Timothy Ngnenbe (left), the Daily Graphic Reporter, interviewing Sibusiso Mazomba, the youngest negotiator at COP27
Timothy Ngnenbe (left), the Daily Graphic Reporter, interviewing Sibusiso Mazomba, the youngest negotiator at COP27

COP27: Encounter with youngest negotiator, 17 cops delegate

The 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) was held in the Egyptian resort city of Sharm El Sheikh from November 6 to 18, this year.

Over 100 Heads of State and Governments gathered in the North African city for the climate implementation summit on November 7 to 8, to officially open the conference.

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Dubbed the Implementation COP, the conference had a record 45,000 participants, comprising political authorities, power blocs, climate experts, negotiators, civil society organisations, the media and other stakeholders.President Nana Addo Dankwa AkufoAddo led a high-powered delegation from Ghana to the annual global event.

The conference ended on November 18, with the key outcome being an agreement by the developed and developing countries to establish a fund for loss and damage, to support vulnerable communities that are bearing the brunt of the climate crisis.

During the conference, our reporter, Timothy Ngnenbe (TN), had exclusive interviews with the youngest negotiator, Sibusiso Mazomba (SM) and a man who has attended 17 conferences since 2000, John Nordbo (JN).

The interviewees shared interesting views with the Daily Graphic on a number of issues ranging from their experiences, the transformation of COP over the years to what the future holds for the world as the climate crisis rages on. Excerpts of the interviews are captured below:

TIMOTHY Ngnenbe (TN): Sibusiso Mazomba, tell me about yourself. Sibusiso Mazomba (SM):I'm 21 years old. I'm from South Africa and studying at the University of Cape Town. I'm studying Oceanography and Environmental and Geographical Science.

I'm here with the government delegation through the South African Institute of International Affairs (SIIA). I am focused more on youth-led policy processes that focus on being responsive to the climate crisis and also having young people comment on policies that affect them.

TN: How did you become a climate change negotiator?

SM: I have been with the SIIA and participated in a lot of their activities in which they hold debates. This then exposed me to the opportunity to learn about what climate change is and made me understand the urgency of the crisis.

Also as a young person who will live in tomorrow's world, I see climate change as a real threat. Now, more than ever, we are seeing how real of a threat and how dangerous it is to society. I wanted to then play a part in getting our leaders to do something. And using policy as a tool to do that allowed me to venture into this space that I am in now.

TN: How long have you been in this space?

SM: I started in grade 11 and now I am in my third year in the university, so it's been five years of lobbying around the climate crisis, policy and calling on young people to be included in decisionmaking.

Youngest

TN: Are you the youngest negotiator in this COP27?

SM: I cannot speak for the whole COP27, but certainly, in most of the negotiation rooms, I am the youngest.

TN: Take me into the negotiating room. Is your age a disadvantage? Do you feel intimidated?

SM: I have got the question about my age almost 100 times. I get it more often in negotiation rooms. It gets to the point I am like “please do not ask me that question again; if I get that question one more time, I am going to speak up.”

It is so annoying because every time I pose a question, I am asked how old I am. In terms of the heat of the negotiations, last year, I really feltintimidated because I was not prepared for the COP. I knew nothing about the entire process. The negotiations are very technical in nature and I did not have the technical experience. My participation was restricted to observing. As much as I was a party delegate, I was an observer in the negotiation rooms.


Now, having come again, I think I was more familiar with all the processes; I understood what I needed to do; I did a lot of research in my own capacity.

This year, the African Group of Negotiators (AGN) has been good to me. It makes me put forward my position as well. I got the chance to represent the AGN and report for the entire group.
TN: How is this experience impacting your work this year?

SM: In the negotiation rooms, I can see that I have a grasp of what is happening. I'm on oceans, capacitybuilding and finance themes. On capacity building, I have been working together with a senior negotiator to lobby for the South Africa position on capacity building. I think over there, I have more input on what needs to be done. On oceans, I am the lead negotiator for oceans because of my background in oceanography.

TN: What does your participation in the COP mean for youth empowerment?

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SM: We have been knocking on this door for long and now that the door has officially been opened to us, we are consistently trying to learn and improve to make meaningful work.

We are moving forward; the system is not perfect, but it is a process of learning by doing. As the years go by, the voices of young people are taken more and more into consideration.

Future

TN: In 20 years’ time, you will be 41. What do you see in the next 20 years, especially for Africa?

SM: As a science student, I understand that some of the tipping points that will make the climate crisis irreversible are inevitable. At this point, we are set for a climate disaster in some parts of the world and as a young person who is going to live in tomorrow's world, it gives me a lot of despair.

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Governments have to do what the people say. People power is so powerful, so if people come together in solidarity, it is great. We need more people participating in the climate space and putting pressure on their leaders to do more about the climate crisis.

The leaders in the developed world should know that we need money for loss and damage. If they do not meet that commitment, it will lead to a loss of trust and be a death sentence for millions of people across the world and history is going to judge them.

John Nordbo (left), who has participated in 17 COPs, speaking to Timothy Ngnenbe at the recently held COP2

Timothy Ngnenbe (TN): Who is John Nordbo?

John Nordbo (JN): I'm a senior climate advisor and with an organisation called CARE Denmark, which is an international relief and development agency. We are trying to support social and climate justice. We raise funds from the global north and try to bring change in the South.

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I have been following climate negotiators since 2000. My first COP was in The Hague, in The Netherlands and it was a much smaller one.

TN: You have attended 17 COPs. What has changed within this period? What has been done right or wrong?

JN:In 2000, we only did about one week with one simple negotiation track; but now, we have a much bigger situation of about 45,000 people; with 30 different negotiation tracks; many buildings and it is like 10 times larger than when it started.

Also, when it comes to the big players; when we met in 2000, the big players were the European Union (EU) and the United States of America (USA).

We also had the target of reducing the global temperature to two degrees, but now we are struggling to keep it down to 1.5 degrees.

One of the most positive elements is that technology has also developed within that period. We have seen an economically attractive source of energy and more solutions to climate issues; so we have better options in terms of how to solve the problem; but the political will, certainly is still lacking, and that is the wettest blanket.

Unfortunately, in these years since 2000, a lot of things have happened and the sort of policy response from rich countries hasn't been strong enough.

We have also seen an increase in emissions from a number of developing countries, including China; and therefore, we are much closer to exceeding the 1.5 degrees where we were 22 years ago.

If you come to Africa, I guess the situation in 2000 was that they had a voice, they wanted rich countries to take the climate problems seriously and to move on it, but the big fight was between the EU and the US; Japan was also a player at that time.

Latter days, we have seen climate change unfold on the continent of Africa more than elsewhere in the world. We see that Africa is strengthening its voice and in the last few years, we have seen a more united African continent on climate issues but it is still difficult for African countries to speak up the way they really like to. Some African countries receive more official development assistance than other countries and it seems that makes some of them speak out and counter the position of developed countries.

Yes, African countries are speaking up, but I think they could have a louder voice; they could be more united.

Memorable

TN: What is your most memorable COP?

JN: The most memorable COP for me was COP15, which took place in Copenhagen in my home country, Denmark.

There was this thinking that COP15 will lead to us finding solutions to the climate problem, but it ended almost a failure as no solutions came out of it.

There were some decisions but if you look at what was expected by the world, it did not live up to that expectation. Then six years later, there was COP21 in Paris and that was sort of the highest point in the COPs I have attended. There was the Paris Agreement and there are a lot of things to do.

Now we are here and the rich countries are not living up to the commitments they made on climate finance, and it is partly because the spirit of Paris did not
continue in the years after.

The spirit of Paris thrived on the philosophy that as a world, we need to solve this problem together and that rich countries should live up to their responsibility on climate financing, but unfortunately, they do not do that.

TN: What is your view on loss and damage?

JN: The issue of loss and damage was brought up by the Smaller Island Development States (SIDS) and other vulnerable countries in 2013 when we had the COP in Brussels; but since then till now, it has been given little attention.

Now, it has popped up at COP27. The pressure is stronger from the developing countries. The rich countries are feeling the pressure. With the pressure that is mounting from developing countries, we need to wait till the end of this COP and see the outcome.

Future outlook

TN: Looking into the future, what do you see?

SM: This is an important COP for the world. Countries like the US and China should be back actively in these negotiations. As two developed countries, China and the US must change their approach to climate change discussions because they are the two biggest polluters.

Developing countries should continue being more united. They must work together. They should try to form alliances with countries in the North.

The involvement of children and youth has improved over the years. Student movements on climate change are a great concept to develop more youth, who will have a great voice in finding solutions to the climate crisis because it is their future.

The fact that for the first time, we have a pavilion for the youth and children at this COP27 means that the activities ofyouth movements are building up and getting stronger.

The youth is the future and we need to get them involved in this critical matter.

TN: Thanks so much. I’m grateful.

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