Cop28 Youth Climate Delegates from Middle East and North Africa make voices heard

Meet the climate advocates from the UAE, Lebanon, Jordan, Morocco and Mauritania calling for change

Jordan's youth delegate Mahmoud Radaideh and Lebanon's youth delegate Sara Badran at Cop28. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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The UAE this year announced an initiative to ensure young people would be at the heart of the fight against climate change when Cop28 began in Dubai.

Fast forward to the end of 2023, with the climate change conference under way amid high expectations for progress, 100 youth climate delegates made their way to Dubai through a programme led by Cop28 Youth Climate Champion Shamma Al Mazrui.

The National's Business Extra podcast had the opportunity to interview some of the youth climate delegates from the Mena region and learnt about their what started their environmental work, as well as their climate hopes, fears and aspirations.

Hoor Ahli - UAE

"My journey started from going on hikes and going to the beach, and soon I immersed myself in the amazing geography of the UAE," said Emirati Hoor Ahli, the country's 19-year-old Youth Climate Delegate at Cop28.

"The more and more I started to learn and observe, the more and more I started to get involved with the environmental community."

This is not the first Cop climate conference for Ms Ahli. She took part in both Cop26 in Glasgow, Scotland, and Cop27 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.

She is also one of 20 UAE nature ambassadors and served as director of legacy and impact at the 2023 Student Energy Summit.

Ms Ahli is continuing her environmental journey while attending New York University Abu Dhabi.

Mahmoud Saad Radaideh - Jordan

"Since I was a child I've loved nature, trees and forests. I would go on a lot of trips to Ajloun [forest reserve] in Jordan and go and see the trees there," said Mahmoud Saad Radaideh, 25, a climate justice assistant with Oxfam in Amman.

He recalls the moment he realised he wanted to do more as a young person.

"Occasionally I would see people not take any responsibility for the environment, not clean up after themselves outside, and some never even cared about the trees," he said. "I said to myself, 'I have to do something about it.'"

Mr Radaideh decided to pursue a degree in civil engineering and merge that discipline with environmental activism.

He is now an integral member of Youth for Climate Jordan, a group seeking to limit the consequences of the climate and biodiversity crisis.

"Jordan is the second water-poorest country. We have a huge problem with water scarcity," he said.

He said climate change could make the situation worse, affecting all Jordanians and farmers in the region.

"We need a drought management system," he added.

Mr Radaideh is also a content creator for Envoclimate, a youth-led initiative aiming to increase awareness about climate change.

Sara Badran - Lebanon

"We're losing a cultural element of Lebanon, the cedar tree," said Lebanon's Climate Youth Delegate Sara Badran, 23.

"With the increasing temperatures, the cedar tree, which is at the very centre of our flag, is vulnerable."

Ms Badran said she had a moment of environmental clarity during her studies, while looking at the effects of diesel power generators on human and environmental health.

"This really triggered my anxiety because I was seeing these generators all over Lebanon," she said. "Then I was thinking about my own health and the community health over the long-term."

As Lebanon faces an economic crisis, she said the country could still make the choices needed to protect the planet.

"The economic and energy crisis has caused many to look at the benefits and necessities of renewable energy," she said. "There can be major benefits to push for both sustainability and economic development."

She recently graduated from the American University of Beirut with degrees in environmental science and food science management.

Ms Badran is also the Mena regional co-ordinator at Thought For Food, which seeks to create more resilient and inclusive food systems all over the world.

Houyame Hakmi - Morocco

"Given that I'm young, I have time, energy and cognitive knowledge ... I should be using that for the common good," said Morocco's Climate Youth Delegate to Cop28, Houyame Hakmi.

"The common good is environmental climate advocacy," she added.

Ms Hakmi, 25, emphasised that she considers herself more as an environmental advocate than an activist.

"As an advocate, you don't just take part in demonstrations and protests, but you participate in the elaboration of public policy. We participate in international conferences and share that knowledge we gain to change policy," she said.

Her pursuit of environmental advocacy began when she was eight and established her first environmental club.

She later became a co-founder of the Council of Young Negotiators, which is dedicated to nurturing young Moroccans and empowering them to shape public policies at the local and national level.

She is currently pursuing her doctorate in global studies and political science, with a research focus on the interplay between climate change and conflicts in Africa.

Oumar Cisse - Mauritania

"My parents, in particular my father, always took me to the forests near my home and I would always hang around there. But now that forest is no longer there," said Oumar Cisse, Mauritania's Youth Climate Delegate.

"Now we're facing major desertification problems," he said, adding that few of the problems stem from climate change and a lack of environmental awareness.

Mr Cisse, 25, has since co-founded an NGO that supports reforestation efforts, and he is currently looking into various ways to increase corporate participation to aid the cause in Mauritania.

He also raises awareness about seedball technology, a process that aims to protect seeds during reforestation. He is a representative for Seedballs Mauritania.

"Seeds are mixed with compost and clay, and they're protected," he said. "You can throw the seedballs or drop them from drones, and when it rains, they start to grow."

Updated: December 05, 2023, 11:19 AM