Amplifying frontline voices at COP26 – Elenita Sales on climate justice and representation

Guest Author

A black woman is sat on the edge of a sail boat wearing a headdress, and wooden jewellery.

The Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region is on the frontline of the climate crisis. Each year natural disasters push between 150,000 and 2.1 million people within the region into extreme poverty.  

Despite disproportionately experiencing the adverse effects of climate change, communities within LAC and the wider Global South are consistently sidelined within climate discussions. 

Greenhouse is proud to be supporting and sponsoring Unite for Climate Action, a group of young activists campaigning and crowdfunding to ensure LAC activists can go to COP26 and make their voices heard on a global stage.  

In the third of a series of three interviews with Unite for Climate Action members, we spoke to Elenita Sales, an activist from Brazil, on how the climate crisis affects them, why they joined Unite for Climate Action, and what they want to see from global leaders at COP26. 

When did you become a climate activist? 

I was 14 when I discovered what I wanted to do with my life, to help build a more balanced relationship between humans and nature. But I began to understand myself more as an activist when I started graduate school and realised that I didn’t see myself represented in decision-making spaces. 

How have you been/how do you think you will be affected by the climate crisis?

I am black and black people are largely marginalised in the history of Brazil, and also globally. Our country was the last to abolish slavery and we didn’t receive any kind of support from the government during this process. The vast majority of us ended up in places and situations where we are directly exposed to the effects of climate change. 

Why is representation so important at COP26? 

In the COP spaces, it is usually privileged white men who want to decide what is best for our future. But humanity is diverse, and there is no use in always having the same people seeking solutions. If we think together, with all our diversity and real ancestral knowledge, we will be able to face this together, with real social justice. 

Why did you join Unite for Climate Action?

I met most of the U4CA members through another project called Sail for Climate Action. We were going to cross the Atlantic to make our voices heard in the decision-making spaces. The project was stopped halfway across the Atlantic due to the pandemic, but our connection was strong, so we decided to continue working together! 

What will you do if you’re able to get to COP26?

I will try to represent my region as much as I can! Brazil is currently going through a very complicated moment because of the denial of the current government and part of the population, who do not recognise the urgency of combating climate change. But I know that I will not be able to be fully heard during COP26 due to the language barrier, which frustrates me because I believe I have a lot to contribute.

“If we think together, with all our diversity and real ancestral knowledge, we will be able to face this together, with real social justice.”
Elenita Sales

What is your message to global leaders at COP26?

We, the youth of Latin America and the Caribbean, are going through difficult times, especially with our governments, but we will continue fighting, united for the construction of a more just and sustainable world. We carry our experience and the experience of our ancestors. So let us be our own voice because we have a lot to talk about! 

If you want to support Elenita Sales and Unite for Climate Action in their mission you can donate to their Crowdfunder here and follow their journey to COP via the Unite for Climate Action social media channels. 

To read more on climate and social justice within the climate movement check out our blog on Centering and celebrating Black environmentalists by ‘Reclaiming Our Time’ or Exposed: Rich nations are failing to protect the Global South from Climate change. 

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