UNITED NATIONS – Prime Minister Mia Mottley has delivered a stinging rebuke to the world’s largest carbon emitters who continue talk but fail to take constructive action to halt climate change.
She told the United Nations General Assembly: “We have been discussing the challenge of climate change for over three decades, from the time when Small Island Developing States first raised the global alarm in 1988.
“The Commonwealth gave us a vulnerability index in 1989. The Barbados Programme of Action 25 years ago, then Mauritius, then Samoa. How much more talk?
“And we are still here today, some of us, singing the same chorus as if there are many who are deaf and many who are blind among us.”
The Prime Minister said she found it ironic that after the UN’s Climate Action Summit on Monday, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released another special report, which summarized that some of the more severe consequences of climate change can no longer be avoided.
The blockbuster report – an assessment of the climate crisis in the world’s oceans and ice caps – said extreme sea-level events that used to occur once a century will strike every year on many coasts by 2050, no matter whether climate heating emissions are curbed or not.
The stark assessment by the world’s scientists concludes that many serious impacts are already inevitable, from more intense storms to melting permafrost and dwindling marine life.
But far worse impacts will hit without urgent action to cut fossil fuel emissions, including the eventual sea-level rise of more than four metres in the worst case, an outcome that would redraw the map of the world and harm billions of people.
Mottley queried: “How many times have we been told this?
“How many times has science reinforced that this is a threat to our survival?
“The destructive behaviour continues. I ask you today in this hall, where is the moral leadership of our world?
“Where is the constructive action by the countries who are responsible for carbon emissions, who believe that it is OK to continue to build coal power plants and not decommission them?”
The Prime Minister said while Barbados has premised its own development on education and inclusion, such that it may eradicate poverty from its landscape; and has made good progress, the gains made are in jeopardy from one main challenge – climate change.
Referencing the recent devastation caused by Hurricane Dorian in the northern Bahamas, she said catastrophe represents an unfortunate new normal for many in small island developing states.
She declared: “This world in which we live can no longer ignore the reality of climate change. Climate change is not about hurricanes and floods.
“It is about droughts, it is about wildfires, it is about Sargassum and our ability to provide drinking water, to feed our people and provide shelter.
“We face that in our own nation today – from drought to Sargassum. And while hurricanes may be viewed as the heart attacks, Sargassum and drought are truly like diabetes – insidious and wearing us down.”
Mottley then spoke directly to young people, noting that “it is the world of our children that is absolutely at risk”.
Last Friday, youths from across 150 countries around the world chose to champion the cause of climate justice.
The Prime Minister said: “For me, it is significant that when young people engage in battle, the war is usually won.
“We saw it in South Africa, we will see it now in the battle against climate.
“I am therefore confident that the battle will be won. The question is, will it be in time for our people who live in Small Island Developing States?
“Will our small states survive this climate catastrophe before mankind find ultimately, as I know it will, the solution to halt and reverse climate change?
“And it is we in the Caribbean and in the Pacific, in the oceans of the world, as small islands, we are the ones on the frontline.
“But as I say to you all the time, make no mistake about it, others are also in the line behind us. \
And as we would say in my own country, ‘today fuh me, and tomorrow for you’,” the Prime Minister added.
Mottley reiterated that the science is exceedingly compelling, wondering aloud what was preventing countries from following the science.
“I ask us, even as leaders, to be real; real with ourselves and real with our people; real with the young. It’s about political will. Nothing more, nothing less,” she told the world body.