Young activists deplore climate inaction and ask for more voices

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Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate, right, is comforted by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg as she is overcome with emotion after speaking at the opening of a three-day youth summit for the weather in Milan, Italy on Tuesday, September 28, 2021 (AP Photo / Luca Bruno)

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Young climate activists Vanessa Nakate and Greta Thunberg on Tuesday berated world leaders for failing to deliver on their funding pledges to help poor countries adapt to global warming and for delivering too much “blah blah”. that climate change is wreaking havoc around the world.

They even questioned the intentions behind a youth rally on the climate where they were speaking in Milan.

Four hundred climate activists from 180 countries have been invited to the Italian financial capital for a three-day Youth4Climate summit which will send its recommendations to a major United Nations climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, which begins on October 31. But participants demand more responsibility from leaders and a greater official role for young people.

“They invite handpicked young people to pretend to listen to us,” Thunberg said. “But they are not. They are clearly not listening to us. Just look at the numbers. Emissions continue to increase. Science doesn’t lie.

“Leaders like to say, ‘We can do it’. They obviously don’t think so. But we are doing it, ”the Swedish activist said.

Nakate, a 24-year-old Ugandan activist, said pledges of 100 billion euros ($ 117 billion) per year to help countries particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change have not materialized, even though the fires in forest in California and Greece and floods in Germany and Belgium show that “loss and damage is now possible everywhere”.

“In fact, funds have been pledged by 2020, and we are still waiting,” she said. “No more empty conferences. It’s time to show us the money. It’s time, it’s time, it’s time. “

Nakate dramatically highlighted how climate change is affecting Africa, “which is ironic given that Africa is the lowest emitter of CO2 emissions of all continents except Antarctica” .

As recently as last week, she said she saw police carry away a body swept away by severe storms in the Ugandan capital of Kampala, while others searched for more victims. His mother told him that a man driven by water had tried to protect the goods he was selling.

Nakate broke down in tears after her moving speech, comforted by Thunberg, who followed her to the podium, which was too big for her short stature.

Thunberg, who merged the global protest movement Fridays for Future, said it was not too late to reverse climate trends. But she has clearly heard enough from executives, who she says have been talking for 30 years when half of all carbon emissions have occurred since 1990, a third since 2005.

“That’s all we hear from our so-called leaders: words. Words that sound good but which so far have not led to any action. Our hopes and dreams are drowned in their empty words and promises. Of course, we need a constructive dialogue, but they have now had 30 years of blah blah. And where has it taken us? she said.

Saoi O’Connor, an Irish activist from the Fridays for Future movement, said the youth meeting in Milan was orchestrated by governments who chose the participants and drafted the document that delegates will “edit”. the closing document will not represent “what the strikers want”.

“They have people in the rooms watching what we’re saying. The subjects on which we were divided were decided for us, ”she said.

The three-day Youth4Climate summit will be followed by a two-day pre-COP meeting ahead of Glasgow aimed at finding common ground on sticking points between countries, which range from the world’s large carbon emitters to developing countries. which are lagging behind economically and technologically.

Hopes for a successful Glasgow summit were boosted by announcements from the world’s two largest economies and the biggest carbon polluters. Chinese President Xi Jinping has said his country will no longer finance coal-fired power plants abroad while US President Joe Biden has announced a plan to double financial aid for green growth to poorer countries.

In addition, Turkey has said it will adhere to the Paris Protocols and South Africa has announced more ambitious emissions targets.

“These are good measures,” said Italian Minister for Ecological Transition Roberto Cingolani, who is hosting the meetings in Milan. “They mean they are moving in the right direction. … I never expect quantum leaps in this gigantic global operation. But the indicators are all good.

Cingolani said he agreed with criticism that many promises had been broken, including funding for climate change adaptations, but also saw convergence in the direction of urgency. “It’s true, we have to work harder,” he said.

He also clarified a previous reference he made to “chic radical” activists, saying he was not referring to climate protesters but to those who will not make sacrifices to have renewable energy facilities in the city. their neighborhoods.

The young delegates tried to maintain realistic expectations for the meeting.

“What we can do is hope for the best,” said Zainab Waheed, a 16-year-old Pakistani woman campaigning to include climate in the national school curriculum. “But looking at the past, drawing on the science of deduction and learning from history, we have even seen ministers from the countries of COP26 fail to keep their promises. “

Rose Kobusinge, a 27-year-old Ugandan with a master’s degree in environmental change and management from the University of Oxford, said the Glasgow meeting must result in concrete actions if the fight against climate change is to be achieved. maintain any credibility. She also believes that young delegates should be invited as participants – not just to send a message.

“Let this not end with the negotiations in Glasgow. If it stops, then I guess the COP won’t be needed anymore because what is it? Just come and talk and go back to your countries? ”She said.

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This story corrects the spelling of Vanessa Nakate’s last name in several paragraphs.

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