NEW YORK (AP) – Vanessa Nakate’s climate activism over the past three years has pushed her onto the world stage.
Since 2019, Nakate has been working to amplify the voices of African climate activists through a platform she created called the Rise Up Movement, led an initiative to stop deforestation of African rainforests, and launched the Vash Greens Schools Project, which aims to install solar panels in remote areas of its home country, Uganda.
These efforts led UNICEF to announce her as a new goodwill ambassador this week, with UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell saying Nakate’s appointment to the role “will help ensure that the voices of children and young people do not come. never cut out of the conversation about climate change – and always included in the decisions that affect their lives ”.
Despite global recognition, Nakate says it’s not enough, not enough to save the planet or save people in the global South, she believes, they are suffering significantly from the effects of climate disasters.
“For so long the world has ignored what is happening in the southern hemisphere,” the 25-year-old from Uganda told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
Fresh off a week-long trip to Turkana County, Kenya with UNICEF, Nakate saw the effects of food and water insecurity caused by the worst drought in East Africa in four decades.
“To go back to the Horn of Africa – where I was in Turkana – there was a time when people talked about it, but now people have forgotten about it,” he said. “We don’t talk about it anymore, but does this mean that the situation is over? No. The drought situation is much worse and many people are suffering right now ”.
Earlier this year, the Intergovernmental Authority for Development warned that higher temperatures and lower than normal rainfall have been recorded across the African continent by meteorological agencies and that rainfall is expected to further decrease, indicating that the countries of ‘East Africa, as well as the Horn of Africa, may face the worst drought of the past 40 years. Over the years, drought has led to crop failures, livestock deaths and millions of cases of malnutrition.
Countries like Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya could see current famine conditions intensify.
“When it comes to the climate crisis, it has different and horrible realities. One of them is that those who are most affected right now are the least responsible, “she said.
According to the Global Carbon Project, a team of scientists monitoring countries’ carbon dioxide emissions, Africa, which accounts for around 16% of the world’s population, is responsible for only 3.2% of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. since 1959.
Carbon dioxide is the main contributing factor to climate change. As a natural greenhouse gas, it traps heat in the atmosphere, which in turn causes global temperatures to rise. Where the African continent contributes less to global carbon dioxide emissions, more industrialized countries such as the United States, Russia and China contribute more.
For activists like Nakate, addressing the climate crisis doesn’t just mean raising awareness or urging global leaders to make rapid political changes to tackle the climate change that is ravaging countries like Pakistan and Kenya, it also requires amplifying the voices of activists for the non-Western climate, which he said are largely ignored in international conversations about climate change.
Looking at COP27, the United Nations annual climate summit, to be held in Egypt in November, Nakate said he noted a significant deficit during these global discussions: the lack of a true human experience.
“I think what’s really missing in these conversations is the human face of the climate crisis and I think it’s really the human face that tells the story, tells the experiences of what communities are going through,” he said. “It also says the solutions that communities need because many times there is a disconnect between what is being discussed and between what the communities say.”
For Nakate, this is a failure of global leadership. He believes that leaders, especially Western leaders, would take immediate action if they understood and saw the hardships people have experienced as a result of the climate crisis.
Ultimately, he said, the responsibility and burden of addressing climate change and ensuring that the many nameless faces of the climate crisis are not ignored must fall on global leaders, not just the young people who have built a global movement.
“The question should be: what should leaders do? What should governments do? Because all this time I have been activist, I have realized that young people have done everything, ”Nakate said.
However, try to look for hope in the situation.
“In all of this, you look for hope because it is in that hope that you find the strength to keep saying we want this or we don’t want this,” he said.