In Tunisia, climate activists from around the world gather in preparation for COP27

Protesters holding placards expressing their opinion during the demonstration. Protesters demonstrate to demand legislation policies, environmental plans and to reduce the effects of climate change and to include climate education in the public education system
03 October, 2022
With the global climate summit COP27 taking place in Egypt in just over a month's time, activists have gathered in Tunisia to discuss pressing priorities and how transnational climate action can thrive amidst governmental and corporate apathy.

Five weeks from COP27 in Egypt, more than 400 climate-focused organisers, advocates, and campaigners from the Middle East, Africa, and other regions of the world have been brought together in Nabeul, Tunisia.

“It is the first time such a camp is organised, and hopefully it will pave the way for many others to come,” says Nouha Awwad, one of the many Greenpeace organizers of this venue.

People from as many as 65 countries are represented, “but it is mainly a Global South cast. Also, two third of the participants are less than thirty,” she adds. As the two next climate conferences will be held in Egypt and UAE, “we thought it was important for this gathering to take place in a MENA region country."

"It is important for us to know how to use collective power in a tactical way... As civil society, we need to set the agenda for a change"

The four-day gathering seeks to contribute to the implementation of working strategies in a bid to demand a fair and just response to the climate crisis.

“The least responsible states and societies are those suffering the most from climate change across the globe. They need capacity building, a transfer of technology, and to connect to have a local and international impact," Awwad told The New Arab.

Ayisha Siddiqa, 23, from a tribal community in northern Pakistan and Patience Nabukalu, 24, from Uganda met on the first day of the camp, even though it seems they have known each other for a long time. These two young climate advocates are on the way to becoming key influencers in climate matters, both campaigning against the fossil fuel industry.

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“All of this year, I have been looking very closely at EACOP, a 900-mile pipeline that is about to disrupt thousands of lives and key wildlife habitat, to say nothing of its climate impact in my country,” says Patience.

She has been doing a lot of groundwork, engaging herself in some campaigns and trying to create awareness around this pipeline with the communities involved.

She would like her voice to be taken to the climate negotiations in Sharm el-Sheikh, but she still doesn’t know if she will be able to attend COP27, as it is “very hard to get funding and accreditation," she says. 

“This is the case for many activists," says Ayisha Siddiqa. “For the first time, civil society organisations and activists have only been given a designated amount of housing, which amounts to around 20,000.”

There were twice as many facilities last year at the COP26 in Glasgow, according to Ayisha. 

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While the Egyptian government has limited the number of spots available for civil society organisations, “hotels have also inflated the prices to insane proportions," says Siddiqa.

The Egyptian tourism ministry has established a list of minimum prices hotels should charge rooms in Sharm el-Sheikh during the UN climate conference, nearly five times the usual cost, according to Climate Home News.

“COP is already exclusive,” says Nabukalu.

Earlier in September, Egyptian climate campaigners told Human Rights Watch that the government has imposed obstacles for climate activists ahead of the key climate conference in November.

“Arbitrary funding, research, and registration obstacles that have debilitated local environmental groups, forcing some activists into exile,” states the New-York based group report.

At the other end of the camp, Tasneem Essop - an expert on climate negotiations and executive director of Climate Action Network International – facilitates preparatory sessions for activists heading to the upcoming climate conference.

“It is important for us to know how to use collective power tactically,” she says to a full house. “As civil society, we need to set the agenda for a change."

According to her, the “loss and damage” issue has become one of the key battlegrounds that will be fought at this COP. Across the world, there is a burgeoning movement calling for big emitters to pay vulnerable groups for the loss and damage they have incurred as a result of climate change.

“There is a shared but differentiated responsibility, and this also applies to finance. Rich and developed countries are supposed to provide climate finance, because of their historical responsibility. This is why we are fighting to have 'loss and damage' on the agenda, despite the US and some EU members blocking it."

In another session filled up with an Arabic-speaking audience, activists from ATTAC Morocco – a popular education movement against capitalist globalisation and the domination of big powers – present their actions for a just energy transition in North Africa.

“Our region has a significant potential for the expansion of renewable energy sources. But as we see a surge in renewable energy projects, critics and residents of the lands where these projects are sited worry they might reproduce the economic and political inequalities inherent in fossil fuel extraction."

A host of questions arises and the debate stretches into the afternoon.

“This youth will decide what it wants to do out of this camp, whether they want to create a network, meet with a common strategy at COP… The participants will choose at the end of this camp how they want to make their voices heard beyond this gathering," says Awwad.

Aïda Delpuech is a freelance journalist based in Tunis. Passionate about ecology, she mostly covers and investigates themes related to the environment, agriculture, pollution, and agri-food.

Follow her on Twitter: @aidou_dadel