Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados, again criticised industrialised nations for failing the developing world on the climate crisis, in a blistering attack at the Cop27 UN climate talks in South Africa.
Mottley received a thunderous ovation after delivering the 20th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture in Durban last week. Her address pursued the theme ‘Social Bonding and Decolonisation in the Context of the Climate Crisis: Perspectives from the Global South’.
She said the prosperity – and high carbon emissions – by rich nations has been achieved at the expense of the poor in the past, and now the poor were being forced to pay again, as victims of climate breakdown that they did not cause. Droughts, floods and other severe weathers are affecting Africa and Asia far worse than other areas.
Mottley said: “Seventy percent of the world’s poor live in middle-income countries and when you exclude middle-income countries from being able to borrow, you are effectively condemning the poor in middle-income countries to remain in poverty for the rest of their lives, cementing inter-generational poverty.
“The notion that Barbados, Bahamas and the Maldives cannot borrow as of right from the World Bank in today’s world in a climate crisis is so preposterous, that it tells us that we need to reset and recalibrate urgently if we are to prepare for fighting these battles.”
Mottley accused richer countries of putting profits ahead of helping poorer countries from the effects of climate change.
She added: “The Bible talks to us about tithing and the Quran speaks to us about giving back to those, and we simply say that if you are going to make 100 cents in profit, $200 billion in the last quarter alone, some estimates explain that they may even reach $2 trillion in one year in profits – then, you have a responsibility to put something on the table in a loss and damage fund for those who are now having to pay out.”
One of the biggest issues at the talks was climate justice – the fact that poor people are bearing the brunt of the damage to the climate, through extreme weather, while rich countries have failed to fulfil promises to cut emissions and provide finance to help the poor with climate breakdown.
Mottley, 57, highlighted how developing countries are struggling against the comparatively smaller problems the richer ones have: “No one would ever have thought that the United States of America would take days to count votes in an election. No one would ever have thought that the United Kingdom would have had three prime ministers in less than three months. And, regrettably, none of us would have ever dreamt to see war in Europe after World War II again, so soon and so tragically.
“Mind you, it is almost as if they’ve forgotten that war existed in Africa and in the Middle East for decades. The world that we have come to know has changed upon us and we will either decide as people of the south to be firm craftsmen of our fate and shapers of our destiny, or we will continue to be the victims as we have been for centuries.”
She warned of a billion climate refugees around the world by the middle of the century if governments fail to tackle the climate crisis.