Remarks by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield during a Pre-COP27 Africa and Diaspora Summit

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York, New York
September 20, 2022


Hello. I am Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, and I have the honor of representing the United States at the United Nations.

I’m thrilled to have the chance to be part of this Summit. And I’m thrilled to see students from HBCUs leading the charge through the Green Fund to tackle the climate crisis. Thank you for hosting this event, along with your partners.

As the proud mom of an HBCU graduate, I know how committed you are to the hard work of racial justice. And as we know all too well, climate justice is key to racial justice.

After all, communities of color bear a particularly heavy burden from climate change and pollution. Due to climate-driven changes here in the U.S., Black children are much more likely to be hospitalized or die from asthma than white children. Black people also are more likely to live in areas most affected and damaged by climate-change induced flooding.

We’ve all seen the devastating effects that extreme weather events have had on communities of color – including the damage wrought by hurricanes in my home state of Louisiana. And for over a month, people in Jackson, Mississippi were cut off from clean water after floodwaters overwhelmed the city’s water treatment system. This is yet another damning example of how the climate crisis and decades of racial injustice have hurt majority-Black cities.

Now, we have a duty – an obligation – to correct for past injustices and ensure our children have clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, and a healthy environment to live in.

The HBCU Green Fund perfectly embodies these aims. Your work has cut energy and water usage. It has reduced the carbon footprint of campuses. And it has engaged students through the HBCU Sustainability Fellows Training Program.

Of course, no one expects you to change our country, or our world, on your own. The hard work of climate justice starts on the grassroots level. But it needs to be picked up by everyone else – by businesses, by philanthropy, and of course, by governments.

For our part, climate justice is at the forefront of President Biden’s agenda. The Inflation Reduction Act, which President Biden signed into law just last month, is particularly transformative. The IRA is the single largest investment in climate and energy in America’s history. It puts billions of dollars toward environmental and climate grants for communities that have faced longstanding and disproportionate pollution.

But as we address climate change here at home, we must also remain clear-eyed about the fact that this is a global challenge. This is a crisis for every nation, on every continent.

And this is especially true for African people and countries. For our friends, our relatives, and our ancestral homes, just look to Sub-Saharan Africa, which experiences even more devastating droughts every year. This, in turn, has triggered a dire food insecurity crisis. In the Horn of Africa alone, 50 million people are suffering from acute food insecurity. 50 million people. It is almost unimaginable. But it is the dark reality.

Addressing this kind of global crisis requires all of us to come together. It requires bold, sustained, collective action. And there is no better forum for collective action than the UN. It was created precisely to solve global challenges. And it was created to give every single country a seat at the table as we solve those challenges.

So I’m proud that at the UN, we recently established the Permanent Forum for People of African Descent. This forum brings independent experts together to address issues, such as climate change, that affect the livelihoods of African descendent people. And I was particularly proud that Professor Justin Hansford, an HBCU professor, was elected to serve as an independent expert for that forum.

I can also tell you that everyone at the UN is gearing up for COP27 where we’re looking forward to pushing for strong, tangible climate commitments. And frankly, I think if world leaders take a cue from the work of changemakers like you, we will meet our goals.

So thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart, for your leadership, for your passion, and for your example. You inspire us. You motivate us. And you give us hope for a cleaner, better future.

Thank you.