‘We can’t drink oil’: Leaders must commit to ending new fossil fuel projects at Cop26, says Vanessa Nakate

Exclusive: Ms Nakate will join other young climate activists at protests in Glasgow

Daisy Dunne
Climate Correspondent
Saturday 30 October 2021 11:59
Cop26: Pope says world must act together on climate change

World leaders must commit to ending all new fossil fuel projects at the Cop26 climate summit, young climate activist Vanessa Nakate has said.

On the eve of the UN summit, the Ugandan environmentalist told The Independent that plans to tackle the climate crisis must not leave room for more oil and gas development.

It comes after The Independent reported that 70 of the world’s leading climate scientists have called for Boris Johnson to stop all new investment in fossil fuels ahead of the summit.

An influential report from the world’s energy watchdog released in May said there can be no further fossil fuel expansion anywhere if global climate targets are to be met.

“My message to leaders is that their words should really match their actions,” the 24-year-old told The Independent.

“If leaders are going to talk about going net zero, then they have to start now. They must put an end to investment in new fossil fuel projects.

“Something that I always say is that we can’t eat coal, we can’t drink oil and we cannot breathe so-called natural gas.”

The Independent’s Stop Fuelling the Climate Crisis campaign is shining a light on new fossil fuel production around the world ahead of Cop26.

The two-week summit will see 25,000 people descend on Glasgow to negotiate a path for getting the world on track to meeting its climate goals.

The mechanics of the conference, which operates by consensus between all countries, mean that a commitment to end new fossil fuel projects is very unlikely to feature in a final deal between countries.

However, there are growing hopes among some experts that many countries and institutions will come together at the fringes of the event to reach agreements to stop the development of new coal, oil and gas.

We want leaders to rise up for the people and for the planet

Vanessa Nakate

A recent study found that 60 per cent of existing oil and gas reserves must be left in the ground if the world is to have even half a chance of preventing global temperatures from rising by more than 1.5C – the international aspiration set by the Paris Agreement in 2015.

“We want leaders to rise up for the people and for the planet,” said Ms Nakate.

The activist has just released a book, A Bigger Picture: My fight to bring a new African voice to the climate crisis, with the aim of spreading the word on how people living in Africa and other parts of the global south are already having to live with serious climate impacts, she says.

“The climate crisis is more than statistics, it’s about people,” she said.

“I hope to get people to understand what the climate crisis does to individuals, families and communities. I hope they can understand the interconnections between the climate crisis and other issues like poverty eradication, gender equality and peace building.”

Vanessa Nakate with Greta Thunberg at a youth climate summit in Italy

She added that wealthier nations must recognise this by finally meeting promises first made in 2009 to provide $100bn in climate funds to help poorer countries tackle and cope with rising emissions.

A recent analysis released by the UK’s Cop26 team said that rich countries are currently on track to meet the funding target by 2023, three years shy of the original deadline of 2020.

“The delay in climate finance is really unfair for communities who are on the front lines of the climate crisis, for communities that are losing their livelihoods, cultures, homes and land because of increasing disasters,” said Ms Nakate.

“Delaying climate finance doesn’t help us at all. It makes me feel like leaders in the global north really don’t understand the urgency of the problem. They don’t understand how seriously people’s lives are being impacted by the climate crisis.”

Ms Nakate added that she would be travelling to Glasgow to take part in protests alongside other youth activists including Greta Thunberg.

Major protests against climate inaction are expected on several days during the summit.

“My message to leaders and oppressors going to the Cop to make promises and speak about their targets is that their actions must really match their words,” she added.

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