Ugandan youth activist stuns Berlin energy transition event


Big-hitting politicians including German economic and energy minister Peter Altmaier and foreign secretary Heiko Maas were slammed by a Ugandan climate activist at the opening of the 2021 Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue (BETD) event today.

With the two cabinet ministers having joined the likes of International Renewable Energy Agency chief Francesco la Camera in stating the need to accelerate the global energy transition–and with U.S. climate envoy John Kerry and European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen also set to make contributions, young Vanessa Nakate stunned the organisers of the virtual event with a hard-hitting contribution this morning.

With fellow youth activist Brianna Fruean having spoken of seeing a Samoan elder taking a stocktake of children because of fears climate change would destroy his village, an even more hard-hitting message arrived when Nakate took the live stream.

Climate campaigner Vanessa Nakate.

Image: Max Hall for pv magazine

The Kampala-based climate activist opened up to, presumably, stun the organisers by explaining herself and Fruean had originally been given five minutes to make their points only to then have their allotted time reduced to four minutes, and then three-and-a-half minutes.

More infuriatingly for Nakate, both youngsters had to submit their speeches to the organisers in advance of the event–though presumably the address she courageously delivered live differed markedly from the transcript she had handed in.

“Did any of the political leaders speaking today have their speeches submitted in advance?” asked Nakate. “Did any of them have their speech time cut short?”

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Claiming both speakers had been ordered not to name and shame any politicians involved in the BETD event, Nakate added: “You should not ask activists to come here and speak at events to make you feel better and then censor them.”

Delivering her stirring, Greta-style condemnation, the Ugandan activist told the likes of Altmaier and Maas it is time to stop talking and start doing. She said it is time to stop investing in uneconomical fossil fuel commitments because: “We cannot eat coal and we cannot drink oil.”

Following Nakate, whose delivery prompted the event's presenter to pledge to take those points on board? Von der Leyen, who can surely never have had a tougher gig to follow up.

You can follow the events at BETD 2021 through our live blog here.

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