Representatives of developing nations and indigenous communities highlighted the heightened stakes of climate change for them at the United Nations climate summit, known as COP26, Monday.
Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley called out reduced climate finance for frontline and small-island communities at the opening ceremonies of the conference in Glasgow, Scotland, Monday morning.
“Failure to provide the critical finance and that of loss and damage is measured in lives and livelihoods in our communities. This is immoral and it is unjust,” she said. “So I ask you: what must we say to our people living on the frontlines in the Caribbean, in Africa, in Latin America, in the Pacific, when both ambition and regrettably, some of the needed faces at Glasgow, are not present?”
Several world leaders did not attend the Glasgow summit in person, including Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinOvernight Defense & National Security — Austin mandates vaccine for Guardsmen Russia's ultimatum: Will Ukraine negotiate peace or risk conflict? The dual threats confronting Ukraine MORE and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
“Simply put, when will leaders lead? Our people are watching, and our people are taking notes. Are we really going to leave Scotland without the resolve and the ambition that is sorely needed to save lives and to save our planet?” Mottley added. “Do some leaders in this world believe that they can survive and thrive on their own? Have they learned nothing from the [coronavirus] pandemic?”
Fawn Sharp, President of the National Congress of American Indians, also addressed environmental disparities in separate remarks.
“For generations, we have witnessed and felt the impacts and the deep pains of marginalization, oppression and inequity,” she said. “The divide and inequity of oppression has expanded well beyond racial lines.”
However, Sharp praised the Biden administration’s approach to environmental justice and said her presence at the summit demonstrated marginalized communities “have a seat at the table” on climate issues.
“Our one ask is to be seen as our Creator created us, to respect our ability to live as the Creator intended on the lands gifted to our ancestors when time began,” she added.
The Biden administration has emphasized environmental justice in its rhetoric on climate, but potential disparities around the conference itself have also surfaced as an issue. Several environmental groups in September called for its postponement, citing the lack of access to vaccines in poorer nations. This disparity, they wrote, ran the risk of making COP26 inaccessible to the very people most at risk from climate change.