The 2016 Climate Change Conference COP22 (Conference of Parties, edit) of this year took place in Marrakech, Morocco. Six students from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel were selected to join the conference to witness discussions behind the scenes while seeking ways forward to save our motherland “The Earth”.
“The United States is in big dilemma”
Jimmy Hendry Nzally
“The entire world was watching this year’s COP with the hope of finding global solutions on Climate Change actions. I would like to focus on poverty, which is inseparably linked to Climate Change and which has not been addressed adequately, due to the lack of a systematic and profound leadership approach. As we continue to struggle with this phenomenon, it is therefore fundamental to look into approaches, activism, and politics displayed here in Marrakech by respective global blocks.
When in Marrakech I kept asking myself the following question: how should and could the COP22 help to shape a better world? And thereby move from rhetoric to actions. It seems ironic that the most pressed populace from the global South has so little influence in the matter. Since Africa was the host continent, I was hoping to see the most affected areas at the forefront of leading negotiations. However, in each session attended, I hardly saw any of the strong voices from the South making firm appeals of how to move forward. Of course, one could argue that there has been progressing in the countries outside of the conference, as for instance in the session on “Implementing the Paris Agreement: Kenya’s national enabling Environment” with keynote speaker Judi Wakhungu, Cabinet Secretary. But how much can they change their agenda in terms of the visible politics everywhere in between underdeveloped, developing, and developed nations/blocks? There is no doubt that Africa is the hardest hit in terms of climate change. For example, the significant rainfall drops increased climate migrations, environmental pollutions and so many other components that we are aware of, but also may be unaware of.
Benefits of COP22
As an insider, I witnessed socially depressed and disgruntled member states in this strive. But firstly, I realized through my interviews as well as through chatting with ordinary Moroccans, that there is a disconnection between what is happening at the COP22 and the benefits that are described as being a result of it. Obviously, business is booming, streets are clean, shuttle buses are available, venues are well organized, etc. Great merit to the organizers! Furthermore, a local businessman told me: ‘We are having problems, more than we have joy of what is happening at the COP and it is the same situation in most other African countries. People need better living conditions and development at a grassroots level. Do you think we care much about COP22? All the presidents here do not even care about us, neither do they care about the local farmers or about the planet they are advocating for. We are tired of these kinds of conferences.’ This is interesting as during the conference there was a long hunger strike going on organized by teachers in Marrakech, to increase their pay and gain more prestige for the working class.
Furthermore, I had an interview with some party members from developing countries. Their biggest concern is the attitudes of different parties towards each other. For instance, world leaders are still reluctant to help Africa in creating a progressive society. In reality they rather want to talk big and make promises.
Meanwhile EU Countries strive for a business environment and being flexible in how to tackle climate change. Does this mean that the EU is right on its front? Most high level meetings were coordinated and offered by EU leaders. They seem to be the champions of offering solutions while other continents look up to them. Therefore, this mandates the EU to provide the right leadership needed for creating a clear sense of direction.
Meanwhile, the United States is in a big dilemma. This because the president-elect, Donald J. Trump, has said publicly that he does not believe in climate change. In almost all the sessions I attended in which there were US representatives present this seemed to be the major concern. A session named “Post Election Dialogue and Reflection for Americans and Friends” focused overwhelmingly on the question if the new president will provide leadership to tackle climate change. These are no easy questions, nor are there any clear answers. However; stakeholders, parties, the media and everyone else at the COP were incredibly worried about what will happen next. This is why I think the European Union and other states should take the leadership from now on. There is no time to waste!
I also felt like there is hope despite all the political games at the COP22. I noticed how the media, civil societies and other key actors are pressuring parties to take actions in regards to climate change. Furthermore, to prove their determination, hundreds of people took part in a massive climate justice march in the streets of Marrakech. I was fortunate enough to attend it. Climate change activists chanting slogans of hope like ‘We will win because we are the people’s power’, ‘No justice no peace’, ‘Save mother earth’, ‘Actions or we will die’ and many more. The presence of John Kerry (US Secretary of State, edit) caused some activists to start singing ‘We are still in’. This to urge Secretary Kerry to reaffirm US commitment once again.
We should continue to push our leaders to take this issue seriously in order to protect the future generations. The road ahead is long and seems difficult because of politics and the lack of cooperation from our leaders who should make it happen.
Consequently, we cannot wait for our leaders because they are too busy playing politics. World leaders should have the courage and conviction to take on the transformations needed to save the planet. Then again, it does not depend on one single person or government, it will take a joint effort to save our earth. Therefore it is important to keep on raising awareness about the harmfulness of climate change.
Additionally, coming from one of the countries in the global south (The Gambia), I can affirm the immense and immeasurable impact climate change is having on people both at the local and national level. Many people are migrating from distant shores because they lack decent living conditions due to threatening and increasingly polluted waters, heat pressures, flooding, and endless catastrophic consequences. The fact that I could attend this conference, allows me to share my experiences as it also offered me new perspectives on how to move forward.”