MILAN – Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate said Wednesday that youth delegates meeting in Milan want to see immediate action from leaders at the U.N. climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland — not cheap, last-ditch grasps at supporting polluting fuels before getting down to business.
Nakate is among 400 activists invited to Italy’s financial capital for a three-day Youth4Climate meeting that will draft a document for the 26th Climate Change Conference of the Parties, which opens on Oct. 31.
“If leaders and governments are going to talk about net zeroes or cutting emissions, halving emissions by 2030 or 2040 or 2050, that means it has to start now,″ Nakate told The Associated Press.
”It doesn’t mean, if we are going to do it by 2030, between now and 2030 let’s open a coal power plant, you know, let’s frack some gas, or let us construct an oil pipeline. That is not the real climate action that we want,'' she said. “”If you are to go net zero by 2030, it has to start now.''
Although the activists have traveled to Milan from 180 countries, Nakate said many have the feeling that their suggestions for the closing document that will be published Thursday are not welcome. She said the dynamic was “concerning.”
“It really feels like everything has been decided for us,'' Nakate, a 24-year-old with a degree in business administration. Swedish activist Greta Thunberg similarly accused the organizers on Tuesday of bringing in “cherry-picked” delegates and pretending to listen.
But she said young people were speaking up, and had created their own working group on fossil fuels.
"Hopefully it's something they can accept,'' she said.
Nakate gave an emotional opening speech to the gathering on Tuesday, calling out leaders for failing to meet financial pledges and describing the devastating impact of climate change at home in Uganda. While she said she was overwhelmed by the support she has received after her speech, she rejected the media's tendency to dub leaders of the movement.
“It's how people portray the climate movement,'' Nakate said. "It is not just one face or two faces. It's communities. It is people who are organizing in different countries. I think that is the true face of the climate movement. The people who are standing up for the planet and a better future.”
In 2020, Nakate was cropped out of an Associated Press photo at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The AP apologized and acknowledged mistakes in how it initially responded.
Pope Francis on Wednesday praised young environmental activists for challenging global leaders to make good on promises to curb emissions and insisted that political leaders make wise decisions to promote “a culture of responsible sharing.”
Francis thanked the activists for their “dreams and good projects” and encouraged them to form an educational alliance to help “rebuild the fabric” of humanity through care for the planet.
“This vision is capable of challenging the adult world, for it reveals that you are prepared not only for action, but also for patient listening, constructive dialogue and mutual understanding,” he said.
Francis has made care for “our common home" of the Earth a hallmark of his papacy and devoted an entire encyclical to the issue in 2015. The Scottish bishops conference has said it expects Francis to attend the Glasgow climate summit, though the Vatican hasn’t yet confirmed his presence.
“It is time to take wise decisions so that we can make use of the many experiences gained in recent years, in order to make possible a culture of care, a culture of responsible sharing,” Francis said in the message.
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