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Teenage inventor Vinisha Umashanka given standing ovation at Cop26 for call to ‘stop talking and start doing’

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A schoolgirl from India who created a solar-powered ironing cart has called on Cop26 to “stop talking and start doing” when it comes to tackling climate change.

Vinisha Umashankar is the youngest finalist in The Duke of Cambridge’s Earthshot Prize for her ironing cart that aims to replace charcoal-heated irons street vendors use in India, that create pollution when being used.

The invention can power an iron for six hours from five hours of sunshine and it eliminates the 11 pounds (5kg) of charcoal used daily by vendors.

There are currently around 10 million such carts being used in India.

Prince William introduced the finalists and winners to the stage at the climate conference in Glasgow, just a few weeks after the winners each received £1 million to develop their eco-friendly ideas.

He said that the 15-year-old girl “puts us all to shame” with her invention.

Vinisha Umashankar with the solar-powered ironing cart she designed (PA)
Vinisha Umashankar with the solar-powered ironing cart she designed (PA)

During her speech, Vinisha – who is from Tamil Nadu state in southern India – said: “I’m not just a girl from India, I’m a girl from Earth.”

At the gathering of world leaders including PM Boris Johnson, his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi and US President Joe Biden, she received a standing ovation after her speech.

She said: “The point is that me and my generation will live to see the consequences of your actions today. Yet none of what we discuss today is practical for me.

“You are deciding whether or not we’ve a chance to live in a habitable world. You are deciding whether or not we are worth fighting for; worth supporting and worth caring.”

Prince William called on the leaders “to create the conditions in which they can thrive, and their ideas can scale”.

US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry offered Ms Umashankar support for her invention.

During the day, Prince William sat down for talks with billionaire Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and discussed the Earthshot Prize and scaling up the solutions of the winners and finalists.

Prince William ended his day by tweeting praise of the teenager as he travelled by train back home, and signed the post with his initial.

He wrote: “Feeling optimistic as I head home from #COP26 having met our Earthshot Prize 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. W”

When asked why people should listen to a teenager, Vinisha told ITV News: “Age never matters. Sometimes even a younger person can be really smart and really wise, and an older person not so much.”

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