Climate activist Vanessa Nakate, left, speaks via video-link as Ell Ottosson Jarl and Greta Thunberg, right, also attend a press conference with climate activists and experts from Africa in Stockholm, Sweden, Friday Jan. 31, 2020. (Photo: AP)
Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate and peers from other African nations on Friday made an urgent appeal for the world to pay more attention to the continent that stands to suffer the most from global warming despite contributing to it the least.
The Fridays For Future movement and activist Greta Thunberg held a news conference with the activists to spotlight the marginalization of African voices a week after The Associated Press cropped Nakate out of a photo at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Nakate, Makenna Muigai of Kenya, Ayakha Melithafa of South Africa and climate scientist Ndoni Mcunu of South Africa pointed out the various challenges both in combating climate change on the booming continent of some 1.2 billion people and in inspiring the world’s response.
“African activists are doing so much,” Nakate said. “It gets so frustrating when no one really cares about them.”
The AP has apologized and acknowledged mistakes in sending out the cropped photo on Jan. 24 and in how the news organization initially reacted. The AP has said that it will expand diversity training worldwide as a result.
Nakate said Friday she was very sad the photo incident occurred but added that “I’m actually very optimistic about this” as it has drawn global attention to climate activists in Africa and the various crises there.
Muigai pointed to a recent locust outbreak that parts of East Africa have seen in 70 years, which threatens food security for millions of people in countries including Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia and is moving toward South Sudan and Uganda.
Challenges include everything from deforestation to bad energy policies, Muigai said. They also include changes in storm intensity that brought two devastating cyclones to Mozambique a year ago, Mcunu said. And they include the recent drought crisis in South Africa’s Cape Town region, Melithafa said.
“The narrative we have is Africans can adapt to this. That is actually not true,” Mcunu said.
The warnings have been stark for Africa. No continent will be struck more severely by climate change, the UN Environment Program has said.
Africa has 15% of the world’s population, yet is likely to “shoulder nearly 50% of the estimated global climate change adaptation costs,” the African Development Bank has said, noting that seven of the 10 countries considered most vulnerable to climate change are in Africa: Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Chad, Central African Republic, South Sudan, Ethiopia and Eritrea.