‘2.4C is a death sentence’: Vanessa Nakate’s fight for the forgotten countries of the climate crisis

She started a youth strike in Uganda – then just kept going. She discusses climate justice, reparations, imperialism and why the global north must take responsibility

In February 2020, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Vanessa Nakate had her point made for her in the most vivid and “frustrating and heartbreaking” way. The Ugandan climate crisis activist, who turned 25 last month, had gone to Switzerland to introduce some perspective to its cosy consensus. “One of the things that I wanted to emphasise was the importance of listening to activists and people from the most affected areas,” she says. “How can we have climate justice if the people who are suffering the worst impacts of the climate crisis are not being listened to, not being platformed, not being amplified and are left out of the conversation? It’s not possible.”

To this end, she appeared at a press conference with Greta Thunberg and three other white, European youth climate strikers. When the Associated Press published a photo of the meeting, it cropped out Nakate. It was, she said at the time, her first encounter with direct and blatant racism – and only reinforced her point and made her campaign more urgent. AP later expressed “regret” for its “error in judgment”.

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