Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate on Tuesday criticized world leaders who persist in backing new fossil fuel projects as other activists held a symbolic protest for environmental and human rights and called for funding for vulnerable nations suffering the devastating effects of climate change. .
Countries agreed in the 2015 Paris climate accord to limit global warming to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century, if possible. But scientists say that with around 2.1 Fahrenheit of warming already achieved, that target is likely to be missed, pushing temperatures to dangerous levels.
“The focus for many leaders is to cut deals for fossil fuel lobbyists, survive the next election cycle and make as much short-term profit as possible,” Nakate told an event on the sidelines of the UN climate talks in Sharm. el-Sheikh. , Egypt.
He 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 devastation.”
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Environmental groups had more than 600 delegates linked to the fossil fuel industry at the two-week meeting.
Nakate cited research from the International Energy Agency that says there can be no new investment in coal, oil or gas if the world stays below 1.5C.
This was being undermined by massive public spending on fossil fuel subsidies, partly 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 are sowing the wind and the frontline communities are reaping the whirlwind,” he said. “You are sowing seeds of coal, oil and gas while frontline communities are reaping havoc, devastation and destruction.”
Many developing nations are disproportionately affected by climate change, as they are less able to adapt to extreme weather exacerbated by global warming.
Nakate called out those countries that issued new licenses for oil and gas exploitation in their territorial waters, or promised investments in new fossil fuel infrastructure in Africa.
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Jochen Flasbarth, a longtime German climate negotiator, said Nakate was right to stress the urgency of tackling climate change, but questioned his criticism of election-worried politicians.
“You may be right that politicians are sometimes short-sighted, but (must) make the best of these elections,” he said, adding that “it is the youth who increasingly did not go to the elections in the last ten years” in many democratic nations.
Flasbarth told Nakate that young people “need to engage” with democratic processes to help “strengthen democracy around the world.”
Later Tuesday, a handful of climate activists gathered outside the conference venue in a symbolic protest to highlight what they said were restrictions and clampdowns on environmental and human rights defenders.
Organized by the Fridays for Future Movement, the short demonstration took place in the official designated protest area amid tight security. The organizers said they received the required permission from the Egyptian authorities, but refused to speak to the media at the protest site saying they did not want to legitimize it.
They said the symbolic protest was aimed at showing the “restrictions on civil society and protest” at this year’s conference.
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“We are protesting on behalf of and in solidarity with all those who cannot raise their voices, we are here demanding the release of the silenced,” activist Luisa Neubauer said in a speech.
So far, protests at this year’s conference have generally been confined to the ‘Blue Zone’, which is considered UN territory.
Climate activists have repeatedly complained that restrictions and expensive accommodation have discouraged large protests this year, in stark contrast to previous years when there were large demonstrations. At last year’s COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, some 100,000 people marched through the streets in a demonstration and protesters frequently gathered in public squares and parks.
Street protests are virtually banned in Egypt, but the government has set up a designated area outside the negotiating venue for demonstrations.
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The activists also called for the establishment of a new body dealing with weather-related loss and damage to develop funds for nations vulnerable to global warming.
The demonstrations come as negotiators at the conference haggle over numerous thorny issues, including increasing efforts to cut greenhouse gases and providing more financial aid to poor nations.
The ministers began arriving in Sharm el-Sheikh on Monday to kick-start the meeting and reach a substantive deal before closing their agenda on Friday.