Now Reading
Diversity at COP26: Meet the young activists and influential voices like Mia Mottley and Leah Namugerwa… it is not all “blah blah blah”

Diversity at COP26: Meet the young activists and influential voices like Mia Mottley and Leah Namugerwa… it is not all “blah blah blah”

World leaders, politicians, environmental-icons and activists: the range of speakers at this year’s Conference of Parties boasts a diverse and monumental agenda

From October 31 to November 12, representatives of over 200 countries discuss new targets for curbing the growth of climate-changing emissions. 

Global warming will have bigger consequences for Africa than most other continents, it is in Africa that the impact is most destabilising. A recent conference jointly hosted by the Royal African Society, International Crisis Group and Africa Confidential on Climate, Conflict and Demography in Africa sought to give African countries a louder voice. They recognised five key messages for African governments, all of which need attention and application for African governments to mitigate, adapt to and manage climate change in this critical decade. 

Equity and Diversity at COP26, 2050 Climate Group

Measure change. 

African countries must be more accurate in their measuring of environmental change to better understand the situation. From droughts to floods, the increasingly sporadic rainfall causes devastating storms, as well as food shortages. As African populations continue to rapidly grow, pressure increases on both natural and human resources. 

Pressure emitters.

The top priority of African governments’ at COP26 is to pressure carbon’s biggest emitters to take faster action to slow and stop climate change. African governments must act on the front line of the impact of climate change, despite having contributed little to nothing to the problem. Climate change’s consequential stresses worsen social, economic and political tensions and can turn them into violent conflict, there is evidence of this already happening in the Sahel, in the Horn of Africa, and around Lake Chad. 


Of the 100 billion dollars pledged in the 2009 Paris agreement, only a fraction has been delivered. Most African governments are unable to undertake and match this scale of adaptation necessary to manage climate change issues. Africa’s lack of resources results in them only getting 3% of available climate finance, and therefore the governments must rely on aid from multilateral agencies and foreign governments. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking at the Forest event at the SEC, Glasgow. 02/11/2021. Photograph: Karwai Tang/ UK Government

Matched effort

The whole of African governments must act on climate change, not just the environmental ministries…failure to mobilise all departments – finance, defence, transport, energy, – to take all actions will hinder wider progress. Lack of resources does not absolve the governments from policy implementation and deviation. This domestic political pressure is most effective on national governments in instigating change, as opposed to international obligations.

Targeted investment

Investing in the right and most efficient things: a fair energy transition, climate change prevention education, and action to sustain biodiversity and natural resources. Investments must be made in renewable energy; Nigerian Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo argued that more must be done to solve the “energy starvation” that is inhibiting development and worsening the continent’s levels of poverty and conflict. 

Climate activist Elizabeth Wathuti, 26, from Kenya 

“I need to tell you what is happening in my home country. Right now, as you sit comfortably in this conference centre Glasgow, over 2 million of my fellow Kenyans are facing climate-related starvation.”

“By 2025, half of the world’s population will be facing water scarcity and by the time I’m 50, the climate crisis will have displaced 86 million people in sub-Saharan Africa alone.”

Wathuti led a moment’s silence for the billions of people who were not present in Glasgow, whose stories were not being heard and whose suffering was not being felt. “Please open your hearts. If you allow yourself to feel it, the heartbreak and the injustice is hard to bear,” she said.

Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley

“For those who have eyes to see, for those who have ears to listen and for those who have a heart to feel, 1.5 is what we need to survive…2 degrees Celsius of heating is a death sentence for the people of Antigua and Barbuda, for the people of the Maldives, for the people of the Dominica and Fiji, for the people of Kenya and Mozambique, and yes, for the people of Samoa and Barbados.

“We do not want that dreaded death sentence and we have come here today to say: Try harder.”

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres

Humanity “faces a moment of truth” and is “fast approaching a tipping point.”

“Our addiction to fossil fuels is pushing humanity to the brink,” he says. “We face a stark choice: either we stop it, or it stops us. And it’s time to say ‘enough.’”

He adds that we are “killing ourselves with carbon” and “treating nature like a toilet.”

Joycelyn Longdon, British climate activist

Longdon who is studying for a PhD from Cambridge University on the application of Artificial Intelligence to climate change, founded the Climate in Colour platform aimed at making climate conversations more accessible and diverse. Speaking at COP26’s youth focused conference hosted at The Ferry, she says she will be advocating for more diversity at decision making tables. 

“It is not just about UK Black voices but also about how we talk about developing countries. I know a lot of the rhetoric at COP is going to be talking about them as if they are charity cases but these are the countries that have contributed the least to the problem and are at the forefront of the effects. They are not just victims. That rhetoric is completely flawed as they are leaders in their own right, they have got lived experience of climate change, which is important, and it is not for countries like the UK to say they are leading this issue because they caused the problem and continue to do so. We should not talk in terms of charity cases but in terms of the debt owed to the world by the richer countries to allow for mitigation and adaptation in developing countries.”

“I am really excited about the movement, getting more people involved and more people energised to make a change because that change could be lasting, and they can take that back to their local communities and their workplaces. I would urge people to really invest in climate education and become aware how their decisions intersect with the oppression of others and to give space to marginalised communities and to learning more from them, rather than just relying on mainstream outlets to get their information on climate.”

Kaossara Sani, Togolese climate activist, 26

Sani has written a manifesto to the world to tackle climate change. She stresses the importance that wealthy Western nations must pay billions of dollars in compensation to the poorest countries being hit hardest by climate change, so they can invest in sustainable measures to face the future. Her campaign #ActOnSahelMovement, spreads awareness of the critical role of Africa’s Sahel region, stretching from Sudan to Senegal. The Sahel provides a boundary that shields the southerly nation from the arid harshness of the Sahara Desert. It is also the site of armed conflicts that show no signs of decrease or ceasing, as Sani says, “the Sahel needs more trees than weapons.”

In his speech, Sir David Attenborough stresses that the people of these nations are those who are most negatively affected by climate change. Togo ranks 139th out of 182 countries on the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative index, which ranks countries by climate vulnerability. Almost 70% of the population lives below the poverty line.

Sani did not travel to Glasgow and therefore couldn’t present her manifesto in person. She said, “for the cost of flying to Glasgow, we could build a borehole in Togo and give clean water access to people.” Instead, Sani allowed Forbes to publish her manifesto in its entirety:

Compensation for ecocide and the destruction of our ecosystems

My name is Kaossara Sani. I am a peace and climate activist from Togo, a small country in west Africa, and one of the world’s 46 Least Developed Countries (LDCs). More than a billion people spread across Africa, the Asia-Pacific region and the Caribbean are suffering disproportionately from the ever-increasing impacts of climate change, despite historically having contributed the least to the global warming that causes it. I am one of those people.

More than a decade ago, in 2009, the wealthy nations promised to provide $100 billion per year in climate finance for developing countries by the end of 2020. In 2015, they agreed to continue with that yearly provision of $100 billion from 2020 to 2025.

Even though the debt burden of the LDCs has continued to rise due to the effects of climate change and external conflicts—exacerbated by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic—on October 25th 2021, the COP26 Presidency announced a Climate Finance Delivery Plan which states that the wealthy nations’ promise to provide $100 billion per year cannot be fulfilled until 2023. The saddest aspect of the broken promise is the fact that many more people will have died by 2023, and no amount of money will bring them back to life.

To address all the problems caused by climate change, the developing countries’ financial requirements easily exceed $100 billion per year. For example:

• The LDCs’ climate action plans (NDCs) are estimated to cost $93.7 billion per year.

• The developing countries’ adaptation costs are estimated to be $70 billion per year at present, and that figure is expected to reach between $140 billion and $300 billion by 2030.

• It is estimated that, in developing countries alone, loss and damage will have cost between $290 billion and $580 billion by 2030. That is why I am calling on you and on all the people of the world to join me in demanding the cancellation of $100 billion of the LDCs’ total debt every year—in addition to the delivery of the annual $100 billion that was promised in 2009.

Furthermore, I am calling on the wealthy nations to deliver climate finance in the form of grants, particularly to the LDCs, as their debt levels are already unsustainable. They do not have the capability to manage any additional debt, whether it be for the mitigation of climate disasters or for the building of a sovereign economy that is independent in food and energy. Importing even more of those goods, owing to extreme weather events, has already trapped those countries in a spiral of ever-increasing foreign debt.

In addition, we demand that the G20 countries provide the LDCs with technical assistance by installing weather stations and by funding state universities’ research and development on climate change and weather prediction, as well as on methods of adaptation for agriculture and for areas that are facing an increasingly hostile climate and severe degradation of their ecosystems.

We urgently need climate adaptation science centers and technical institutes in every country, so that young people can obtain the knowledge and the skills that they need to innovate and produce solutions that will help their communities to adapt.

Also, we demand something else that has been promised but, so far, has not been delivered. The industrialized nations are obliged to sustain reductions in their greenhouse gas emissions in keeping with their Paris Agreement commitment relating to the necessary target of limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius this century.

Famine induced by climate change is costing thousands of lives in Madagascar right now, before our very eyes, and floods have displaced millions of people in Bangladesh—yet the G20 countries choose to ignore the fact that they are responsible for having caused the problem in the first place, and they have failed to put any really effective measures into practice. They should stop subsidizing the fossil-fuel industry and should take steps to curb their over-consumption of so many goods.

Please people of the world, from the sea to the desert, from the north to south and from the east to west, stand with us to oppose this climate slavery.

We must demand what is ours—climate justice and climate reparations.

Thank you very much for your valuable attention.

See Also

Yours faithfully,

Kaossara Sani

Kaossara Sani can be found on Twitter @KaoHua3.

Dominique Palmer, 21, student at the University of Birmingham

“When other people have told me that I inspired them to join the movement, the fact that I have been able to inspire anyone to take action means a lot to me because it shows how much power we all hold to create ripples of change.” Palmer’s activism focuses on marginalised communities and those disproportionately impacted by climate change, stating that governments should “end the endless exploitation of natural resources for profit.” 

Activist Leah Namugerwa, 17, Kampala Uganda, 

“When I was turning 15, I chose not to cut a cake but to give back to the dying planet by planting 200 trees. My goal is to plant a billion trees and so far, I have planted more than 7,000.” Leah wants her government to “stop cutting forests for sugar cane plantations. Bugoma forest is on the verge of extinction. If this deforestation goes on, my nation will lose a lot. Floods are hitting us hard and landslides are killing and displacing so many people. I’m trying my best to restore what is lost but the government needs to stop deforestation.”

Mikaela Loach, medical student and global environmental activist, 23

Based in Edinburgh, Mikaela spreads awareness of the link between climate change and racial injustice. “We must tackle white supremacy and capitalism. The creation of the current crisis was built upon the blueprint that was left by colonialism. If we want to create solutions, we have to tackle the root cause, we have to tackle white supremacy, we have to tackle capitalism, we have to tackle all systems of oppression.”

Mikaela says countries like Jamaica, where she was born, are living with the effects of the climate crisis and the actions of countries like the UK.

“The UK owes countries like Jamaica and other countries all over the world a huge debt because of the emissions that the UK has contributed to creating this crisis that is harming these countries. The UK has created the conditions for these countries to be deliberately underdeveloped through colonialism and that legacy.”

Environmentalist, Eyal Weintraub, 21, Buenos Aires

Eyal campaigns for better education of environmental policy in schools. “I would like for environmental education to be a priority at school and be incorporated into the curriculum in a holistic way. How it is taught should be a co-creation led by students, teachers, specialists, indigenous people and the voices of those on the front line of environmental violence.” Eyal believes that education about the climate crisis is crucial to be able to “mitigate this catastrophe”.

Other notable figures include

– Democratic Republic of Congo President and Chair of the African Union, Felix Tshisekedi

– Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari

– Ghanaian President, Nana Akufo-Addo

– Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta

– Rwandan Prime Minister, Édouard Ngirente

– Argentinian President, Alberto Fernandez

– Colombian President, Ivan Duque

– Turkish President, Tayyip Erdogan

For more information click here