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VANESSA NAKATE IMPROVING ON THE ENVIRONMENT:

 

 

In Uganda, A 22-year-old African youth girl Vanessa Nakate is taking it all alone to stop the large scale destruction of the environment by making a sit down strike around government administrative buildings:

30 May, 2019

Written by Frank Kisakye

Vanessa Nakate protesting outside parliament

Vanessa Nakate protesting outside parliament

 

Many have never even noticed her presence let alone her protest boards; never mind that she has been on the streets every Friday or Sunday for 21 weeks now.

But 22-year-old Vanessa Nakate told Frank Kisakye that she is determined to carry on her mostly lone silent protests, “until the leaders react and the president declares a climate emergency”.  

The heavily-opinionated and social media freak Nakate says that despite protesting for nearly five months, few people have noticed, appreciated or even joined her in the protests, yet the effects of climate change are already there for all to see.

Over the weekend, Ugandans lost lives, poultry and homes to heavy rains that can be tagged to climate change. The country’s lush tropical forests are disappearing at an appalling rate and the result has been drought that has lasted an entire year in some regions.

Crop yields have dropped, water tables have dropped and media reports have shown even boreholes going dry in some places of a country once lauded for her beautiful climate. The message would only get across to the leadership if only everybody spoke the same voice, Nakate says.

 

 

During her protest on Jinja road near the traffic lights on week 20, the few that glanced were more in wonderment about what was wrong with her than the message she was carrying. Only once, according to Nakate, has somebody taken keen interest in her now 21 protests.

Even then, the elderly man that approached her outside the Parliament gates thought she had an organisation that supplied tree seedlings. Then the parliamentary security shortly after swung into action, thinking she was one of those Bobi Wine’s ‘People Power’ movement youths. 

“I thought I was going to be arrested. I was so scared. But when they checked and found that I only had climate change placards, they left me alone but kept a keen eye throughout,” she says.

Nakate says her mother and father know she is into “climate change things”, but have no idea what exactly it is that she does. They have not witnessed her picketing for her cause.

The business administration in marketing graduate from Makerere University Business School (MUBS) usually stages her protests on Friday or Sundays for 30 to 60 minutes, during the rush hour of 7am to 8am. Nakate graduated from MUBS in January.

WHEN IT ALL BEGAN

Interestingly, she has more encouragement to carry on from the Swedes, Danes, Americans, and French than from Ugandans themselves, thanks to the cultural differences and how much value the different peoples attach to weather and climate.

In the West, protests usually cause leaders to react to a cause, but in Uganda, protests usually invite the leaders to arrest protesters. And if the protest is not political or does not directly address the person of the president, like Nakate’s, it is mostly ignored until the protester tires and goes home, or starts eating their food (in case of hunger strikes).

But that history will not deter Nakate.  For a moment you would think Nakate has an organisation behind her protests, but she says the idea was only birthed as recently as last December during a casual conversation with one of her uncles, Charles Kamoga, about how hot Uganda had suddenly become.

Because of lack of resources, she even had to postpone the debut of her protests because she lacked the money to print the placards.

“Twenty years ago, it never used to be this hot. The weather was always cool and calm. Farmers used to love [organized seasons] because they would fill their gardens with water and refill the rivers and gullies, but not anymore,” Nakate remembers her uncle Kamoga saying. She had to do something, even if it meant stepping out as a lone ranger.

An undesirable heat wave hit Uganda last year between October and December. Even government has admitted that things are not going in the right direction. Uganda’s forest cover has been depleted to eight per cent from 24 per cent in the 1990s, according to Sam Mangusho Cheptoris, the minister for Water and Environment. The sudden heat waves and constant flooding are the fruits of human degradation of the environment.

Malls, apartments, sugarcane and palm plantations have replaced swamps, forests and wetlands; sand is being mined out of riverbeds and lakes at unprecedented rates as a boom in real estate development continues, destabilizing the water bodies’ ecology.

Vanessa protesting from Jinja road

Charcoal is now preferred over standing trees; and when Kenya instituted strict laws on deforestation and charcoal-burning, the amiable Ugandans turned on their forests and now burn charcoal for two countries – ‘exporting’ to Kenya as well.

Nakate says if only she had the resources, her dream of starting a non-profit organisation to sensitise the youth about climate change would already have been realized. Although it is already bad and has reached extreme levels that need urgent attention, she says the situation can be reversed if everybody did what they ought to do.  

“The organization’s main goal [would be] to teach students in primary schools and secondary schools about climate change - the causes, the impact. I believe that if you give knowledge to the younger generation, they will be able to fight for their future because that is where they are headed,” she says.

“Climate change is a worldwide crisis and though African countries contribute less to the causes of climate change, they will be the most affected, including Uganda. So, we have to take action as soon as possible. One of the reasons for that is that African leaders and most [senior] citizens do not take it seriously but out there the young generation are taking it seriously.”

She hopes that soon rather than later the Ugandan leadership and society will start taking the climate crisis seriously and coordinate efforts to mitigate the effects. She would also love to see more young people join her protests, but blames the police for creating an environment of fear for protests. 

“My friends are always warning me that I will get arrested,” Nakate says. “If all the students would decide to [peacefully demonstrate] at least once in a week, it would get the attention of almost everyone, including our leaders. This is a global issue; you don’t have be an environmentalist to get involved.” 

fkisakye@observer.ug

 

Kampala, Uganda during the rain season

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the tropical rains hit the International city of Kampala, flooding is messing up the city's very old drainage systems. This city is adjacent to one of the largest fresh water Lake in the World.

Opinion: The Equator Principles just turned 15, we should celebrate their impact:

A screenshot from the Equator Principles orientation 

Not so long ago, a birthday passed with little notice. The Equator Principles turned 15. Not many celebrated, but we should have. The principles require participating banks to apply a minimum of standards to reduce environmental and social risks in their project finance operations. Today, 94 banks in 37 countries adhere to the Equator Principles, covering more than 80 percent of project finance transactions in emerging markets.

History helps to understand why that’s important.

Two decades ago, commercial banks did not pay much attention to the environmental and social risks associated with lending. It simply wasn’t a priority. When it came to financing projects, bankers were generally trained to focus on financial returns and credit risks and not much on the welfare of communities. That approach opened them up to criticism that their lending could do more harm than good. This problem was particularly acute in emerging markets where environmental and social regulation and enforcement were limited. There were protests and disruptions to major mining and oil pipeline projects in developing countries and calls for boycotts of the financing banks.

My organization, the International Finance Corporation, wasn’t immune. One notable case involved criticism for our financing of a hydroproject in Chile in the mid-1990s because of inadequate assessment of potential impacts on indigenous peoples and the environment.

We learned from this humbling experience, and strengthened our environmental and social review procedures, public disclosure, and accountability to better serve communities and the environment. That process continues — as we learn, we strengthen and refine our standards.

During this volatile period nearly two decades ago, banks acted, too.

In 2002, IFC and ABN AMRO — a Netherlands-based bank — called a meeting in London for leading project finance bankers. An idea emerged for a new industry-wide framework to manage environmental and social risks in project lending, based on the lessons from IFC’s performance standards. This common approach could help reduce risks related to sustainability, deal structuring, project completion, credit, and the banks’ reputations.

 

A year later, on June 4, 2003, ABN AMRO and nine other banks, including Barclays and Citigroup, announced that they were adopting the Equator Principles. They deliberately chose the name to reflect the initiative’s global ambitions to include developed and emerging market countries. Bankers were breaking new ground: They assumed leadership roles to advance sustainable business practices by making them a requirement of their lending decisions.

In emerging markets, where regulations can be weaker, the principles required particularly robust action by their signatories, including application of IFC’s Performance Standards and the World Bank’s pollution prevention and abatement guidelines. As IFC continued to strengthen its own policies, updating them in 2006 and 2012, the bankers updated the Equator Principles as well, to stay in line with best global practice.

Over the past 15 years, the Equator Principles have improved labor standards and environmental practices, and strengthened engagement with indigenous peoples and local communities. In countries that had no standards or had poor enforcement of existing ones, the banks who followed the principles effectively set the local and national standards — relying on IFC’s experience and raising standards significantly in many countries.

Rapid adoption and expansion of the Equator Principles inspired others to follow suit. Many multilateral development institutions and 37 export credit agencies adopted similar approaches that also require application of IFC’s Performance Standards. IFC inspired and co-led other standards and commitments, including the United Nations’ Principles for Responsible Investment and the Carbon Disclosure Project.

 

Many regulators in emerging markets are working with IFC through the Sustainable Banking Network. This network brings together banking regulators and associations from 35 countries to transform their financial markets toward environmental and social sustainability in line with IFC’s Performance Standards and the Equator Principles. These regulators see this as critical to the stability of their domestic financial systems and a way to channel more financing toward sustainable development.

This banking network — that IFC helped create six years ago at the request of regulators and associations, and now acts as secretariat — helps emerging-markets countries develop policies and guidelines in line with international good practices on ESG standards and green finance. Earlier this year, the network released a report that measures the collective and individual progress across member countries.

This type of standard-setting has the potential for transformative impact. The green bond market is a good example. We helped shape and launch the Green Bond Principles four years ago, a set of voluntary guidelines that promote best practices for transparency and integrity to prevent “greenwashing” — or falsely claiming to help the environment. To help build a strong and credible green bond market, IFC’s own green bonds are aligned with these principles and we work with our clients to do the same. There’s even a working group within the Sustainable Banking Network to develop a robust regulatory structure for green bonds.

“IFC already uses carbon pricing in our own investment decisions. Governments and the private sector both need to incorporate a price on carbon to accurately reflect the true cost to society of the use of fossil fuels.”

— Philippe Le Houérou, CEO of IFC

Moving forward, I see three major opportunities on the horizon to expand the reach of standards for responsible investment in emerging markets.

The first could happen in October. We’re hosting the Equator Principles Association in Washington, D.C., where discussions will focus on tightening standards on certain themes such as climate change and social impact. This could extend the scope of application beyond project finance to other aspects of bank lending that are much larger in financial terms.

 

The second opportunity will be discussed at our annual meetings in Indonesia in October: Whether asset owners and asset managers that hold $70 trillion can move toward a common set of standards for managing investments for impact. We will be presenting draft principles for further review with industry leaders, with a view to define and adopt such principles for “impact investing.”

And the third involves the promise of carbon pricing. IFC already uses carbon pricing in our own investment decisions. Governments and the private sector both need to incorporate a price on carbon to accurately reflect the true cost to society of the use of fossil fuels. A price on carbon also reduces the risks of stranded investments due to the global shift to protect our planet through the use of renewable energy sources.

We are engaged in all three initiatives to develop ambitious standards. The trend is clear. There’s a strong movement from within the private sector to support development that is good for communities and the planet. Fifteen years ago, a small group of banks took a courageous decision to create the Equator Principles. Today, others need to act courageously as well, and we stand ready to help. If these opportunities mentioned above become reality, we will have another reason to celebrate the Equator Principles.

 

THE COUNTRY OF UGANDA ON THE EQUATOR MUST NOT BE AN EXCEPTION
GOD KNOWS WHEN IT IS ALL GOING TO END FOR SUCH NATURAL DESTRUCTION
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