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‘Stop Talking and Start Working’: Vinisha Umashankar Tells Global Leaders at COP26

Dimple Gupta
Dimple Gupta
Solar Ironing Cart Invented by Vinisha Umashankar

Greta Thunberg, a climate and environmental activist, called the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in 2021 the "most exclusionary COP ever" on Thursday. The 18-year-old Swede described the worldwide gathering as a "greenwash festival" rather than a climate conference. 

While Thunberg elected to walk out of a COP26 panel session, a 15-year-old Indian girl forced the heads of state to sit down and listen to climate issues. 

Many of my generations are angry and frustrated at leaders who’ve made empty promises and failed to deliver. And we have every reason to be angry. But I’ve no time for anger. I want to act” – said Vinisha Umashankar while addressing the COP26 climate change summit at Glasgow on Tuesday. Umashankar urged her audience, which included US Vice President Joe BidenBritish Prime Minister Boris JohnsonIndian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and a slew of other world leaders, too - 'stop talking and start acting.' 

Award-winning innovator 

Umashankar was a finalist in Prince William's Earth shot Prize, sometimes known as the "Eco Oscars." In October, a Class 10 student from Tiruvannamalai's SKP Vanitha International School was shortlisted in the 'Clean our Air' category for inventing a solar-powered ironing cart. In India and most developing nations, the idea attempted to replace the 300-year-old habit of merchants pressing clothing with charcoal-based iron boxes. 

According to Umashankar, India have around 10 million of these carts, each of which burns 5 kilograms of charcoal every day. Her creativity earned her several accolades, including the coveted Children's Climate Prize in November 2021, which is widely regarded as one of the most prestigious honors for young entrepreneurs. While the Delhi-based agro recycling initiative 'Takachar' received the Earth shot Prize in the category of 'clean our air,' it was Umashankar's passionate speech at COP26 that won many hearts. 

Feeling optimistic as I head home from #COP26 having met our @EarthshotPrize Winners & Finalists and discussed their solutions to repair our planet. Especially proud to see Vinisha speaking in front of the world, demanding change so that her generation can have a better future.” Prince William tweeted with a picture of himself with Umashankar at the dais. 

"I'm not simply an Indian girl. I'm an Earth gal, and I'm proud of it. I'm a student, an innovator, an environmentalist, and an entrepreneur, but most importantly, I'm an optimist" the 15-year-old added in her speech, which garnered a standing ovation. "I'm very proud of Vinisha Umashankar for presenting at the #COP26 Summit in Glasgow with such clarity, passion, and devotion! This is the future of India.” Shashi Tharoor, a Member of Parliament, tweeted on Friday - "She is India's future." 

 While her heated speech attracted comparisons to Thunberg, Umashankar said – “She is an activist, I am an inventor, and there is more than enough place for both." 

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