Vanessa Nakate started her journey as a climate activist in 2018. The climate crisis has been one of the greatest threats affecting the lives of many Ugandans - and she became increasingly aware and concerned about communities particularly vulnerable to the crippling impacts of a warming planet.

 

 

 

Uganda, a lush landlocked East African country often called “the Pearl of Africa,” has been facing adverse weather patterns for some time now with prolonged droughts in the north, landslides in the east and increasingly devastating floods. Today, the impacts of climate change are hurting the country’s sustainable development and efforts to end poverty, says the World Bank.    

“If you traveled two to three hours away from Kampala to a certain rural community, you'll understand how people would struggle to find water and how people's crops are drying up because of the extreme dry conditions,” says Vanessa who joined the Fridays for Future movement in Uganda and founded the Rise Up initiative to amplify the voices of activists across Africa.  

“When it comes to the African continent, it is, of course, on the frontlines of the climate crisis. But it's not on the front pages of the world's newspapers,” says Vanessa. 

Africa produces a very small fraction of the global greenhouse gas emissions. Yet, climate change threatens to expose up to 118 million of the poorest Africans to droughts, floods and extreme heat by 2030.

“As activists from different parts of Africa, we are doing everything we can to ensure that the challenges that Africa is facing when it comes to the climate crisis are highlighted, and to ensure that stories of different activists from different parts of Africa are also, you know, being listened to.”

Vanessa is one of the millions of determined activists who are demanding that politicians and those with influence do more to acknowledge and act upon the reality and severity of climate change, placing human rights and justice at the heart of all efforts. 

“Climate change is more than statistics, it's more than data points. It's more than net-zero targets. It's about the people, it's about the people who are being impacted right now,” says the 25-year-old. 

Trapped in poverty, there are many communities around the world who continue to lose what little they have in their relentless struggle to cope with the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. It is estimated that climate change can push up to 130 million people into poverty over the next 10 years, unraveling many hard-won development gains. 

“Many communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis are already experiencing loss and damage. Communities cannot adapt to extinction, communities cannot adapt to starvation. The climate crisis is pushing so many people in places where they cannot adapt anymore.” 

Vanessa, like many compassionate activists and advocates, believes that there needs to be a separate fund to help people recover the loss and damage they suffer from the consequences of the crisis. 

“These are some of the injustices of the climate crisis - those who didn't cause the climate crisis, those who aren't responsible for the rising global emissions - they're the ones on the frontlines. They're the ones whose voices are not being listened to. And they're the ones who don't get climate finance for mitigation, or adaptation, or finance for loss and damage.” 

“In the end, you know, we cannot eat coal, we cannot drink oil. And, again, something else that one of my friends says a lot, she's an activist, her name is Evelyn - that money will be useless on a dead planet.” 

According to United Nations estimates, making infrastructure more climate-resilient can have a benefit-cost ratio of about 6:1, meaning for every dollar invested, six dollars can be saved - resulting in more jobs, improved access to education and innovation, better quality of life and equal opportunities to prosper.