7 November 2022, Sharm El Sheikh. – A speech delivered by Ugandan climate activist Leah Namugerwa, at the 27th Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC (COP27) in the city of Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, on the 7th of November 2022.
I greet you all who are here for a good cause.
Many young people, including me, were robbed of our childhood.
As children, we have been forced to grow, to think, to act like adults, because we cannot see our future shut, our dreams put to an end, our home, – Mother Earth, – burning, heating, in drought and we do nothing.
When I was 14, I saw landslides caused by harsh weather conditions killing my fellow humans. These images have disturbed me; they cannot allow me to rest until something is done about the changing climate.
Individually, everyone has a role to play to save the planet.
At a tender age, when I just turned 15, I started a project called ‘‘Birthday Trees’’. I plant trees on people’s birthdays as one of the ways to fight climate change. I have a goal of planting a million trees and more. Tell me what your goal is?
Living for others is the rule of nature, – as plants do not eat their own food, rivers do not drink their own water.
I don’t believe that polluting our rivers and lakes does justice to the young generation. I don’t feel it is just that the big polluters remain untouchable.
Is it what the leaders call justice, – to choose profit over life?
COP27 has been nicknamed “The African COP”. If COP27 is to truly deliver, we must be ready to face some truth. Some truth is that we have faced decades of inaction from world leaders. Some truth is that the world is in a state of emergency because of fossil fuels. Some truth is that Africa contributes less than 4 percent of the carbon emissions and yet we suffer the most.
The future of Africa is at stake mostly for young children. We are not sure whether we are heard whenever we speak, – or are we just being ignored?
Let the African COP be a different COP.
Let the African COP listen to the biggest stakeholders.
Let the African COP be an Action COP.
Politicians! When you stand up to talk, my generation requests that you speak as if there is an emergency.
Speak as if you are not barren.
Act as if you have a successor on Mother Earth. Because this is the only planet where we are going to carry on your legacy as your children.
Men in office! How are you going to be remembered?
Do you wish to be remembered as the ones who did a lot of nothing while in power?
Fellow delegates on the conservation front! The world is looking upon us to come up with an ambitious action plan that benefits people.
A sustainable plan that predicts a bright future for all.
The time to force action is right here and right now at the African COP.
I believe that we can do this TOGETHER.
Leah Namugerwa is 18 years old and the first inducted Climate Changemaker for the Youth for Climate Change initiative. YCC supports young changemakers from the Global South who are working at the local level to affect global change. YCC is supported by UNEP, UN-Habitat, the Government of Lanzarote (Spain) and the DigitalArt4Climate initiative.