Tuesday 9 November
The pressure was ramping up by this point. It was Tuesday of the second week, and this time, on approaching the conference entrance, there were masses of protestors by the gates waving colourful banners happily in front of police officers. A bright yellow banner proclaiming “Indigenous Land Rights = Climate Justice” was being held by five White protestors from London which felt oddly performative at first until it was revealed the protest was a collaborative effort between the Indigenous Peoples and Extinction Rebellion.
Tuesday was Gender Day at COP26, and as a result there were a number of renowned female politicians gracing the halls. Among them were Nancy Pelosi and AOC – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The events could be watched online but, as per, it was far more interesting being present in the plenaries themselves.
I turned up with my laptop and camera in hand to Nicola Sturgeon leading the morning events. Finishing hers, she made reference to a climate activist and “puppet” who would be making their way to the stage shortly and, a few seconds later, Samoan climate activist Brianna Freuan and the giant puppet Little Amal made their entrance.
I recognised Little Amal from a news piece I’d read before but in person, she was something else. The puppeteers made her movements so convincingly human that she became eerily real on that platform. Her facial expressions changed as Brianna spoke, and she never stood stock still either, her mimicking flawless.
COP president Alok Sharma spoke on the interlinked issues between the climate crisis and gender, saying: “At least four million girls won’t complete their education due to climate-related crises – just this year. Frankly, that is an absolute travesty and it’s a dangerous one.” Monica Medina, US Assistant Secretary for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, thanked Nancy Pelosi for her efforts, and reiterated: “Climate change is not gender neutral. Climate change is sexist.”
Sabra Noordeen, Special Envoy to Climate Change in the Maldives, discussed the impact of climate change on women and children in the Global South, drawing in Covid-19: “[The] pandemic has disproportionately affected women’s livelihoods, care burden and mental health. Those who suffered most are poor, marginalised, and particularly women and girls in rural places.
“Women and girls play a leading role for advocacy for climate justice in the Maldives. We know that having more women at the table means that the questions that are asked are a truer reflection of our society and our needs.”
Then Nancy Pelosi took to the stage, her red power suit providing suitable pathetic fallacy for her complimentary speech on female empowerment and the need for increased recognition of the sensitivity of women and children to the climate crisis. She praised Biden, and all her US counterparts, talking about the promising work that had been done so far. Education, she emphasised, was key.