In response to the UN COP27 climate talks in Egypt 7-18 November we are publishing a series of articles previewing a special feature in the next issue of Middle East Solidarity on the struggles for climate justice and democracy.
>> Get active, go to https://egyptsolidarityinitiative.org/cop27toolkit/
In our first interview, we talk to Mohammed Siddig, a member of the Office of External Relations for TAM, the Sudanese Alliance of Demand-based Campaigns, about what climate justice means for the people of Sudan and why it cannot be separated from the struggle for democracy. Read TAM’s message of solidarity with climate protests on 12 November here.
What are the problems faced by people in Sudan as a result of climate change?
Sudan is highly vulnerable to climate change. The livelihoods of the people mainly depend on agriculture and livestock, which are directly climate-dependent sectors. Droughts, unpredictable rainfall, flash and river floods have been witnessed frequently in the past years and decades, causing the loss of lives and properties and worsening poverty.
Moreover, Sudan has experienced “armed conflicts” over natural resources because of clashes between population groups that have conflicting economic activities, such agriculture and raising livestock. The causes of the conflicts were the variability of rainfall and the change in grazing lands. Similarly, land changes and displacements due to flooding, desertification, and drought can bring more confrontations to the country.
Another result of droughts and the consequent change in economic activity is rural-urban migration, which puts a huge burden on the country’s already weak economy and contributes to centralisation.
Rural women and children are most vulnerable to climate change. If climate change causes conflicts or sustains poverty due to declining economic activities , women and children are the most vulnerable. Furthermore, a shortage in water resources causes young girls and boys to drop out of school to travel kilometres a day to fetch water. All these impacts rob women, young girls and boys of rights in life (due to illnesses or security issues during their daily travels on unsafe routes), good health and well-being, education, and economic growth, and consequently make gender equality unobtainable.
What would a just transition from fossil fuels look like from your point of view?
In the context of Sudan’s energy profile, although electricity generation from fossil fuels has approximately doubled compared to what it was in 2015, still a significant share of the grid is from hydropower. Also, the country’s developmental status and energy poverty make fossil fuels acceptable even in light of the Paris agreement, which doesn’t put an emissions reduction obligation on the less developed countries.
Speaking about global energy, we call for energy sustainability and equity and demand the industrialised nations who exploited their and other nations’ resources for their own development cut the use of fossil fuel as demanded by international agreements.
However, the transition to renewable energy is insufficient to effect the desired outcome. The other factors of land use and sustainable agriculture must also receive considerable attention. Moreover, policies for adaptation to climate-induced catastrophes are equally crucial to emission reduction demands.
How do you see the relationship between the struggle for democracy and the struggle for climate justice?
Resilience and adaptation to climate change needs efficient management of natural resources, adequate infrastructure, and policies to eradicate poverty, diversify income resources, and achieve equal distribution of wealth. Clearly, these are the core of our demands that we believe can only be resolved under civil democratic governance.
It should go without saying that social justice and the good of the people contrast with authoritarian regimes. We have experienced military rule for 53 years since Sudan’s independence (some people would say for 55 years, considering the power of the junta during the two years of the transitional government between 2019-2021). All the suffering the Sudanese people have gone through and are still going through, including climate change impacts, is a result of the wrong policies of totalitarian regimes followed by wrong and unfair treatment, corruption, lack of will to sustain peace, and the absence of freedom and political participation that enables people to decide on their developmental needs.
>>Find out more about Sudan’s revolution – join the Sudan Solidarity Conference on 6 November.
Do you think that grassroots climate justice groups should be going to COP27 in Egypt this year?
When a political regime doesn’t feature accountable institutions and lacks all the pillars of justice, it surely disregards climate justice. Therefore, we trust that climate justice grassroots groups will not acknowledge COP27. Also, we believe these groups always have and still stand in solidarity with the advocates of human rights, justice and freedom in Egypt, who paid and are paying with their lives just for exercising their right to speak up.
Holding an international summit in Egypt gives a dictatorship credit that it does not deserve.