At COP26, TN school girl tells global leaders to ‘stop talking and start doing’

NARAYANAN V Chennai | Updated on November 05, 2021

Many of my generation are angry and frustrated at leaders who’ve made empty promises and failed to deliver. And we have every reason to be angry, Vinisha Umashankar said

On Thursday, climate and environmental activist Greta Thunberg denounced the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) as the ‘most excluding COP ever’. The 18-year-old Swede said the international summit is no longer a climate conference and snubbed it as a ‘greenwash festival’.

While Thunberg chose to walk out of a panel discussion at COP26, a 15-year-old Indian girl made the heads of government sit down and take note of the climate concerns.

“Many of my generation are angry and frustrated at leaders who’ve made empty promises and failed to deliver. And we have every reason to be angry. But I’ve no time for anger. I want to act,” Vinisha Umashankar, said the school girl from Tamil Nadu, addressing the COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow on Tuesday.

In a power-packed speech, Umashankar appealed to her audience, which included the US President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and host of other global leaders, to ‘stop talking and start doing’.

‘Award winning innovator’

Umashankar was one of the finalists of Prince William’s Earthshot Prize, dubbed as Eco Oscars. The Class 10 student at SKP Vanitha International School in Tiruvannamalai, was shortlisted in October under ‘Clean our air’ category for innovating a solar-powered ironing cart. The innovation was aimed at replacing the 300-year-old practice of using charcoal-based iron boxes used by vendors, to press clothes, in India and in most developing countries.

According to Umashankar, there are over 10 million such carts in India, each burning 5 kilos of charcoal every day. . Her innovation won her several laurels including the prestigious Children’s Climate Prize in November 2021, which is considered to be the most significant awards for young innovators.

While Delhi-based agri recycling project ‘Takachar’ won the Earthshot Prize under ‘clean our air’ category, it was Umashankar’s powerful speech that won many hearts at COP26.

Leaders cheer

“Feeling optimistic as I head home from #COP26 having met our @EarthshotPrize Winners & Finalists and discussed their solutions to repair our planet. Especially proud to see Vinisha speaking in front of the world, demanding change so that her generation can have a better future.” Prince William tweeted with a picture of himself with Umashankar at the dais.

“I’m not just a girl from India. I’m a girl from Earth and I’m proud to be so. I’m also a student, innovator, environmentalist and entrepreneur but most importantly, I’m an optimist,” the 15-year-old said in the address which received a standing ovation. “So proud of young Vinisha Umashankar for speaking with such clarity, passion and sense of commitment at the #COP26 Summit in Glasgow! This is India’s future. She is India’s future.” parliamentarian Shashi Tharoor tweeted on Friday.

While her fiery speech drew inevitable comparison with Thunberg, Umashankar was quoted by Sky News as saying, “She is an activist, I am an innovator and there is more than enough room for both’.

Published on November 05, 2021

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