Open your hearts speech at COP26

Open your hearts speech by our founder, Elizabeth Wathuti during the COP26 World Leaders Summit Opening ceremony in Glasgow.

My name is Elizabeth Wathuti.

I am a youth climate activist from Kenya.

I have done a lot of soul searching about what to say here today. I have asked myself over and over what words might move you. And then I realise that making my four minutes count does not rest solely on me.

My Truth will only land if you have the grace to fully listen.

My story will only move you if you can open up your heart.

I cannot urge you to act at the pace and scale necessary. But in the end, your will to act must come from deep within. I need to tell you what is happening in my home country.

Right now, as we sit comfortably here in this conference centre in Glasgow, over 2 million of my fellow Kenyans are facing climate related starvation. In this past year, both of our rainy seasons have failed. And scientists say that it may be another 12 months before the water’s returned again. Meanwhile, our rivers are running dry, our harvests are failing.

Our store houses stand empty. Our animals and people are dying. I have seen with my own eyes, three young children crying at the side of a dried up river after walking 12 miles with their mother to find water.

Please open your hearts. This is not only happening in Kenya.

Over the past few months, there have been deadly heatwaves and wildfires in Algeria and devastating floods in Uganda and Nigeria. And there is more still to come.

By 2025, in just four years time, half of the world’s population will be facing water scarcity. And by the time I’m 50, the climate crisis will have displaced 86 million people in Sub Saharan Africa alone.

I would like you to join me in holding a moment of compassionate silence for the billions of people who are not here with us today, whose stories are not being heard and whose suffering is not being felt.

Please open your hearts.

If you allow yourself to feel it, the heartbreak and the injustice is hard to bear. Sub Saharan Africans are responsible for just half a percent of historical emissions. The children are responsible for none but they are bearing the brunt.

We are the adults on this earth right now. And it is our responsibility to ensure that the children have food and water.

I have been doing what I can. Inspired by the great professor Wangari Maathai. I founded the Green Generation Initiative, a tree growing initiative that enhances food security for young Kenyans. So far we have grown that 1000 fruit trees to maturity, providing desperately needed nutrition for 1000s of children. Every day we see that when we look after the trees, they look after us.

But these trees and the life saving fruit they bear will not survive on a 2.7 degrees Celsius warmer planet The decisions you make here will help determine whether the rains we return to our land.

The decisions you make here will help determine whether the fruit trees we plant will live or perish. The decisions you make here will help determine whether children will have food and water.

I believe in our human capacity to care deeply and to act collectively. I believe in our ability to do what is right if we let ourselves feel it in our hearts. So for these next two weeks, let us feel it in our hearts.

The children cannot leave on words and empty promises. They are waiting for you to act. Please open your hearts and then act.

Thank you.

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