Last year, Samoan climate campaigner Brianna Fruean told world leaders at the COP26 climate summit that, despite a torrent of corporate greenwashing, broken promises, and overall climate action reluctance, youth activists will never stop holding those in power to account and fighting for what is right. 

"We are not drowning; we are fighting," the 24-year-old told tens of thousands of leaders and delegates.

Earlier this year, Brianna — who has been leading grassroots community projects and pushing for climate justice since she was a child — was recognised for her powerful activism when she was awarded the 2022 Global Citizen Prize: Citizen Award Samoa.

The Global Citizen Prize 2022 recognises people defending the planet, defeating poverty and demanding equity, focusing on climate change, empowering adolescent girls and breaking down systemic barriers that keep people in poverty.

An awards ceremony and intimate gala dinner will honour Brianna, six other Global Citizen Prize winners from around the world and this year's Global Citizen Prize: Cisco Youth Leadership Award winner, Nidhi Pant, at New York City's Gotham Hall on May 22.

The event will air on YouTube on June 2 from 12.00 p.m. ET. 

Brianna says she hasn’t fully decided yet which of her many projects she’ll direct the US$10,000 winnings to.

There’s her work as a founding member of 350 Samoa to consider, which she joined aged just 11. 

Then there’s the environmental group Future Rush, which works to rally youth in the Pacific to tackle climate change and embrace sustainable development. Brianna also sits on the Council of Elders at youth-led grassroots organisation Pacific Climate Warriors and is a founding member of children’s eco-group Small Voices.

Regardless, she says the money will allow her to continue to bring small island representation to the global climate conversation.

"Climate change for a lot of people feels very static, like something they watch on the news, but for me, it's something very real," she told Global Citizen. "I believe that climate activism is the fight for home. Engagement of young people is so important when trying to re-build and re-imagine a future because we are the future."

The Global Citizen Prize is simply the latest in a long list of accolades.

At just 16 years old, Brianna made history as the youngest ever winner of the Commonwealth Youth Award for her role in uplifting the voices of young Pacific people in the climate justice movement. A year later, she was selected by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environmental Programme as their first-ever youth ambassador.

Samoa, a country of just under 200,000 in the Pacific, is one of the most vulnerable to climate change in the world.

The low-lying nation is particularly susceptible to rising seas and tropical storms, with climate change experts predicting that projected sea-level rise as a result of climate change and global warming will only exacerbate already concerning rates of coastal erosion, loss of land and property and dislocation. 

Join Brianna in taking action to defend the planet here.

Global Citizen Asks

Defend the Planet

Meet Global Citizen Prize Winner Brianna Fruean, a Pioneering Climate Activist Fighting for Justice in the Pacific

By Madeleine Keck