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Climate crisis
Speeches and Discussions

The actions we take today will determine the future of our planet for generations to come

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Photo: The Elders / Joel Rocha
On 28th May in São Paulo, Brazil, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf delivered a keynote address at 'Long-view leadership & climate justice: how Brazil can lead the world' (read a summary here). In her speech she urged world leaders to adopt long-term, inclusive climate strategies that prioritise human rights and address economic inequality.

Read Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's keynote address


Mary Robinson and Colleagues of the Elders, Minister Franco, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a profound honour to return to Brazil since I visited in April 2010 on the invitation of President Lula for a state visit. Today I stand before you as we gather to discuss one of the most critical challenges of our time – climate change. As the former President of Liberia, I have witnessed firsthand the devastating impacts that climate change can have on communities, on nations, on people. Today, I want to speak about the role Brazil, as the current holder of the G20 presidency and the host of COP30 and upcoming BRICS in 2025, can play in mobilising the world to tackle this existential crisis.

We are at a relevant and pivotal moment in history. The actions we take today will determine the future of our planet for generations to come. This is why it is often said that it is long-view leadership that will save the world. It is a form of leadership that looks beyond the short-term and views everything with a long-term perspective.

As the Elders chair Mary Robinson said “Long-view leadership means showing the determination to resolve seemingly intractable problems not just manage them, the wisdom to make decisions based on scientific evidence, and the humility to listen to all those affected."

Brazil, with its rich biodiversity, vast natural resources and its natural endowment, is uniquely positioned to lead the charge in this endeavour. By embracing long-view leadership, Brazil can set an example for the entire world, demonstrating that courageous policies informed by scientific evidence and driven by justice and inclusion are not only possible but imperative.

Let me mention a few things specifically that Brazil can think of as it engages with colleagues around the world and set the tone that will be followed by others. Firstly, Brazil's decision-makers must commit to policies that are grounded in the latest scientific evidence. Climate science has given us a clear roadmap of the actions needed to mitigate global warming and adapt to its impacts. This includes reducing greenhouse gas emissions, protecting, and restoring ecosystems, and investing in renewable energy. Brazil's leadership in this area can inspire other G20 nations to follow suit, creating a ripple effect of positive change.

Secondly, we must ensure that our approach to tackling climate change is driven by justice and inclusion. The impacts of climate change are not felt equally – vulnerable communities, particularly in the Global South, are disproportionately affected. Brazil can lead the policies that will respond to being able to address these disadvantages Brazil can build upon the historical and culture ties with Africa to provide an important perspective on current affairs which reflects the diversity of a multi-polar world.  This diversity needs to be better reflected in the corridors of power, to make sure we have a multilateral system and institutions that are truly representative and fit for purpose in the 21st Century.

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Photo: The Elders / Joel Rocha

A just transition for people and nature is most essential. Sustainable solutions that put human rights and tackling economic inequality at the heart of discussions are crucial. Brazil can lead by example by implementing policies that promote green jobs, ensure fair wages, and support social safety nets for those affected by the transition to a low-carbon economy.

Brazil's rich biodiversity, particularly in the Amazon rainforest, is a global treasure. Protecting these ecosystems is not just an environmental imperative but a moral one. The Amazon is not only a critical carbon sink but also home to countless Indigenous communities whose rights and livelihoods must be protected. Brazil can and must set a global standard by enforcing stringent protections for these vital ecosystems and the people who depend on them.

Addressing economic inequality is central to our fight against climate change. We must recognize that economic inequality exacerbates vulnerability to climate impacts. Brazil, with its significant economic disparities, could lead by example in creating a more equitable society. This includes investing in education, healthcare, and sustainable infrastructure to lift people out of poverty and build resilient communities.

Climate change is a global problem that requires a global solution. As the holder of the G20 presidency, Brazil has the platform to foster international cooperation and collaboration. By working together, we can pool our resources, share knowledge, and coordinate efforts to tackle this crisis more effectively. Brazil can champion initiatives that promote technology transfer, capacity building, and financial support for developing countries, ensuring that no nation is left behind.

The path ahead is challenging, but it is also filled with opportunity. Brazil has the chance to lead the world in taking decisive action on climate change. By embracing long-view leadership, implementing courageous policies informed by science, and driving a just and inclusive transition, Brazil can mobilise the world to tackle this existential emergency.

Let us, the Nations of the world, the people of the world, the leaders of the world, remember that the decisions we make today will shape the future of our planet. Let us rise to the occasion. More importantly, may Brazil through its leadership have the courage to point the world to those changes and reforms that will lead us to a better world.

We are today in a world of complexities and concerns. A world that has moved away from the international standards to which we all have given credence. Today we have a world in which the population is increasingly young, who are being prepared and are demanding change now.

This is where Brazil will come in. This is where it will have the opportunity to change our global systems in finance, peace and security, and address new challenges from climate change to digitalisation and artificial intelligence. In the end, the changes demanded by young people call on all of us to promote the essential elements of global wellbeing: freedom, justice, equality. It is the young people, and more importantly, the women of the world, who will drive this transformative change.

Thank you.

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