Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate criticized world leaders Tuesday who continue to support new fossil fuel projects while other activists staged a symbolic protest for human rights and the environment and called for funding for vulnerable countries suffering the devastating effects of climate change.
Countries agreed in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement to limit global warming to 2.7 F by the end of the century if possible. But scientists say that with about 2.1 F of warming already reached, that target is likely to be missed, driving temperatures to dangerous levels.
“Many leaders’ focus is on making deals for fossil fuel lobbyists, surviving the next election cycle, and reaping as much short-term profits as possible,” Nakati said at an event on the sidelines of UN climate talks in Sharm el-Sheikh. , Egypt.
She warned that the annual meeting is being infiltrated by oil and gas representatives who are turning it into a “sales and marketing conference for more pollution, more destruction, and more destruction”.
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Environmental groups counted more than 600 delegates with ties to the fossil fuel industry at the two-week meeting.
Nakate cited research from the International Energy Agency stating there can be no new investment in coal, oil or gas if the world is to stay below 1.5°C.
This has been undermined by massive public spending on fossil fuel subsidies, in part as a result of the fallout from Russia’s attack on Ukraine which has sparked a scramble for alternative sources of oil and gas.
“You sow the wind. Frontline communities reap the whirlwind,” she said. “You sow the seeds of coal, oil and gas while frontline communities reap devastation, devastation, and devastation.”
Many developing nations are disproportionately affected by climate change because they are less able to adapt to extreme weather exacerbated by global warming.
Nakat called on countries that have issued new licenses to exploit oil and gas in their territorial waters, or promised investments in new fossil fuel infrastructure in Africa.
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Jochen Flasbarth, Germany’s longtime climate negotiator, said Nakate was right to highlight the urgency of tackling climate change, but she questioned her criticism of election politicians.
“You may be right that politicians sometimes have a short-term view, but (you should) continue to make the most of these elections,” he said, adding that “it is the young people who have increasingly not gone to elections over the past ten years.” years” in many democratic countries.
Flasbarth told Nakate that young people “need to collaborate” with democratic processes to help “strengthen democracy around the world.”
Later on Tuesday, a handful of climate activists gathered outside the conference venue in a symbolic protest to highlight what they describe as restrictions and repression against environmental and human rights advocates.
The “Fridays for the Future Movement” organized the short demonstration in the designated official protest area amidst tight security. The organizers said they had the required permission from the Egyptian authorities, but refused to speak to the media at the scene of the protest saying they did not want to legitimize it.
They said the symbolic protest is meant to highlight the “constraints on civil society and protest” at this year’s conference.
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“We are protesting on behalf of all those who cannot raise their voices and in solidarity with them, we are here demanding the liberation of those who have been silenced,” activist Louisa Neubauer said in a speech.
Protests at this year’s conference have so far been largely confined to the “blue zone”, which is considered a UN territory.
Climate activists have repeatedly complained that expensive restrictions and accommodations have discouraged large protests this year, in stark contrast to previous years which saw large demonstrations. Last year’s COP26 conference in Glasgow, Scotland, saw some 100,000 people march through the streets in a rally and protesters frequently swarmed squares and parks.
Street protests are effectively banned in Egypt, but the government has created a designated area outside the negotiating venue for demonstrations.
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Activists have also called for the creation of a new body responsible for climate-related loss and damage to develop financing for countries vulnerable to global warming.
The demonstrations come as negotiators at the conference haggle over several thorny issues, including increased efforts to cut greenhouse gases and more financial aid for poor countries.
Ministers began arriving in Sharm el-Sheikh on Monday to push the meeting to strike a substantive deal by the close of its schedule on Friday.