Oxfam climate change hearing

On my way home from Cornwall I stopped off in London for a few days, because Oxfam invited me to give evidence at a climate change hearing in Parliament, in conjunction with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association(CPS). This meant that amongst the CPS’s week of meetings and discussions as part of their Intergovernmental conference on climate change, they hosted a hearing where all the MP’s and members of the commonwealth parliament could evidence on the effects of climate change. There were four of us giving evidence, myself from Wales, a lady from Bangladesh, Ibnu from Indonesia (also part of the International Youth Delegation!) and Constance from Uganda. See the Oxfam video which concentrates on the harrowing story from Bangladesh: (and be thankful that you can’t see my flip flops and jeans which I had to wear because I only had clothes for surfing with me!)


Overwhelmed as I was to be on a platform with these far more deserving people, I gave the speech below:

Hello, my name is Isabel Bottoms.

I am 19 years old, and I have lived in a small harbour town on the west coast of Wales all my life.

Today I would like to describe to you where is home.

50 years ago my Grandparents settled here, and built a successful honey farm business in an abandoned coal wharf from scratch. 20 years on my Mum took over and built up an even more successful and thriving cafe-restaurant and honey ice cream business. 30 years later it’s more popular than ever. It’s become one of those places that people come back to every year, and has won lots of foodie awards too. My Dad used to fish in the bay, to provide the restaurant with fish and shellfish, as he decided to sell up he was noticing changes in the mackerel season: it had become later and less and less mackerel come back every year due to diminishing stocks of plankton caused by temperature and acidity changes in the sea water.

We live right on the edge of the sea by the harbour, we are only marginally above sea level, all there is separating us from the sea is a 5 foot wall. I have noticed that year upon year the storms get more violent, the surges through the harbour bigger, and more rain falls causing the river to burst its banks and flood the local area. The risk of one big flood is too much of a risk for us, there’s 30 years of hard work at stake, so my Mum has made the difficult decision to sell up. With that business are a lot of memories for everyone in my immediate and extended family, my uncle’s fish mongering business is also tied up in the restaurant, so he too is looking for an alternative livelihood.

However, this is not just a sorry tale; this is a call to action!

It’s not easy for me to say I’m affected by climate change when sitting next to these brave people, and that’s mainly because we have the luxury of time and money to be able to get out and start a new life somewhere else. A lot still don’t have that luxury, but could if mechanisms like the adaptation fund were contributed to seriously. It’s time to put your money where you mouth is.

My family’s situation has only added fuel to my fire: that fire was already burning:

As Ferdinand Foch said,

“The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire.”

And so far international inaction keeps my soul burning bright.

I have spent this year, my gap year, campaigning as part of 100’s of young people trying to participate in the UNFCCC process. My first steps into environmentalism were sustainable development related-but I realised this wasn’t just a national problem with a national solution, but an international problem that requires and international solution.

That’s why youth from across the world endure stuffy negotiations in Rio, in Montreal, in Poznan, in Bonn-because every line of text you negotiate over is a moment in our future.

Our generation needs 40% cuts by 2020.

Our generation needs 350ppm for survival.

All we wish to achieve is to inspire action, action to sort this mess out.

We’re with you on this one; let’s autograph everything we do with excellence, not by chance but by choice.

Let’s build a truly 21st century vision not just a rescue plan; after all, how old will you be in 2050?

Constance and I talking about her children!


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