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Ahead of COP27, young African climate activists speak out

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WINDHOEK, Namibia (AP) — Young climate activists from African nations have high demands but low expectations for the UN’s climate…

WINDHOEK, Namibia (AP) — Young climate activists from African nations have high demands but low expectations for the UN climate conference that begins Sunday in the Egyptian seaside resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

Observers and organizers of the COP27 summit have attached great importance to its location, calling the conference an “African COP” where the positions of African countries on issues such as financing for adaptation to climate change or switching to energy sources renewables will be central to the talks. .

Activists hope that is true.

“For COP27 to be the ‘African COP,’ the needs, voices and priorities of the African people must be reflected in the outcome of the negotiations,” Kenyan climate activist Elizabeth Wathuti told The Associated Press. “COP27 is an opportunity to bring justice to the most affected countries through solidarity and global cooperation.”

Analysts point to sticking points between richer and poorer nations, such as questions over whether vulnerable countries should be compensated for climate-related catastrophes, known as “loss and damage” in climate talks, that hamper progress. at previous summits.

Some youth activists, like Wathuti, say the continent should look to rich nations for massive emissions cuts and compensation for loss and damage caused by climate catastrophes. Africa is responsible for only 3% to 4% of global emissions despite having 17% of the world’s population, but it is more vulnerable than most places as many people, especially those outside urban centers have less capacity to adapt.

“Financial delivery is essential to enable Africa’s development,” Wathuti said. “Africa’s population is growing rapidly and securing energy for people will be crucial to fighting poverty and creating opportunities for a better quality of life.”

Others say that African countries should look inward as developed nations have failed to keep their promises.

Hounaidat Abdouroihamane, an activist from the Comoros Islands, said Africa should stop relying on developed countries for funding.

“Why should we beg polluters for answers and money when we know so well they won’t provide it, and if they do, it will be in the form of a loan?” Abdouroihamane asked, adding that the continent should “put in place adaptation measures that are easy and less expensive to implement,” such as better management of water resources and reforestation and land restoration.

Developed nations have already failed to deliver on their climate change finance promises, including a $100 billion a year pledge that is two years past its deadline and has yet to be met.

Wathuti said the talks should be about “accountability” and hoped the conference would address “keeping promises made but not kept.”

Ugandan activist Vanessa Nakate agreed that financing from developed countries was essential for the continent to achieve its goals.

“The promised 100 billion dollars is no longer enough. There needs to be additional funding,” Nakate told the AP, adding that there needs to be a separate fund for loss and damage.

116 million people in Africa’s coastal and island states face risks from rising sea levels and by 2050 African nations are projected to spend $50 billion annually on climate-related impacts, the UN weather agency said.

“We know what needs to be done about climate change. But what we lack is the political will to actually do something,” Nakate said, adding that vulnerable communities urgently need funds to help prepare for climate-related disasters.

Wathuti, Nakate and Abdouroihamane are part of a growing number of young people in Africa and around the world who have been running grassroots projects in their respective countries and are calling on national and international governments to do more about climate change and the loss of biodiversity. Abdouroihamane is active in waste management projects, Nakate spearheads the installation of clean cookstoves and solar panels in schools in her native Uganda, and Wathuti runs a forest restoration project in Kenya.

Although activists have long been part of the conversation, many feel they are not being heard. Increasingly, climate activists, particularly in Europe, have begun to clamp down to make their arguments heard, including throwing food at famous paintings or hitting roads to mixed reception.

“There are efforts to increase youth participation, but more often than not, youth gather to take a seat,” Wathuti said. “For youth engagement to be truly meaningful, youth need support to navigate the intricate spaces of climate negotiations.”

He added: “The youth have not caused the situation we are in, but the youth are the solution. That is why the participation of youth is key in high-level forums such as COP27”.

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Associated Press climate and environment coverage is supported by several private foundations. See more about AP’s climate initiative here. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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