Female voices call for urgent climate action at COP26

Six women telling world to hurry up on climate action at COP26


There’s been a spectacular host of inspiring women issuing an urgent call to arms today and over the past week or so, as world leaders arrive in Glasgow to discuss making significant commitments on climate action, along with 15000 delegates from 200 countries

Below, Jessie Tu examines some of the highlights so far, with the COP26 talks in Glasgow to continue for the next two weeks.

India Logan-Riley, 26, New Zealand

Māori climate activist India Logan-Riley delivered a compelling speech at the opening of the summit, claiming that warnings of sea-level rise and wildfires have gone unheard.

Logan-Riley, 26, who is the co-founder of Te Ara Whatu, an indigenous youth from the Pacific and Aotearoa working for climate action and indigenous sovereignty, introduced themselves on stage in te reo Māori, an Eastern Polynesian language spoken by the Māori people.

“I am the same age as these negotiations,” Logan-Riley said.

“I have grown up, graduated, fallen in love, fallen out of love, started and changed a couple of careers, all while the global north, colonial governments and corporations fudged with the future.” 

“We’re keeping fossil fuels in the ground and stopping fossil fuel expansion. We’re halting infrastructure that would increase emissions and saying no to false solutions.”

“In the US and Canada alone indigenous resistance has stopped or delayed greenhouse gas pollution equivalent to at least one quarter of annual emissions. What we do works,” Logan-Riley added.

“I cannot put it more simply than we know what we are doing, and if you are not willing to back us or let us lead, than you are complicit in the death and destruction that’s happening across the globe. Land back, oceans back.”

“Two-hundred-fifty-two years ago invading forces sent by the ancestors of this presidency arrived at my ancestors’ territories, heralding an age of violence, murder and destruction enabled by documents, like the Document of Discovery, formulated in Europe.”

“Land in my region was stolen by the British Crown in order to extract oil and suck the land of all its nutrients while seeking to displace people.”

“These historic forces continue to shape my life and have brought me here,” they added.

“This is an invitation to you. This COP, learn our histories, listen to our stories, honour our knowledge and get in line, or get out of the way.” 

The Queen, 95, U.K 

In a pre-recorded speech to the summit, The Queen addressed politicians, urging them to think farther than their own priorities.

“It is the hope of many that the legacy of this summit – written in history books yet to be printed – will describe you as the leaders who did not pass up the opportunity; and that you answered the call of those future generations,” she said.

“That you left this conference as a community of nations with a determination, a desire, and a plan, to address the impact of climate change; and to recognise that the time for words has now moved to the time for action.

“Of course, the benefits of such actions will not be there to enjoy for all of us here today: none of us will live forever.”

“But we are doing this not for ourselves but for our children and our children’s children, and those who will follow in their footsteps.”

She expressed admiration for the advocates and activists who have erupted the cause onto the global stage. 

“I have drawn great comfort and inspiration from the relentless enthusiasm of people of all ages – especially the young – in calling for everyone to play their part.” 

“In the coming days, the world has the chance to join in the shared objective of creating a safer, stabler future for our people and for the planet on which we depend.”

“None of us underestimates the challenges ahead; but history has shown that when nations come together in common cause, there is always room for hope. Working side by side, we have the ability to solve the most insurmountable problems and to triumph over the greatest of adversities.”

“I, for one, hope that this conference will be one of those rare occasions where everyone will have the chance to rise above the politics of the moment, and achieve true statesmanship.”

Txai Surui, 24, Brazilian Amazon

At just 24, Indigenous climate activist from the Brazilian Amazon, Txai Surui addressed leaders over the weekend, drawing attention to the Amazon’s environmental devastation and saying world leaders have “closed their eyes” to the reality of climate change.

“The Earth is speaking: she tells us we have no more time,” she said, adding that her father had taught her to listen to the stars, moon, animals and trees.

“The rivers are dying, and our plants don’t flower like they did before.”

“We have no more time. We need a different path.”

“My friend was murdered for protecting the forest,” she added.

“We must be at the centre of the decisions happening here,” she said, referring to the Indigenous community she belongs, who have been living in the Amazon forest “for at least 6000 years.” 

Greta Thunberg 18, Sweden

In a retweet of an appeal for supporters to sign an open letter accusing leaders of betrayal, the 18-year old Nobel Peace Prize nominee wrote:

“This is not a drill. It’s code red for the Earth. Millions will suffer as our planet is devastated – a terrifying future that will be created, or avoided, by the decisions you make. You have the power to decide.”

Brianna Fruean, 23, Samoa

At the opening of COP26, Samoan climate activist Brianna Fruean described her motivations for advocating for Pacific islanders, whose lives are under threat from rising sea levels.

“I remember, at primary school, my teacher telling my class that climate change could mean small islands like Samoa, Tutuila and Tonga might drown. I just thought, “I’m not going to let my islands drown.”

“We are not just victims to this crisis, we have been resilient beacons of hope. Pacific youth have rallied behind the cry ‘We are not drowning, we are fighting’. This is our warrior cry to the world.”

A founding member of the Samoan chapter of the climate organisation 350.org when she was just 11 years-old, she reminded leaders that “in your meeting rooms, and drafting document…are more than just black and white objects. In your words, you wield the weapons that can save us or sell us out.”

“You don’t need my pain or my tears to know that we are in a crisis.”

“The real question is whether you have the political will to do the right thing.” 

“We are not drowning, we are fighting. This is my message from Earth to COP.”

Vanessa Nakate, 24, Uganda 

In an open letter published in Time magazine co-written by Greta Thunberg, Vanessa Nakate addressed “media editors around the world” about their duties, and the negative role they have played so far in reducing the most harmful effects of climate change.

“If you want to truly cover the climate crisis, you must also report on the fundamental issues of time, holistic thinking and justice,” the founder of Youth for Future Africa and the Africa Rise Up movement wrote.

“[W]e need immediate, drastic, annual emission reductions unlike anything the world has ever seen.”

“And as we don’t have the technological solutions that alone will do anything close to that in the foreseeable future, it means we have to make fundamental changes in our society,” the letter states. “This is the uncomfortable result of our leaders’ failure to address this crisis.”

“Your responsibility to help correct this failure cannot be overstated.”

“Historically, Africa is responsible for only 3 percent of global emissions. And yet, some Africans are already suffering some of the worst and brutal impacts of climate change.”

“You are among our last hopes,” the letter ends. “Whether or not you choose to rise to that challenge is up to you. Either way, history will judge you.”

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