Fighting climate change | Africa | DW | 21.05.2012
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Fighting climate change

Young people around the world, many of them from Africa, have resolved to be at the forefront in the fight against climate change.

At a recent conference held in Bonn, Germany, as part of preparations for the next UN climate summit in Qatar, young people have been reaffirming their commitment through campaigns and conferences to fight climate change.

Drawn from different continents with a huge number of participants from Africa, the young people were allowed to speak at plenary sessions of the United Nations, as part of a global forum aimed at addressing climate change and global warming.

Delegates at the UN Climate Change Conference 2011 in Durban.

Activists had hoped the Durban UN climate change conference in 2011 would help highlight Africa's problems

Mostafa Medhat, 23, from Egypt worked on a project called "Adopt a negotiator” in which he and others quickly upload a summary to a website of what was happening at the UN climate conference.

Mostafa came to Bonn as a representative of Arab youth. He was at the last UN climate summit in South Africa and he'll also be going to Qatar later this year.

The project he is working on is part of an international youth movement whose members meet at major climate conferences and who are steadily gaining in influence. They call themselves YOUNGO, which stands for Youth Non-Governmental Organisation.

Young people speak out

The young people believe that in order to have any real influence, it's important to be present at the big meetings - in Bali, Denmark, Mexico, and Qatar. Although that has not always been easy, YOUNGO’s new status means that there is now financial support for young climate activists from financially weak regions.

Pitri Rajgopalar, 24, from India, an active member of YOUNGO for more than three years, has seen how the new status has helped young Africans in particular.

“In the past African youth from developing countries was not well represented due to scarce resources,” said Pitri, “YOUNGO can now fund travel and other miscellenous costs so they can attend major conferences.”

Young Africans join in

In a related development, young people in 42 African countries are also working to combat climate change and to bring about progress at the UN talks. They belong to the African Youth Initiative against Climate Change (AYICC). 24-year-old Jean-Paul Brice from Cameroon heads the group.

“I decided to be part of the fight against climate change because of its impact on my country, I was able to witness environmental degradation and the effects of pollution like disease in Cameroun,” said Jean-Paul.

A dead bull on a dry plain in central Mali

The effects of prolonged famine in the Sahel are raising searching questions about climate change

Jean-Paul represents young Africans at conferences around the world. He’s constantly on the move, from the UN in New York to Lisbon and then on to Rio de Janeiro for the UN's Rio Plus 20 conference.

“My motivation to work so hard and sacrifice for this noble cause is attributed to the struggle by other youth around the world that don’t have access to Internet to be part of this struggle,” said Jean Paul.

Global warming and climate change have had a negative impact on the environment in Africa, resulting in prolonged periods of drought that often lead to famine and loss of life.

Author: Greta Hamann / im

Editor: Mark Caldwell