|Born||15 November 1996|
|Education||Makerere University Business School|
|Known for||Climate activism|
Vanessa Nakate (born 15 November 1996) is a Ugandan climate justice activist. She grew up in Kampala and started her activism in December 2018 after becoming concerned about the unusually high temperatures in her country.
Nakate grew up in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, in the Kitintale neighborhood. She has four younger siblings. Nakate graduated with a business administration in marketing degree from Makerere University Business School.
Inspired by Greta Thunberg to start her own climate movement in Uganda, Nakate began a solitary strike against inaction on the climate crisis in January 2019. For several months she was the lone protester outside of the gates of the Parliament of Uganda. Eventually, other youth began to respond to her calls on social media for others to help draw attention to the plight of the Congolian rainforests. Nakate founded the Youth for Future Africa and the likewise Africa-based Rise Up Movement.
In December 2019, Nakate was one of a handful of youth activists to speak at the COP25 gathering in Spain.
In early January 2020, she joined around 20 other youth climate activists from around the world to publish a letter to participants at the World Economic Forum in Davos, calling on companies, banks and governments to immediately stop subsidizing fossil fuels. She was one of five international delegates invited by Arctic Basecamp to camp with them in Davos during the World Economic Forum; the delegates later joined a climate march on the last day of the Forum.
In October 2020, Nakate gave a speech at the Desmond Tutu International Peace Lecture urging world leaders to "wake up" and recognise climate change as a crisis, tying it to poverty, hunger, disease, conflict and violence against women and girls. "Climate change is a nightmare that affects every sector of our lives," she stated. "How can we eradicate poverty without looking at this crisis? How can we achieve zero hunger if climate change is leaving millions of people with nothing to eat? We are going to see disaster after disaster, challenge after challenge, suffering after suffering (...) if nothing is done about this." She also called for leaders to “leave their comfort zones and see the danger we are in and do something about it. This is a matter of life and death.”
Nakate started the Green Schools Project, a renewable energy initiative, which aims to transition schools in Uganda to solar energy and install eco-friendly stoves in these schools. As of now, the project has carried out installations in six schools.
Nakate was a keynote speaker at the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue 2021 on 16 March 2021 alongside other notable world leaders. Her delivery included criticism of the German Federal Foreign Office as organizers for screening the input from youth climate activists that was not applied to other invited speakers.
In a 2019 interview with Amy Goodman for Democracy Now!, Nakate expressed her motivation for climate action: "My country heavily depends on agriculture, therefore most of the people depend on agriculture. So, if our farms are destroyed by floods, if the farms are destroyed by droughts and crop production is less, that means that the price of food is going to go high. So it will only be the most privileged who will be able to buy food. And they are the biggest emitters in our countries, the ones who will be able to survive the crisis of food, whereas most of the people who live in villages and rural communities, they have trouble getting food because of the high prices. And this leads to starvation and death. Literally, in my county, a lack of rain means starvation and death for the less privileged".
Nakate is on the council of the Progressive International, an international organisation promoting progressive left-wing politics. She has criticised capitalism, linking it to environmental degradation.
In January 2020, the Associated Press (AP) news agency cropped Nakate out from a photo she appeared in featuring Greta Thunberg and activists Luisa Neubauer, Isabelle Axelsson, and Loukina Tille after they all attended the World Economic Forum. Nakate accused the media of a racist attitude. The Associated Press later changed the photo and indicated there was no ill intent, without presenting its apologies. On 27 January 2020, AP executive editor Sally Buzbee tweeted an apology using her personal account saying that she was sorry on behalf of the AP. Nakate responded that she did not believe the AP's statement or their apology, further responding: "As much as this incident has hurt me personally, I'm glad because it has brought more attention to activists in Africa. ... Maybe media will start paying attention to us not just when we’re the victims of climate tragedies."
Nakate was on the list of the BBC's 100 Women announced on 23 November 2020.
She was also on the list Time100 Next published by Time on 17 February 2021.