COP27: How African Youth Contributed to Egypt’s Climate Change Deal
A highlight of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) was ensuring that the voices of youth and future generations are taken into account in the climate and environmental conversations. The Children and Youth Pavilion ensured that young people at the summit deepened the conversation by giving their voice to the issues related to the climate change crisis afflicting societies globally.
Two days after declaring the 2022 conference open, the first-ever “Children’s and Youth Pavilion” in the history of the COPs began in the COP27 Blue Zone hub of the conference. This gave the vibrant young climate advocates of Sharm El-Sheikh the opportunity to voice their concerns about the climate change negotiations.
The United Nations said the aim of creating a youth-driven wing is to contribute to increasing the visibility, participation and empowerment of the voices of children and youth networks and to promote their inclusion in global climate dialogue and policy-making.
“I count on your voice. It is your future that we are meant to be here to secure. It is only through your voices, your advocacy and your inspiration that you can fully enjoy your right to benefit from the land, forests and air and live in a long and prosperous future on our beautiful planet. Their responsibilities are their responsibilities,” said Sameh Shoukry, COP27 Chair During his visit to the youth pavilion: “You are the future, and it is your voice that will help us achieve it.”
Throughout the two weeks of the summit, PREMIUM TIMES noted that the pavilion was duly manned by children and young people from all continents at COP27. Excitement, cheers and important conversations about climate justice and youth inclusion in climate negotiations dominated the conversations.
On many occasions, dozens of attendees and bystanders were drawn into the suspense that reverberated through the youth wards. Sometimes many stop to feel the creative exhibitions that young people put on inside the premises of the pavilion and listen to the eminent guests being hosted.
These activities attracted the attention of those who spread their mobile phones to capture the unique moments in the Youth Pavilion.
This year, COP27 brought together more than 46,000 delegations from nearly 200 countries in Egypt for two weeks to push forward sustainable action to combat climate change as the world continues to battle the scourge of existential weather vagaries driven largely by human activities.
Unlike previous COPs, this year’s was extended after negotiations stalled on terms calling for wealthy polluters (developed countries) to provide “loss and damage” financing – a key agenda put forward by the African negotiating group, for climate-ravaged countries. disasters, as well as escalating ambition in tackling global warming.
Likewise, the European Union strongly rejected a document that Egypt offered overnight due to concerns about its weakness in reducing emissions. But after several hours of negotiation, the historic Sharm El-Sheikh Implementation Plan (SHIP), which specified funding for loss and damage, was reached on November 19.
Organizers said the new fund would see donors contribute to a global fund to save lives and livelihoods from climate change-related disasters.
COP27 has seen significant progress in adaptation, the United Nations said, as governments agreed on the way forward in adapting to the global goal, which will end in COP 28 and reach the first global assessment, improving resilience among the most vulnerable.
Meanwhile, new pledges, totaling more than $230 million, were made to the Adaptation Fund at COP27.
Organizers said these pledges will help many vulnerable communities adapt to climate change through concrete adaptation solutions.
How young people shaped the COP27 negotiations
On several occasions during the thematic days at the Summit, young people stormed the streets and buildings of the Summit demanding climate justice, raging against superficial commitments and rallying against political inaction.
Similarly, many young negotiators from Africa were also pressing for a seat at the negotiating table to have their concerns and aspirations heard and heard.
The United Nations Executive Secretary on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Simon Steel, also acknowledged the vibrant attendance and youth participation at COP27 while delivering his closing remarks at the summit.
“Climate advocates – led by the moral voice of youth – kept the agenda going in the darkest of days. They must be protected, I tell them all we share your frustration. But we need you now more than ever,” said Mr. Steele.
Contrary to stories from the Sinai Peninsula, the UN official said the world cannot wait for a miracle to happen from a mountaintop.
“It would take each and every one of us to fight in the trenches every single day,” he said.
Young Africans at COP27 share their experiences and interests
Over the course of two weeks of intense engagement among the negotiators, issues related to food security, innovative financing, just transition, investing in the energy future (green hydrogen, climate change, sustainability of vulnerable communities) and water security took center stage at the Sixth Conference roundtables featured in high-level events of the summit.
But climate justice, effective implementation of outstanding pledges, and more youth participation in climate change negotiations are the main concerns of many young Africans at this year’s COP.
“They can’t decide for us, we want to enter into negotiations, we want to make decisions, we want to be involved in making and implementing policies and we want to be collaborators and joint designers of solutions to climate impacts,” Rose Kobusing, 26, a climate justice advocate based in Uganda, told PREMIUM TIMES in an interview.
While negotiations at COP27 were still ongoing, Ms. Kobusingh lamented that she was frustrated that pledges made at last year’s COP were largely unfulfilled.
Despite having the first ever Youth Pavilion at COP27, she said there was still plenty of freedom for young people to demonstrate as they wished.
For his part, Lucky Abing, research officer of the Climate and Sustainable Development Network, said the space for climate negotiation is not as open to young people as they expected at COP27.
The climate justice advocate says he came to the COP along with other young people to demand loss and damage financing, adaptation financing for Africa, climate financing, and also for Africa to be considered a special needs country.
The co-founder of the International Climate Change Development Initiative, Olumide Idowu, who is also one of Nigeria’s young negotiators at this year’s COP, also expressed reservations. He said he himself and other young people around the world called for more youth involvement in the climate debate and how their government delegations would talk about loss and damage, adaptation, and climate finance.
He said that was the biggest conversation that shaped this year’s summit.
“I am not impressed with the involvement of young people in Nigeria,” Mr Idowu told PREMIUM TIMES.
“We still need a lot of work to do so that we can showcase more of the local climate-driven actions that Nigeria is taking.”
He urged the government to consider youth participation and that it should be one of the main elements to be taken into account during the pre-COP arrangements. Mr Idowu said this would promote full participation in the activities in the Nigerian pavilion of the Cop.
“Doing so will help young people gain a collaborative experience in making their implementation back home more universal,” he said.
Another young negotiator for Nigeria, Loretta Boniface, co-founder of Ecocycle Limited, shared her experience in the negotiation room and plenary as well.
She said she saw other young men like her in the negotiating room at Cop this year presenting their country’s position and trying to influence leaders to agree on a people-centered decision where no one would be left behind.
“I think this is the last generation fighting for climate change in the world,” she added.
More young Africans are speaking up
Like many other young Africans, Patricia Combo, a Kenyan environmental activist, has expressed mixed feelings about COP27’s operations.
Initially as a young Kenyan woman, she said she was happy to set up a youth pavilion at the summit this year because now they have a space where they can share their “experiences” and a safe space where they (young people) can’t feel afraid.
However, she said she was sad that leaders come to the COP to make nice statements, but when the conference ends, often nothing is done to deliver on commitments.
“Do I feel that it is not worth the promise? I think I am giving up on the whole process,” said Ms. Combo.
Likewise, the coordinator of the children and youth wing of COP27, Saad Akkas (Morocco), said that youth in this year’s COP are stronger than the previous ones.
He said they have more young people in the negotiating room working with different organizations that amplify the voices of young people.
“We now have more countries in the negotiating room including young people as negotiators, and this is what we are pushing for,” he said.
As young people at the COP, they are asking for more funding and mechanisms for losses and damages.
Our countries are suffering. People are suffering at the local level, so we need climate finance. We need to study adaptation so that we can help our brothers and sisters at the community and indigenous level to deal with the impacts and consequences of climate change,” said Mr. Ocas.
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