Nov 8, 2021 3:45 PM EDT

Youth activists call on U.S. to help deliver $100 billion in international climate aid

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Youth activists at the U.N. climate change conference in Glasgow, Scotland, on Nov. 8, 2021. Photo by WIlliam Brangham/ PBS NewsHour

Youth activists on Monday demanded that wealthy nations like the United States, which are responsible for generating the bulk of greenhouse gas emissions, collectively pay a promised $100 billion in annual aid to poorer ones who bear the brunt of climate change’s consequences.

“We’re in the [climate crisis right now] because of empty promises, because [world leaders] prioritize themselves and their economies over the planet and the people,” South African climate activist Raeesah Noor-Mahomed told the PBS NewsHour at COP26.

The activists’ demand that the U.S. follow through on facilitating more global aid came as former President Barack Obama made an appearance at the ongoing climate conference. During the 2009 COP15 summit in Copenhagen, Obama pledged that the U.S. would help reach that goal by 2020. This year, President Joe Biden announced that the U.S. would commit $5.7 billion to the effort, with $1.5 billion dedicated to climate change adaptation. But critics argue that that sum is not enough to fulfill the original target, and that the U.S. should instead be dedicating $43 to $50 billion in climate aid each year.

Noor-Mahomed also questioned how it’s possible to make the “important decisions” on the summit’s agenda without marginalized groups present.

They said that they and other activists in Glasgow are being ignored by the leaders and diplomats leading the conference. Not only do these activists not have a seat at the negotiating table, Noor-Mahomed said, but they’re also being denied the opportunity to at least sit in and observe those discussions.

“Being here from the Global South with other people from the Global South, watching all these leaders play games with the future — it’s devastating,” they said. “The effects of the climate crisis isn’t something that’s happening in the future. It’s happening right now in our countries because of the people in the Global North.”