Ghanaian girl limits jargon, delivers message at COP27

Ghanaian girl limits jargon, delivers message at COP27

SHARM el-SHEIKH, Egypt (AP) — By their nature, U.N. climate negotiations are filled with scientific and diplomatic jargon.

So when 10-year-old Nakeeyat Dramani Sam spoke during a plenary session Friday to hundreds of delegates, her soft voice and direct message cut through the dryness, a reminder to negotiators and everyone listening that the decisions made in the talks on climate can have a direct impact on people.

Speaking about the suffering in Ghana due to the floods, he held up a sign that read: “Payment is overdue.”

“I put a simple question on the table,” he said. “When can you get back to us? Because the payment is late.”

Sam was speaking about a thorny issue that has been at the center of the past two weeks of negotiations at the summit called COP27, hosted in Egypt’s Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. Many developing countries are insisting that rich countries, which have contributed most to climate change through high greenhouse gas emissions, compensate them for the damage.

In the climate negotiations, the issue is called “loss and damage”. It’s a topic that produces a wide range of opinions and nuanced battle lines. Developed nations such as the United States have resisted such calls for compensation, not wanting to be on the hook for what may be an indefinite period. China, also a high carbon emitter, supports the idea of ​​rich nations contributing to such payments, but does not want to pay. On Thursday, the European Union submitted a proposal to create a loss and damage fund. While the proposal gave negotiators something concrete to chew on, it also likely deepened divisions.

Sam’s speech did not bother with the machinations of negotiations, but rather had the kind of honesty and freshness that comes naturally to children.

He told attendees he had met with US climate envoy John Kerry earlier this week. Kerry was nice, she said, and the meeting made her think about the future.

Her next sentence was humorous, although she certainly didn’t mean it.

“By the time I’m his age, God willing, it will be the end of this century,” he said, implying, as children often do about adults, that Kerry was old. Kerry is 78.

Soon after came a strong and direct message.

Speaking about how scientists say the world has less than a decade to keep polluting at current rates before the effects of global warming get much worse, Sam said: “Have a heart and do the maths. It is urgent.”

When Sam finished her speech, she received a standing ovation.

In an interview afterward, Sam said her environmentalism started a few years ago with a love of trees. He wrote a children’s book about trees in Ghana and has planted over 100 trees to date.

“I’m also calling for action that every child should plant a tree,” she said, standing with her mother and aunt.

Sam said she was a poet and when asked recited a poem about climate change from memory that ended with calls for rich countries to take responsibility for historic climate damage and pay up. Children were the best people to deliver such messages, he said, because they would be around to suffer the consequences of global warming.

“We are the future leaders, so when we speak people listen,” he said. “I don’t know about adults because I’m not their age. “

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The Associated Press’s climate and environmental coverage receives support from several private foundations. See more about AP’s climate initiative here. AP is solely responsible for all content.

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