‘COP has produced 3 decades of empty talk’: an interview with Hamza Hamouchene

In response to the UN COP27 climate talks in Egypt 7-18 November Middle East Solidarity magazine is publishing a series of articles previewing a special feature in the next issue on the struggles for climate justice and democracy.
>> Get active, go to https://egyptsolidarityinitiative.org/cop27toolkit/ – take action for political prisoners in Egypt, including British-Egyptian activist Alaa Abd El Fattah, who is on hunger strike.

In this interview, we talk to Algerian researcher-activist Hamza Hamouchene, North Africa Programme Coordinator at Transnational Institute about how the COP process is being used to cover up the expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure rather than pushing for a transition to renewable energy.

COP27 will open on 7 November in Egypt. The MENA region is at the forefront of some of the impacts of climate change. What do you see as the key questions which ought to be addressed by the COP talks? 

Climate change is already a reality in North Africa and the Middle East, and in the Arab region in general. It is already undermining the social, economic and ecological basis of life in the region. We are seeing huge impacts from droughts, water poverty, wildfires, sea level rises and coastal erosion in many, many countries. The Arab region is one of the first victims of these processes, it is at the forefront of the climate crisis and its impacts. 

For me, the COP process, with its 27 rounds of negotiations so far, has produced three decades of empty talk. All those COPs have failed. Or, as the Swedish activist Greta Thunberg has described them, they are ‘blah, blah, blah’. I don’t believe they will resolve the climate crisis and I don’t believe they will put in place adequate and just solutions which will help impoverished countries and communities in the Global South to address that question. 

In terms of the questions and the priorities which need to be on the table, at least in the priorities of the global climate justice movement, and progressive organisations in the region and outside it, first of all is the question of democratisation. You cannot have climate justice without democracy, and without civic spaces for discussion and debate. COP27 is taking place in a military dictatorship where tens of thousands of political prisoners are in jail, in a climate of repression and suppression of freedoms. That poses questions we cannot ignore and which need to be linked to questions of climate justice. 

The other question for me which needs to be on the table is the question of loss and damages. A lot of countries in the Global South are already facing the impacts of climate change: people are dying, people are being displaced, livelihoods are being destroyed. This needs to be taken into account, these people need to be helped not with additional debts but with transfers of wealth and transfers of technology to help them adapt to the climate crisis, and help them with the needed global, rapid transition towards renewable energy. Here we are talking about climate reparations and climate debts which need to be put on the agenda. 

>> Read the full article on MENA Solidarity