Vanessa Nakate & Christiana Figueres
ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE: THE HUMAN RIGHTS CHALLENGE OF OUR TIME
“Our desire to consume everything of value, to extract every precious stone, every drop of oil and every creature from the sea, knows no bounds. This quest for profit subverts our present and our future. There are too many people who are getting better and better at exploiting the environmental heritage which belongs to us all. We are not heading for an environmental disaster – we have already created one.” – Archbishop Tutu, 50 anniversary of the founding of WWF, 2011
The 10th Annual Desmond Tutu Peace Lecture, on 7 October 2020, provides a platform for two of the world’s most relevant young voices for climate justice to provide leadership for a better future.
Christiana Figueres and Vanessa Nakate, 23, will address the subject: Climate Justice Globally, Now and for the Future.
Christiana Figueres was Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) from 2010 to 2016. During this time she brought together national and sub-national governments, corporations and activists, financial institutions and NGOs to jointly deliver the historic Paris Agreement on climate change. In the accord 195 sovereign nations agreed on a collaborative path forward to limit future global warming to well below 2°C, and strive for 1.5°C, in order to protect the most vulnerable. For this achievement, Figueres has been credited with forging a new brand of collaborative diplomacy and received multiple awards.
Since then Figueres has continued to accelerate the global response to climate change. Today she is the co-founder of Global Optimism, co-host of the podcast Outrage & Optimism and is the co-author of the recently published book, The Future We Choose: Surviving the Climate Crisis.
Meanwhile, in Uganda, Nakate felt that December 2018 was unusually hot. She asked an uncle if this was so, and he said he agreed, so Nakate decided to do something about it.
Then a student, she did some research and saw what Greta Thunberg was doing in Sweden. “So I read more, and decided to go on strike in January 2019. It took me some days to build up the courage because I never went on strike for anything before. No other students would join me because many were too afraid, so I asked my siblings. We made signs and striked together,” Nakate told Greenpeace later that year.
“Often I am alone. Most people are afraid and others need to be educated more about the climate crisis. It has been hard getting the message out across Africa, but I will keep working.”
Her work has included founding two African youth initiatives: Youth for Future Africa and the Rise Up Movement.
Earlier this year Nakate was a member of a group of young activists who urged global leaders attending the 2020 World Economic Forum gathering in Davos to divest from fossil fuels.
On the Archbishop’s 89th birthday, on 7 October, Nakate will become the youngest speaker in the annual Peace Lecture’s 10-year history.
“At this time of global crisis, with the world in the clutches of a lethal pandemic whose origin is widely ascribed to burgeoning environmental degradation, it seems especially fitting to have the opportunity to amplify the voices of these women leaders. As the Archbishop has often said, generations of male leaders have driven the earth and its people to the brink,” said Foundation CEO Piyushi Kotecha.
Figueres and Nakate follow a distinguished line-up of lecturers to have graced the platform in the past, including the late Kofi Annan, Mrs Graca Machel and Mrs Mary Robinson. Last year’s lecturer was Zimbabwe-born global businessman and philanthropist, Strive Masiyiwa.
* The only previous time that the annual lecture has featured more than one participant was the first in the series, on the Archbishop’s 80th birthday. The designated speaker, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, was denied a visa to attend the event, so it took the form of a live discussion between the Archbishop, on a stage in Cape Town, and His Holiness, in India.