Young Africans in Egypt, Sudan, Benin and Kenya have been at the forefront of global youth calls for protecting the earth from climate-change disasters.
Voices calling for more attention to environmental issues and for leaders to fulfill their commitments to support clean energy instead of fossil fuels have been amplified in recent weeks as youth from around the world have engaged in peaceful protests ahead of next month’s COP27 climate-change summit in Egypt.
COP27 is the 27th annual Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The first conference was held in Berlin in 1995. COP27 will be held November 6 to 18 in Sharm El-Sheikh.
Alongside such official summits, climate activists, including many young people, have launched initiatives and participated in demonstrations demanding a greener planet.
Over the past month, protests have reverberated in capitals around the world. Protesters have gathered outside the World Bank’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., and in front of government offices in Tokyo, Ottawa, Rome, Amsterdam and Ghana, demanding that governments stop financing fossil fuel projects and move toward clean energies by the end of this year, in compliance with commitments made at COP26 in Glasgow last year.
“Where will I go if the planet is no longer livable because of global warming? I don’t want the next generation after me to live in a degraded environment. I hope we can do something. Humanity is collapsing, and I would be remiss if I stayed silent.”Salem Ainan, a climate activist in Benin
Next month’s summit in Sharm El-Sheikh aims to discuss the implementation of the recommendations of COP26. These include the urgent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, the gradual ending of direct public financing of fossil fuels, and the fulfillment of climate financing commitments in which rich countries promised to provide $100 billion annually to assist developing countries, but the deadline for this has been postponed to 2023.
Many influential young activists stand out in the pressure for climate action. Among them are the Argentinian Nicole Becker, a co-founder of the Jóvenes por el Clima movement, which organized the first mass climate strike in Argentina in 2019 and helped push the country to declare a climate emergency and approve a draft climate change law.
Others include Ashley Lashley, founder of the HEY Campaign (Health and Environment-friendly Youth) in the Caribbean region.
Young Africans Fight to Protect the Climate
In Africa, young people leading the climate fight include Elizabeth Wathuti of Kenya, founder of the Green Generation Initiative, which calls for solidarity and compassion in our efforts the world’s growing climate and environmental crises.
Another prominent young activist is Salem Ainan, from Benin, who has been a local and international climate volunteer since 2018.
In 2022, Ainan was selected by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to implement the Local Youth Environment Assembly in the African region. He is also one of eight young Africans selected to be part of the group responsible for the release of the new UNESCO curriculum on climate education, which will be officially launched at COP28 next year.
In a statement to Al-Fanar Media, Ainan said, “During my time working in the climate field, I always ask myself, Where will I go if the planet is no longer livable because of global warming? I don’t want the next generation after me to live in a degraded environment. I hope we can do something. Humanity is collapsing, and I will be remiss if I stay silent.”
He added that climate catastrophes accelerated by fossil fuels are destroying hundreds of thousands of lives worldwide. Stopping such events will be the most pressing demand of young people at COP27, he said.
“We will ask governments to support initiatives and innovations for the benefit of the climate,” Ainan said. “The issue of climate justice is a top priority for the people of Africa.”
In Sudan, climate change has negatively impacted the agriculture sector, said Souad Khaled, a Sudanese environmentalist and climate specialist. In response, she helped found a “company called Vermi, which recycles organic waste into compost to help reduce the consumption of water for agriculture, she said.
In Egypt, Ahmed Fathy founder of the Youth Loves Egypt Foundation (YLE), said his organisation plans to present various climate events and initiatives during COP27.
“As the climate crisis goes unchecked, extreme weather events, such as heat waves and floods, are hitting the most vulnerable people the hardest. Nowhere is the impact more brutally felt than in countries already reeling from hunger, conflict and poverty.”Martin Griffiths, the United Nations under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator
Youth Loves Egypt has been working on environment and sustainable development initiatives since 2012. In a statement to Al-Fanar Media, Fathy pointed to the foundation’s recent launch of an Egyptian union on tackling climate change through the circular economy, in addition to its ongoing Nile Tree Project, which aims to plant olive, pomegranate and white mulberry trees on the sides of the river over a stretch of 12 kilometers, and its Environmental Pioneers Programme, which works to train 1,000 young men and women on the mechanisms of sustainable development and climate change, and to carry out clean-up campaigns to reduce plastic pollution in waterways.
Climate Change Damage
In a recent report titled “Extreme Heat: Preparing for the Heatwaves of the Future”, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said more needed to be done to avoid a repeat of the catastrophic heat waves exacerbated by the climate crisis that fueled disasters in Pakistan and Somalia this year.
Such heat waves could portend ever more deadly humanitarian emergencies in the future, especially among young people and children, the report warned.
“As the climate crisis goes unchecked, extreme weather events, such as heat waves and floods, are hitting the most vulnerable people the hardest,” Martin Griffiths, the United Nations under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, said in a news release accompanying the report. “Nowhere is the impact more brutally felt than in countries already reeling from hunger, conflict and poverty.”
Others have previously noted that Africa is the continent most affected by climate change, although it is the least contributor to its leading cause, greenhouse gas emissions. A 2020 report by CDP.net put Africa’s share of global greenhouse gases at just 3.8 percent, in contrast to 23 percent in China, 19 percent in the United States, and 13 percent in the European Union.
In August, Unicef warned that children in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel “could die in devastating numbers” unless urgent support was provided.
“When water either isn’t available or is unsafe, the risks to children multiply exponentially,” said Catherine Russell, Unicef’s executive director.
Already more children die as a result of unsafe water and sanitation in the Sahel than in any other part of the world, the Unicef report said.
Because of drought, the number of people in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia who lack reliable access to safe water rose to 16 million in July, it said. Elsewhere in the Sahel, 40 million children face high levels of water vulnerability.
- Better Weather Data Will Save Lives as Climate Threats Increase, U.N. Says
- Flooding in Sudan Prompts Calls for Early Warning System for Climate-Related Disasters
- Pyramid of Plastic Waste Warns of Pollution Threat to the Nile and the Sea
Read more about Egypt’s preparations to host the COP27 climate-change conference in Climate and Environment, an archive of Al-Fanar Media’s reporting on this topic.