The prime minister of Barbados, who famously took the world’s industrialized nations to task at COP26 for sowing the seeds of a climate crisis that nations like hers are having to reap, is set to speak Thursday to an Atlanta audience.
In her widely reported speech, Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley, who became the island’s first female political leader in 2018, laid out proposals for redress of a conundrum that has gummed up global talks on limiting global temperature rise: how much compensation is owed by wealthy, heavily emitting countries to island nations with small populations that now bear the brunt of climate change’s effects.
“Do some leaders in this world believe that they can survive and thrive on their own? Have they not learned from the pandemic? Can there be peace and prosperity if one third of the world literally prospers and the other two thirds of the world live under siege and face calamitous threats to our wellbeing?” Ms. Mottley asked her counterparts from much larger nations at the COP26 leaders summit Nov. 1.
The minister, who also holds the nation’s portfolios of minister of finance and economic affairs, noted that rich nations have unleashed $25 trillion of quantitative easing — the buying of bonds by central banks to keep interest rates low — since the global financial crisis of 2008, with $9 trillion of it coming since COVID-19 emerged just last year. She called on leaders to redirect some of this monetary largesse — $500 billion per year for 20 years — into a trust that would help finance energy and agricultural transitions needed to stop what she described climate catastrophe for countries like Barbados.
Barbados, an island in the eastern Caribbean, has just under 300,000 people, and has held Queen Elizabeth as its head of state since independence in 1966. But the speech by Ms. Mottley is indicative of a newly assertive nation that voted this week to become a republic, cutting its official ties to the British monarchy and installing its first president, Sandra Mason.
Ms. Mottley boasts a broad mandate to make tough decisions: Her Labour Party swept all 30 seats in the country’s parliament in 2018 and retains 29. Barbados, which began as a colony worked by slaves to produce sugar and other crops for the British Empire, is to remain a member of the 54-nation British Commonwealth.
Ms. Mottley will speak virtually this Thursday at 4 p.m. during the next edition of Emory Climate Talks, a series of webinars focused on tackling tough topics around the crisis and encouraging students to engage in solutions-oriented actions.
Before this year, Emory had sent student delegates to each of the United Nations climate summits since COP21 in Paris in 2016; they presented research at side events while attending official functions.
Between 1994 and 2008, Ms. Mottley served as cabinet member in three successive administrations, with stints as minister of education, home affairs, attorney general and deputy prime minister in 2003. She also serves as lead head of government for the Caribbean Community, or CARICOM.
Barbados is represented in Atlanta by Honorary Consul David Cutting.
Sign up for the virtual event here.