Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley, is a force of nature when it comes to climate policy, action, and justice.
She makes headlines for not mincing her words. She was awarded the Champion of the Earth award in 2021, the UN’s highest environmental honor. She’s decried the "faceless few" pushing the world towards a climate catastrophe. Under her watch, Barbados has developed an ambitious plan to phase out fossil fuels by 2030.
On top of all that, she’s the mastermind behind the Bridgetown Initiative, an action plan named after the capital city of Barbados, a climate-vulnerable Caribbean nation, which aims to reform the global financial system so the world can better respond to current and future crises. Mia Mottley stops at nothing in her mission for climate and social action and justice.
Here are eight of the Prime Minister of Barbados’ most memorable mic drop moments.
1. When she asked if 'leaders [would] lead' on climate at COP26.
It was supposed to be a critical moment for leadership on the climate crisis, one of humanity’s last chances to slow global warming. But unfortunately COP26, the 26th annual UN climate conference, held in Glasgow in 2021, didn’t live up to expectations.
Instead, world leaders from the Global North — countries that have contributed the most to the climate crisis — failed on many accounts to make crucial climate commitments at the conference. From failing to meet their commitment to deliver an annual $100 billion in climate financing to support those on the front lines of climate change (that was supposed to be met back in 2020); to being behind in achieving climate targets that are in line with the 1.5C global warming target; to failing to listen to and include the voices of climate activists and leaders from countries on the front lines.
When Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley took to the stage, she showed herself as a powerful climate leader, saying: “Our people are watching, and our people are taking note. Are we really going to leave... without the commitment to ambition that is sorely needed to save lives and to save our planet? Or are we so blinded and hardened that we can no longer appreciate the cries of humanity?”
2. When she said that time was running out at 2022 Global Citizen Festival: NYC.
On Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, at Global Citizen Festival: NYC, Mia Mottley joined the likes of Metallica, Charlie Puth, Jonas Brothers, MÅNESKIN, and Mariah Carey in an urgent call to action that demanded immediate commitments from our world leaders.
The 2022 Global Citizen Festival campaign culminated with $2.4 billion in commitments secured to end extreme poverty.
PM Mottley took to the stage in Central Park to highlight the devastating climate disasters faced by developing nations confronted with the climate crisis.
Speaking out with urgency and passion, she called on multilateral institutions such as the World Bank, to “act”, and ended her speech with a message about urgency: “Yes my friends, our time is running out.”
3. When she put the climate crisis into perspective at Global Citizen NOW.
Global Citizen NOW was an action summit held in 2022 in New York City on April 27 and 28. The two-day program brought together the brightest minds, influential decision makers, and the biggest names in pop culture to facilitate discussion and cross-sector collaboration to drive action to solve the most urgent issues facing humanity and our planet.
“We do not yet know how to live on planet Mars, we only know how to live on Earth,” PM Mottley said at Global Citizen NOW. “And the same oil and gas companies, bankers, transport companies, insurance companies, they’re living on planet Earth too. So why does it make sense to earn hundreds of billions of dollars in profit, for only 10 or 20 years, rather than being able to sustain profit for the next century or two?”
4. When she highlighted double standards about corruption.
When a Swedish reporter from SVT (Sveriges Television AB) asked Prime Minister Mottley why vulnerable countries were still so debt-stricken and affected by corruption, she gave the perfect response.
“Why is it that every time we talk about countries from the South, the first allegation is corruption? Last time I checked, in the USA and UK and Europe, they’re riddled with corruption, but no one says they’re not capable of achieving their objectives because of corruption,” she said.
Mottley continued by explaining the relationships between colonization, social and economic imbalance, the industrial revolution, and climate change: “When our blood, sweat and tears finances the industrial revolution, and the industrial revolution then causes a climate crisis, and then I have to pay for the consequences of the climate crisis because of the industrial revolution financed by our blood, sweat, and tears, then I think they have no moral authority to tell me anything about the financing of the climate, or about why we don’t have enough.”
5. When she shared a message of urgency at Power Our Planet: Live in Paris.
Power Our Planet: Live in Paris is part of Global Citizen’s year-long Power Our Planet campaign, working to ensure vulnerable countries get a better financial foundation and access to financing solutions to invest in the transition to clean energy and withstand natural disasters.
Taking to the Power Our Planet: Live in Paris stage, on June 22, Mottley shared a message of hope and resilience, but also of realism.
She said: “All of us need to act today in order to save the planet tomorrow. Today we say to the world leaders and the global financial institutions under the private sector, come together, and let us put the funds necessary to help the world's most vulnerable countries adapt, transition, and withstand this climate crisis. Only then, will we make sure that we leave a liveable world for our children. Action needs to be taken today, today, today."
6. When she urged Britain to apologize and pay for its slavery past.
Speaking on the British talk show, Good Morning Britain, PM Mottley said that Caribbean countries affected by crimes of native genocide and African enslavement expect more than an apology from some European states and commercial enterprises for their role in the Atlantic slave trade and the practice of chattel slavery (when one person has total ownership of another).
“We have to understand,” said PM Mottley, “that the underdevelopment of Africa, [...] of the Caribbean, [...] of Latin America, in many instances, is a child of the colonial experiment, and the colonial experiment extracted wealth. And in some of these countries, the extractive attitudes still remain, such that we haven’t been able to build the kind of domestic enterprises and the domestic foundations that's necessary to sustain our people.”
Mottley concluded there was a need for “a written and clear apology to say, 'we were wrong, we will not do it again', and more importantly, we must pay recompense for what was done. That is the first step of walking the walk.”
7. When she minced no words on the climate crisis and conflict.
PM Mottley didn’t hold back during her speech at the 2022 United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, the 77th session of the policymaking and representative organ of the UN.
No one could have spoken about climate, conflict, and inequality better: “Regrettably, there are too many people dying in conflict as a result of the climate crisis, and the hand that we must lend to life comes in the decisions that we make to reform, and to fight for peace not to fight to sustain war, wherever it is found across this world.”
8. When she made Rihanna a national hero.
You’ve heard of the global phenomenon that is Rihanna. But did you know that she was crowned a national hero by PM Mottley in 2021?
“On behalf of a grateful nation, but an even prouder people,” she said, "we therefore present to you the designee for national hero of Barbados, Ambassador Robyn Rihanna Fenty.”
PM Mottley also revealed she was a fan of Rihanna’s work when, at the end of her speech, she quoted the lyrics to the artist’s hit song "Diamonds": “May you continue to shine like a diamond, and bring honor to your nation by your words, by your actions, and to do credit wherever you shall go.”