Young Kenyan tree activist speaks up for Africa at COP27

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Elizabeth Wathuti channelled her frustration and sadness over the damage to natural habitats including Kenyan forests close to her childhood home into a life of activism, founding Green Generation Initiative to raise awareness through tree growing.

Six years after starting the environmental advocacy group, Wathuti is one of Kenya’s most ardent voices in the struggle against climate change, a voice she is hoping will be heard by world leaders gathered in Egypt for the COP27 climate summit.

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Wathuti was one of the young people calling for urgent action as the UN climate conference marked its traditional Young and Future Generations Day on Thursday.

“We have to ensure that there is a great representation and participation of voices across the African continent, and not just the participation but it has to go further to make sure that the outcome we get out of COP27 has a reflection of the present needs of the African continent,” she said in an interview in Nairobi, before travelling to Egypt.

Meanwhile leaders from poor countries criticized wealthy governments and oil companies for driving global warming, using their speeches on Tuesday at the COP27 climate summit in Egypt to demand that they pay up for damages being inflicted on their economies.

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Small island states already buffeted by increasingly violent ocean storms and sea-level rise called on oil companies to shell out some of their huge recent profits, while developing African states called for more international funds for adaptation.

“The oil and gas industry continues to earn almost 3 billion United States dollars daily in profits,” said Gaston Browne, Antigua’s prime minister, speaking at the conference on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States.

“It is about time that these companies are made to pay a global carbon tax on their profits as a source of funding for loss and damage,” he said. “While they are profiting, the planet is burning.”

Nikenike Vurobaravu, the president of the island nation of Vanuatu, said it wanted the International Court of Justice to help ensure future generations’ rights were not being violated by nations lagging on climate change.