Jan. 23, 2023 (GIN) – Climate activist Vanessa Nakate of Uganda, together with several young climate leaders, took no prisoners as they called out political and business elites who failed to move the needle on climate change which has been devastating rich and poor countries alike at the present time.
People in parts of the world most affected by climate change are “clinging to their lives and just trying to make it for another day, to make it for another week, to make it for another hour, another minute,”Nakate said bitterly.
“Leaders are playing games” with people’s futures,” she said.
Others in the group included Greta Thunberg from Sweden, Helena Gualinga of Ecuador and Luisa Neubauer of Germany. They sat at a roundtable with International Energy Agency Executive Director Fatih Birol at the World Economic Forum’s annual gathering in Switzerland.
The world is “taking a really dangerous path, warned Gualinga.
Thunberg scorned the corporate bigwigs who came to the Swiss ski resort town of Davos, but are “fueling the destruction of the planet” by investing in fossil fuels and prioritizing short-term profits over people affected by the climate crisis, she said pointedly.
The activists carried a “cease and desist” letter calling on the heads of fossil fuel companies to stop all new oil and natural gas projects, signed by nearly 900,000 people. Scientists say no new fossil fuel projects can be built if the world is to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) in line with climate goals set in Paris in 2015.
Current levels of warming, which have reached up to 2.2 Fahrenheit, means it is “already a living hell for many communities across the African continent, across the Global South” who are facing extreme drought, heat and flooding, continued Nakate.
Activists have been increasingly critical of the lack of action taken by governments and large corporations in recent years.
Birol, meanwhile, countered the young people’s warnings, saying he had “legitimate optimism” that the world would move away from fossil fuels and toward clean energy. He noted that the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act’s nearly $375 billion in climate incentives would be transformative for renewables in the country.
But he added that “the problem is not being fast enough to reach our climate targets.”
As the event kicked off, dozens of climate activists braved snowfall to wave banners and chant slogans at the end of the Davos Promenade.
“The changes that we need are not very likely to come from the inside (of the Davos meeting), rather I believe they will come from the bottom up,” Thunberg said. “As long as they can get away with it, they will continue to invest in fossil fuels, they will continue to throw people under bus for their own gain.”
Questions have been raised over the installation for installing the chief of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. as its president for this year’s event. But U.S. climate envoy John Kerry told The Associated Press that he backs the decision, citing Sultan al-Jaber’s work on renewable energy projects.
“Dr. Sultan al-Jaber is a terrific choice because he is the head of the company. That company knows it needs to transition,” Kerry said Sunday after attending an energy conference in Dubai. “He knows — and the leadership of the UAE is committed to transitioning.”
Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, leading an initiative to trace greenhouse gas emissions, said Thursday at Davos that fossil fuel companies were pumping three times the amount of planet-warming gases in the air than they were reporting.
“Most (other industries) are not this far off,” he said.
German climate envoy Jennifer Morgan said that Davos attendees “are major decision-makers that if they were to really understand the 1.5 degree goal and take the action that’s required, it would make a massive difference.” But she acknowledged that while they have a role, “they’re not the answer