As the 26th United Nations Climate Conference (COP26) was about to start in Glasgow this week, four strong female climate activists have written an emergency appeal calling world leaders to face up to the realities of the climate crisis. Greta Thunberg, Vanessa Nakate, Dominque Lasota and Mitzi Tan published their letter Emergency Appeal for Climate Action! on the campaigning platform Avaaz on 31 October. Having surpassed their original target of 1,500,000 signatures in a couple of days, they look on track to reach 2 million in the coming days.
Together these four activists sent an urgent message to world leaders, describing the current mood among young environmental campaigners: “Betrayal. That’s how young people around the world are describing our governments’ failure to cut carbon emissions. And it’s no surprise.”
Swedish activist Greta Thunberg shared the appeal on her Twitter calling for signatures. Despite her global influential position in the climate movement, she was not sent an official invitation to the summit. Nevertheless, Thunberg is spending COP26 in Glasgow, campaigning with fellow activists from a selection of groups such as Fridays for Future and Green New Deal Rising (GND).
Ugandan activist and author, Vanessa Nakate, is also in Glasgow for COP26. Her book A Bigger Picture (Pan Macmillan, 2021) brings a new African voice to discussions of the climate crisis as she speaks about her experiences on the front lines of environmental change.
Dominika Lasota is a climate and social justice activist from Poland. She took to Twitter on the third day of COP26 to express her frustration at the lack of international media attention on climate activists and the disregard shown so far for the 1.5-degree temperature target. “Please stop asking if we are hopeful,” Lasota tweeted.
Mitzi Tan, a climate activist based in Manilla, works to ensure that underrepresented voices are heard in the fight for environmental justice. Tan declares that when she was born in 1997, atmospheric CO2 was at a concentration of 365ppm. In 2020, the global average CO2 concentration was 412.5ppm, despite a global pandemic grinding most travel to a halt.
You have the power to decide
In their appeal, the four young women convey the urgency of the climate emergency. “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”, they call.
The activists’ emergency appeal clearly outlines the need for a commitment to the 1.5-degree temperature target. “Keep the precious goal of 1.5°C alive with immediate, drastic, annual emission reductions, unlike anything the world has ever seen. End all fossil fuel investments, subsidies, and new projects immediately, and stop new exploration and extraction,”, they demand.
World leaders had previously pledged to spend $100bn to countries most at risk of climate change by 2020. Far from meeting this target, it is generally acknowledged that this will not be possible until 2023. The emergency climate appeal calls for this money to be allocated as promised.
“Deliver the $100bn promised to the most vulnerable countries, with additional funds for climate disasters. Enact climate policies that protect workers and the most vulnerable and reduce all forms of inequality,” the young female activists request.
No more blah blah blah
World leaders gathered, ready to exercise their decision-making power, and UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, made his opening speech. Amid his rambling speech covering James Bond and cows, Johnson quoted one of Thunberg’s signature chants, ‘No more blah blah blah’, without the smallest hint of irony.
Nakate and Thunberg had already met First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, for talks at the summit. Yet there was subsequent outrage as The Scotsman and other media outlets named only Thunberg when reporting the story. The paper has since issued an apology to Nakate.
While painfully aware of our planet’s predicament, these four female activists remain optimistic. They end their powerful letter with a message of hope and inspiration.
“We can still do this. There is still time to avoid the worst consequences if we are prepared to change. It will take determined, visionary leadership. And it will take immense courage — but know that when you rise, billions will be right behind you, they envision”