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Bilder der Klimaaktivistin Kaossara Sani

Kaossara Sani


„Start Telling The Truth About the Crisis“

Kaossara Sani is a 26-year old activist from West Africa where desertification is eating up farms and sea-level rise is swallowing villages. She says her voice is shut out at COP26.

By Chris Cummins

One of the big priorities of Fridays for Future at COP26 in Glasgow is to amplify the voice of a group they’ve called MAPA. That acronym stands for „most affected peoples and areas.“ We are talking about a billion people from countries in the global south or Pacific Islands who are already suffering the brunt of current climate-related damage, including desertification or coastal erosion.

Of course they have the least historical responsibility for the emissions that have caused the problem. That’s the famously cruel paradox.

Bilder der Klimaaktivistin Kaossara Sani

Kaossara Sani

These people have a lot to say on the climate issue, of course, but it’s hard for them to say it at the COP26 venue because of travel restrictions and expense. Western countries have taken most of the global supplies of vaccines for COVID and now, in the second cruel paradox, COVID restrictions to Scotland make it hard for people from countries with low levels of vaccination to attend the ‘global’ summit.

Missing Voices

You can add to this the astronomically expensive prices for accommodation near the venue, as Glaswegian hotels and hostels have cashed in on the conference. That’s meant that many important voices have been shut out of the conference venue and therefore out of the debate at a crucial time.

“The climate crisis is hitting the global south much harder than the global north at the moment,” explains David Jablonski, from Fridays for Future Austria, who has travelled to Glasgow by train.

“Unfortunately, activists from those areas have had a really hard time finding their way to Glasgow and had a really hard time getting visas for the conference, which is obviously a huge, huge issue”.

Bilder der Klimaaktivistin Kaossara Sani

Kaossara Sani

One of the MAPA activists who hasn’t been able to make it to COP26 in Glasgow is Kaossara Sani, the founder of Africa Optimism and co-founder of Act on Sahel. She’s based in Lomé, the capital of Togo, in West Africa, where rising sea levels are already destroying the homes and livelihoods of fishing communities and other coastal residents.

„Colonization Of The Sky“

“My city is already in danger,” she told me. “I myself live near the sea and I can easily see every day the advance of the sea and how it’s taking people’s houses and hotels. Traditional fishermen’s villages are being destroyed so they can no longer provide to their families. That means they have to take their children out of school.”

This is what activists are talking about when they talk about climate justice: a generation of young Africans being cheated out of their chances in life by a problem mostly caused by Western countries. Kaossara talks of the climate crisis as the “colonialization of the sky.”

Bilder der Klimaaktivistin Kaossara Sani

Kaossara Sani

And while African economies are being hit by climate change, they are struggling to pay back interest on debts from the West.

Figures from the Jubilee Debt Campaign show that lower income countries spend five times more on debt than they do on coping with the impact of climate change and reducing carbon emissions. Yet, and here is the third cruel paradox here, their ability to pay back the money is being hampered by devastation to their agriculture-driven economies due to the ravages of climate change. Did I mention that the West was mainly responsible for those emissions yet?

“With the rise in temperature and all just climate variability, how can we pay this money?” ask Kaossara Sani. “It’s impossible, and that is why our debt keep growing, growing and growing.”

Rich countries have pledged to provide funding worth $100 billion a year to developing countries to help deal with and limit climate change. That commitment was made at the UN climate talks in Copenhagen back in the year 2009. However, it hasn’t all been delivered.

Also, the Jubilee Debt Campaign says that of the climate finance given so far over two thirds is loans, and this is making the debt situation worse. “Here at COP26, they have to really look at that to the climate finance and have accountability in climate justice,” insists Kaossara.

It has never been a secret that West African countries are suffering badly from the climate crisis. My first journalistic experience came in West Africa in 2001, and during those months I travelled through the Sahel, the region fringing the southern borders of the Sahara.

Already 20 years ago I heard about ever longer droughts and how the desert was marching southwards, sweeping up farms and robbing the poor farmers of their livelihoods.

Kinder baden in einem kleinen See in der Wüste, aufgenommen während eines Besuches der Caritas Österreich im Ernährungszentrum Dingazi in Quallam (Niger)


Wüstensee in Quallam/Niger in der Sahel Zone

Kaossara Sani and her colleagues from Act on Sahel are doing what they can with the money they have received to mitigate climate damage. They have been helping with seeds, planting trees to try and stop the encroachments of the desert, helping with irrigation projects and education.

Bilder der Klimaaktivistin Kaossara Sani

Kaossara Sani

It’s Not Just About the Money

A big hope of COP26 is that the financial support for developing countries will be made more efficient and more generous for the coming decades. But Kaossara Sani says it’s not just about the money. As Africa faces desertification and coastal erosion, as it faces an existential crisis, here in Austria new motorways are being built while emissions are still rising.

Same Storm, Different Boats

It is as Vanessa Nakate put it in her interview with my FM4 colleague Melissa Erhardt last week: the climate crisis is a storm that affects us all, but we are all in different boats. Vanessa suggests that the African boat is on fire, sometime I think our European boat is, like the Titanic, playing waltzes and high-dining and not even looking at what’s coming.

“No matter how much rich countries give us right now to adapt to the crisis, if they don’t stop the problem in their countries, we won’t overcome this crisis,” says Kaossara “They have to start pulling political weight and accepting their responsibility. They have to start telling the truth.”

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