Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley has warned she will ‘say some things you may not like’ as she warns there is no easy solution to the climate crisis on the day of the opening of the very first space for children and young people at COP27.
The country’s first female leader, who was re-elected in a landslide victory earlier this year, has achieved superstar status in the climate movement after her salient speech to world leaders at last year’s Cop26 in Glasgow . She told wealthy country leaders at the time that their failures were a “death sentence” for small islands and developing countries.
This year, she is a leading voice calling for better funding for developed countries and the fossil fuel industry to help vulnerable countries cope with the losses they are incurring due to the effects of the climate crisis.
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On the second high-profile Leaders Day at the Sharm el-Sheikh Climate Summit, Ms Mottley spoke at the Children and Youth Pavilion, designed to give young people a bigger voice on an issue that puts their future in jeopardy.
A large audience greeted her, including many young people from across the Caribbean, who waved flags and cheered loudly as she took her place. “Thank you for the blue, yellow and black,” she said, noting the Barbados flag in the back row.
Chandelle Nikki Toni O’Neil, 29, from Trinidad and Tobago, told The Independent why Mrs. Mottley inspires so much respect in young people.
“I’m not surprised she came to talk to us because that’s what she always does,” the activist said. “The fact that she came here on the second day [of Cop] talk to young people? It’s a Mia Mottley thing.
Ms. Mottley had candid advice for the crowd. “The world is at a difficult point,” she said. “And I’m going to say some things that you like, and I’m going to say some things that you might not like. Because that’s the reality of life.
“But the most important thing is that I need you to read and familiarize yourself with the issues. Because if you’re not, that’s when you’re going to lose the battle.
She explained that pragmatism is the key to tackling the climate crisis and that the issues are not black or white, while urging her audience to cling to the idea that “good is right or wrong. is evil”.
“There’s a lot of gray out there, and how you deal with gray is really the true test of coming of age, accepting the consequences of your choices,” she said.
She used the example of her own country, explaining that although Barbados has ambitious climate targets – pledging to cut emissions by 70% by 2030 and reach zero by 2035 – the problems it faces are complex and will not be resolved overnight.
“The problem is that Barbados does not manufacture everything it needs. We don’t produce everything we need,” she noted. “We have become slaves to a comfortable life without worrying about food security, energy security and independence, and a whole range of other things.
“So we wake up and we want to get there. But we won’t get there with a “Beam me up, Scotty” moment. Because it takes time to plan, grow and harvest.
But she was also clear about the problems facing small island states and developing countries, and sharply criticized oil companies, which recently announced a round of record profits, and the World Bank.
“The World Bank must recognize that if it is to be the bank for reconstruction and development – not just in the middle of the 20th century, but in the middle of the 21st century – it must come to [terms with] 21st century realities, which include climate, which include pandemics, which include [the] the digital divide, which includes inequalities within countries,” Ms Mottley said.
World Bank President David Malpass was recently forced to say he accepts scientific evidence of the climate crisis after being called a “climate denier” by activist and former US Vice President Al Gore.
After her speech, Ms Mottley said she was ‘not in a position to comment’ when asked The Independent if the World Bank needed a new boss.
She ended her remarks on a note of optimism, referring to former US President Barack Obama’s remarks that “progress does not come in a straight line”, and said tackling the climate crisis was like passing the relay in a relay race.
“I will always meet youngsters no matter what I do because I realize I can only run so far in this race and I have to at some point,” she said.