Idris Elba calls for African voices to be heard in climate change debate

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Idris Elba says policy makers and the media risk ignoring a continent “that is central to the solution” of climate change if they do not include African voices in public debate.

The Luther star and his wife Sabrina joined a panel on sustainable food production at the Cop26 climate talks on Saturday.

The couple are both goodwill ambassadors for the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development.

Also present was Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate.

Part of the debate

Asked why it was important that the voices of people of colour are heard as the world attempts to decarbonise food production, Elba replied:

I think Sabrina and I stand here as human beings first, but absolutely yes it is important for us as proud Africans to be a part of this debate.

Referring to an incident in January 2020 when Nakate was cropped from a photo of high-profile climate activists at Davos, he continued:

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(The media) are not just cutting out Vanessa, they are cutting out a whole continent, and that continent is very central to this debate, very central to the solutions.

Idris Elba (Matt Crossick/PA)
Idris Elba (Matt Crossick/PA)

Elba added:

Yes it is important we have everyone of colour speaking up in this debate because it is Africa that is right in the centre.

Global south on the frontline

Nakate said that she now seizes every opportunity to speak up for the global south, saying:

I don’t know when I will get that platform again.

People of colour are on the front lines of the climate crisis and it is important for us to tell our own stories and it is important for the world to listen to our stories.

She added:

The global south is on the front line of the global climate crisis, of the food crisis, but it is not on the front pages of the world’s newspapers.

Individual responsibility

Discussing whether people in wealthy countries need to shift to a plant-based diet, Sabrina Elba said:

What we are not here to do is to scrutinise the lives of individuals, particularly those who are maybe suffering the most.

She added:

I think we are all here to look at the bigger picture and the bigger players to see how they’ll adapt, and what changes they’ll make.

So this isn’t really about the individuals in my opinion, it is really about what leaders will step up and do.

Ugandan climate justice activist Vanessa Nakate (Jane Barlow/PA)
Ugandan climate justice activist Vanessa Nakate (Jane Barlow/PA)

Nakate also cautioned against laying responsibility on the shoulders of private citizens.

Education is really important, I would say that I didn’t know how certain foods affect the planet.

It is important to keep educating and creating awareness of people, but as we create this awareness we shouldn’t point fingers at individuals.

She added:

Individuals are not responsible for the climate crisis, it is the decisions of governments, it is the decisions of businesses, it is the decisions of large corporations that are responsible for the climate crisis.

Nakate said we should be able to live more sustainably without feeling “guilt and condemnation”, adding:

We should know where to direct our activism, that is to corporations, to businesses and to governments.

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