Vanessa makes it very clear: The burden of climate change is today mainly impacting underprivileged communities in the Global South, while wealthy nations bear the vast bulk of responsibility for cumulative carbon emissions, Africa has contributed just 4 per cent.
Vanessa often points this out.
“We need to spend more time listening to the people in those communities, and get to know the stories beyond the statistics”. she said “Climate change is more than statistics.”
It is climate justice that she wants – but for her, climate justice is social justice, and industrialized nations must support the countries of the Global South (yes, also financially) to adapt to the changed climatic conditions. But climate-related financial assistance should be provided in the form of grants — not loans that will add to a debt pile that is already eye-watering for many African states. “When climate finance comes in the form of debt,” she told the Financial Times, “It is only harming the communities that are already on the front lines of the climate crisis”.
Vanessa is not alone, far from it: Through social media, she came across other young activists in India, Zambia, Colombia, Togo, Brazil, Kenya, people even younger than her, that are “stepping up to fill the gap left by older generations who had failed to prevent the climate emergency”.
Today, there are also many members of this new generation sitting in this room, and probably asking: Since the facts have been on the table for so long, why did policy makers not recognize the urgency of the problem and keep postponing it, hoping that some technical solution would somehow solve it?
For Vanessa Nakate, activism does not stop with demands to policy makers. She goes beyond technological solutionism; she doesn’t see electric cars and new high-tech gadgets as the solution.
This catastrophe is a global one that affects us all - but we will not be able to fight it fast enough on a global level, with top-down initiatives alone.
This is what Vanessa’s activism teaches us: We need drastic decisions, but a magic formula doesn’t exist: many small, and local solutions are needed from the ground-up, to be developed with the engagement of the most affected communities.
So, Vanessa gets involved with her peers on the ground.
Alongside protest and direct actions, she also works on concrete projects and solutions needed, compatible with nature and the climate: from solar panels in schools, to new education projects, reforestation, and sustainable agriculture.
Vanessa is also firmly convinced that climate education and climate awareness play a crucial role. She has personally experienced the importance of education, because she ran away from home as a small child in order to be allowed to attend classes. She persisted - and was allowed to receive education.
Vanessa often emphasises that she is just one of many young climate activists who has been put in the spotlight by the media somewhat by accident.
Leadership for her involves taking collective action, shaping a social movement, the project of a generation.
In her book she writes “we could all learn more and learn from one another. I’ve discovered that listening is as important as speaking out. I’ve learned that the more voices you listen to, the more effective you’ll be as a speaker“.
With this award, we recognise these achievements. her committed, passionate activism, that she carefully builds on scientific facts, and that she leads with courage, vision and passion.
She succeeds in doing just that: Vanessa combines foresight with local, immediate action, she combines consistent demands with a willingness to engage in policy dialogue, she knows how to find allies and by acting this way she is an inspiring role model for others.
She emphasises again and again how important it is to really tackle this kind of historical challenges together: A better, more just, solidarity-based future is only possible if we all shape it together. And now, on behalf of the jury I now would like to congratulate Vanessa Nakate for receiving this prestigious award. We wish you and the climate justice movement unlimited success.