Honor your climate promises, African youth tell world leaders

In the series of articles by our Youth Newsroom reporters, Kevin Lunzalu reports on Nisreen Al Sayeem, a young environmentalist from Sudan who attended CAS2021 in her role of chair of the UN Secretary General's Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change.

Speaking at the accelerating Africa’s adaptation session of the Climate Adaptation Summit 2021, Nisreen Al Sayeem, a young environmentalist from Sudan, who is also the chair of the UN Secretary General's Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change, reminded world leaders that it is time for action. Africa is already at the receiving end of climate change, evidenced by persistent drought, floods, cyclones, and recent invasion of locusts in several parts of Sub-Saharan Africa. About three-quarters of the total continental population is below 35 years.

"Humans used to live in a better homogenous situation with the planet. The current world is not the world we want to live in," said Nisreen through a virtual address to the summit. She emphasized that the effects of climate change are very visible to everyone. "In Africa alone, more than 11 countries experienced heavy floods in 2020 that caused the loss of lives, assets, and made hundreds of people homeless."

Raise ambition

The session on unlocking action for accelerated African adaptation was chaired by the Minister for Foreign Trade and Development of the Netherlands, Sigrid Kaag. Nisreen was one of the guests invited to speak at this session meant to raise ambition, discuss challenges, opportunities, and showcase inspiring case studies. Moderated by Wanjira Mathai, the vice president and regional director for Africa at the World Resources Institute, the session largely entailed speeches from African leaders and other stakeholders.

"Climate change is affecting our infrastructure, economy, and daily lives," said Nisreen as she implored world leaders to recognize the urgent need for adaptation. At the same time, she stated that adaptation is at the center of the climate agenda in Africa. According to Nisreen, adaptation is the only way through which Africans can cope with the reality of climate change. Recalling the devastating socio-economic and health situation that the COVID-19 pandemic imposed on the planet, Nisreen believes that Africa can learn from the crisis on how to develop mechanisms of adapting to hard situations. She fears that climate change may have far-reaching implications, more than COVID-19, if not properly addressed.

Upcoming summits

"We need to strengthen our governance systems, enhance transparency, and ensure the flow of finance and resources to our national adaptation plans, the adaptation fund, and adaptation activities stipulated in our Nationally Determined Contributions [NDCs]". Nisreen hopes that upcoming summits in 2021 such as the Food Systems Summit, Sustainable Energy Summit, and the United Nations Climate Change Conference of Parties [COP26] will focus more on climate adaptation.  

Nisreen urged world leaders, policymakers, and decision-makers to remember their promises to the next generation and the planet, and address climate action with adaptational focus.

Kevin Lunzalu