Ugandan youth activists call for action at COP27

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This week, world leaders are gathering in Egypt for COP27, the global climate summit. They will be joined by young Ugandan activists who have decided to make their voices heard. Hilda Flavia Nakabuye and Patience Nabukalu, two outspoken young women from Friday’s for Future, a youth-led global climate action group, traveled to Egypt with an important message: listen to the youth of Uganda and from all over Africa.

In recent years, Uganda has faced severe extreme weather events, which have taken a heavy toll on lives and livelihoods. The region has already warmed by 1.3 degrees Celsius, and droughts and heavy rains are expected to intensify due to climate change. Floods and landslides are common in Uganda and have had devastating effects, such as a landslide in September 2022 that killed at least fifteen people.

According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), approximately 570 million children worldwide are currently at high risk of flooding, and this situation is likely to worsen due to climate change.

It was the prospect of more extreme climate impacts that led young Ugandans to form a chapter of Fridays for Future in their country. One was a 13-year-old sixth-grader from Kampala, Uganda’s capital, who experienced flooding firsthand: “I’m worried about the floods, I’ve seen a few near from my house…it killed people,” she said. She joined Fridays for Future because she believes “something can be done”.

Young people across Uganda shared their fears over the climate crisis and their anger over broken government promises with Fridays for Future Uganda. They call on world leaders to “turn COP27 into a COP of bold action and the start of delivering on climate commitments and building quality commitment to global climate pacts.”

Such activism in Uganda carries considerable risks. In October, nine university students were arrested in Kampala for protesting against the construction of a new oil pipeline in Uganda and neighboring Tanzania. They were detained for six days and charged with “public nuisance”.

But that hasn’t deterred young activists attending the climate summit, who are urgently calling on governments at COP27 to cut global emissions, halt new fossil fuel projects and help affected countries in the South.

When heads of state gather in Sharm el-Sheikh, they must reflect on what climate change means for the future of young people in Uganda – and they must listen to what they have to say.

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