Leaders of developed countries have stood at this very podium claiming that they want to defend 1.5 degrees, that they believe in the science, that people matter, that they care. Empty words. Hypocritical words. Lies.
You have left us standing on the edge of the precipice, facing multiple and interconnected crises. Climate catastrophe. Unjust debt. Global inequality and poverty. Hunger. Biosphere and ecosystems collapsing.
It’s not that you aren't acting — you are. From climate laggards to climate criminals.
You say equity and historical responsibility don’t matter, and refuse to do your fair share with net zero goals. You burn down other peoples’ homes and then claim you can’t be held responsible. Instead of a loss and damage fund and climate reparations, you offer insurance schemes. You break your promises on climate finance with more debt-creating loans. You can finance wars, but say you can’t finance adaptation. You expand oil gas and coal back home when we need an equitable phasedown of all fossil fuels now. You turn these climate negotiations into a trade fair, and let those who profit from fueling climate disaster sit at the table peddling false solutions while those who defend our planet and its people sit in jails.
For centuries, you looted the wealth and resources of the Global South, rigged the global economy with unjust trade rules, forced austerity on the poor, and peddled discredited neoliberal trickle-down economic policies. For you, the lives of Black, Brown, Indigenous and the poor are disposable. For us, they are non-negotiable.
You offer us nothing but bitter and poisoned tears, but we will not let you sacrifice us for profit. We fight for a world where everyone has the right to live with dignity and in harmony with the planet. For us, justice matters. Human rights matter.
And in the words of Alaa Abd El Fattah: we are not yet, and we will never be, defeated.
Asad Rehman is the Executive Director of the radical anti-poverty and social justice charity War on Want. He was a founder of the Stop the War Coalition and the Global Campaign to Demand Climate Justice, amongst other initiatives. He has also served on boards of Amnesty International UK, Friends of the Earth International, Global Justice Now, and Newham Monitoring Project.