NEW YORK (AP) – Vanessa Nakate’s climate activism over the past three years has propelled her to the world stage.
Since 2019, Nakate has been working to amplify the voices of African climate activists through a platform she created called Rise Up Movement, spearheaded an initiative to stop the deforestation of Africa’s rainforests and launched a Schools Project Vash Greens, which aims to install solar panels remotely. areas in her 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 are never left out of the conversation on climate change — and always factored into decisions that affect their lives.”
Despite the global recognition, Nakate says it is not enough – not enough to save the planet or to save the people in the global south who she says are suffering greatly from the effects of climate disasters.
“For a long time the world has ignored what happens in the global south,” the 25-year-old Ugandan native told the Associated Press on Wednesday.
Embarking on 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 African Cup – where I was in Turkana – there was a time when people talked about it, but now people have forgotten,” she said. “It’s not talked about anymore, but does that mean that situation is over? No. The drought is much worse and many people are suffering right now.”
Earlier this year, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development warned that weather agencies had recorded above-normal temperatures and less than normal rainfall across the African continent, and rains were expected to fail – indicating that there were countries in East Africa, as well as the Horn of Africa. , could be facing the most severe drought in 40 years. Over the years, droughts have caused crop failure, livestock deaths and millions of cases of malnutrition.
Current famine conditions in countries such as Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya may become more severe.
“When it comes to the climate crisis, it has several dire realities. One of those is the people who are most affected right now, they are the ones who have the least responsibility,” she said.
According to the Global Carbon Project, a team of scientists that monitors countries’ carbon dioxide emissions, Africa – which represents about 16% of the world’s population – is responsible for only 3.2% of the carbon dioxide emitted in the atmosphere since 1959.
Carbon dioxide is the main contributor to climate change. As a natural greenhouse gas, it traps heat in the atmosphere, causing global temperatures to rise. Where the African continent contributes in detail to carbon dioxide emissions worldwide, industrialized countries such as the United States, Russia and China contribute more.
For activists like Nakate, tackling the climate crisis is not about raising awareness or encouraging world leaders to make quick policy changes to combat climate change that is devastating in countries like Pakistan and Kenya — it also calls for amplifying the voices of non-western climate activists. she said they are largely ignored in international conversations about climate change.
Looking ahead to COP27 – the annual United Nations climate summit – which will take place in Egypt this November, Nakate said she notices a significant omission during these global discussions: the lack of real human experience. .
“I think what’s really missing in these conversations is the human face of the climate crisis and I think it’s the human being that tells the story that tells the experiences of the communities that are going through it,” she said. “What also tells is the solutions that communities need because many times there is a disconnect between what is being discussed and what communities are saying.”
Nakate, that is a failure of world leadership. She believes that leaders, especially western leaders, would take immediate action if they understood and saw the hardships people had as a result of the climate crisis.
Ultimately, she said, the responsibility and burden of tackling climate change and ensuring that the many unnamed faces of the climate crisis are ignored need not fall on world leaders — not just the youth who have built a global movement.
“The question should be, what should the leaders do? What should governments do? Because I have done the activism all this time, I realized that the youth did everything,” said Nakate.
Still, she tries to find hope in the situation.
“In everything, you try to look for the hope because that hope is that you find the strength to keep saying we want this or we don’t want this,” she said.