories of climate harm.

Stories that shouldn’t come from a community of such happy people.But the worst part is when the stories stop.

When all news goes silent, and the phone doesn’t ring, when all contact is lost, not knowing for days if family are dead or alive, when phone networks are cut.

All the while watching our governments heap more coal, oil and gas onto the fire.

In and amongst climate disaster, our communities need help, yes, but they need justice more.

So a few years ago, I took the Australian Federal Government to court.

I sued the Government arguing that they had a duty of care to protect young people from the impacts of climate change.

Because I know what climate justice is, and I believe in it wholeheartedly.

Climate justice is the ability to live with safety on the land on which you were born and intend to die.

It’s the ability to live without fear of your life being cut short by avoidable extreme weather.

It’s the ability to know you will be able to rebuild. To know you will be alright.

I want climate justice for my family in India, and I want it for the Pacific. Because I feel at home here.

Your shells and decorations, in India, they are ours too. Your songs and dances, they are ours too.

Your stories and your love, they are ours too.

I used the court to fight for climate justice for my own community, because they themselves cannot.

And climate justice is what each one of us are fighting for, in all corners of the world.

This trip across the oceans has taught me a lot.

It taught me that when it feels like you’ve leaned all your weight against climate injustice, and it still feels like no progress has been made:Remember that weight is cumulative, and that there are people all around the world engaged in the same fight, leaning their weight, lending their voice, sharing their story.

And as more and more join, there’s no way that we won’t win.

Thank you to the people and government of Vanuatu for welcoming us here with open arms as part of this fight.

We must double down on the fight for climate justice, and continue holding our governments and big polluters accountable for their actions.

So my family and yours, can continue to live in not only dignity and safety, but happiness as well.