These 7 badass women headed to COP27 are going to fix climate change

Around 90 heads of state are due to attend the United Nations COP27 conference in Egypt that starts Nov. 6 and ends Nov. 18.

But it’s a tough time for many world leaders.

The war in Ukraine has caused geopolitical strain as food, oil and gas shortages have seen high inflation at the checkout lanes and pumps. The conflict has raised the question of energy independence primarily among nations that typically rely on Russian gas and some that don’t. While the search for energy independence has led some countries to hold off on transitioning away from fossil fuels, that pressure could be a catalyst for rapid and fundamental change in the energy sector that leads toward a greener planet, say renewable energy leaders.

A global recession is expected to hit in 2023, which adds further confusion to how nations collectively tackle climate change to meet the ambitious environmental targets set during the 2015 UN Climate Conference in Paris.

Some of those plans may be revealed during the conference in Egypt.

But like all man-made disasters, women may have to bail us out. After all, studies show that women believe in climate change a little bit more than men and experience its destructive forces to a far greater degree. Here are seven women world leaders who are working to beat climate change:

Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland

Scotland is a world leader in renewable energy thanks to its abundant natural resources, especially wind. It created the world’s first floating wind farm in 2017 and is pioneering tidal technology to help produce electricity.

According to a BBC report, in 2020, 97% of Scotland’s electricity needs were met by renewables, 60% of which came from wind power generated on land. The rest was generated using hydro and offshore wind.

That has been thanks to the policies of First Minister Sturgeon, who has given Ted Talks on how small nations can play an outsized role in turning back the tide on climate change.

“As things stand, the world is on course to exceed both 1.5C of global warming and the 2C threshold - and scientific consensus is overwhelming that this will be catastrophic,” she said at COP26 in Glasgow last year. “We need to move at pace to develop clean energy sources and act in a way which shows solidarity with communities in our countries who might otherwise get left behind, and with the global south.”

Mia Motley, Prime Minister of Barbados

In 2021, Motley won the United Nations Champions of the Earth award, the organization’s highest environmental honor.

She has campaigned against pollution, climate change and deforestation, developing the tiny island nation into a surprising leader of the international pro-environment movement.

At COP26, she did not pull punches during her short speech, calling out the “faceless few” who she said were responsible for endangering island nations like hers.

“We do not want that dreaded death sentence, and we have come here today to say, ‘try harder,’”she said at the conference. “And if we don’t, we will allow the path of greed and selfishness to sow the seeds of our common destruction.”

Mette Frederiksen, Prime Minister of Denmark

Denmark has embraced renewable energy early and is also a frontrunner in decarbonizing its economy. The northern European nation recently announced a fund that will compensate developing nations that have experienced “loss and damage” from extreme weather, according to the environmental news website EcoWatch.

When Prime Minister Frederiksen took power in 2019, she vowed to tackle climate change and work toward a 70 percent cut in her country’s carbon emissions by 2030, according to a 2019 New York Times report.

“We’ll be one of the most ambitious parliaments in the world,” Frederiksen said of the environmental focus of her new government, promising to include action on plastic and plans to increase forestation.

Ursula von der Leyen, President of the EU Commission

As the leader of the 27-nation EU Commission, von der Leyen has the difficult task of encouraging member states to stick to their climate change goals. She has previously led a task force that aimed to raise $100 billion to help developing nations transition away from fossil fuels.

She was a keynote speaker at the COP26 conference last year and will be an important figure at this year’s conference.

“It is our opportunity to write history. Even more, it is our duty to act now,” she said at the opening of the COP26 conference. “Europe with its European Green Deal will spare no effort to become the first climate-neutral continent. But at this COP, we all must speed up our race to net zero.”

Sanna Marin, Prime Minister of Finland

When Marin became Prime Minister at 34 in 2019, Finland was already four years into a 35-year plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80% by 2050.

Marin has doubled down on those plans, bringing them forward by 15 years. She also believes that climate change is linked to the lives of women and girls.

“We need gender equality to fight climate change, and we need women in powerful positions to make [the] change that we need,” Marin said at Columbia University’s Leaders Forum in 2020. She later noted how the climate crisis disproportionately affects women and girls — particularly in less developed countries.

Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand

Ardern declared a climate emergency in 2020, telling the parliament that the country must “act with urgency.”

“This declaration is an acknowledgment of the next generation,” she said during the speech. “An acknowledgment of the burden that they will carry if we do not get this right and do not take action now.”

The declaration came a year after New Zealand became one of the only countries to make its climate change targets a law. The law states that New Zealand must be carbon emission free by 2050.

“We know the climate is changing. People can see that,” Ardern said when introducing the bill in 2019. “This legislation makes a start on tackling climate change because the alternative is the catastrophic cost of doing nothing.”

Samia Suluhu Hassan, President of Tanzania

Hassan is one of the highest-profile leaders in Africa to speak up about climate change. She has demanded that developed countries meet economic obligations to developing nations made in 2009. From 2020 on, $100 billion a year is supposed to be given to developing countries to help them transition away from fossil fuels. The promise has yet to be met.

“What we ought to remember is when drastic climate change hits, it chooses no location, might, weak, poor or rich country,” she said at GOP26 in Scotland last year.

She added: “We have experienced unpredictable floods and droughts. We have experienced all this despite our resolve to dedicate 48 million hectares to forest conservation,” adding that if developing countries had shown such leadership, wealthy nations should not lag behind.

She has become a global spokesperson for African nations trying to get at the promised funding and this year made it to Time’s list of 100 most influential people.

Christopher Harress

Christopher Harress |

Climate change reporter on the east and Gulf coasts.

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