The Current

'I'm not the only victim': Why these African climate activists will be in Egypt for COP27

Climate activists Nyombi Morris and Abigael Kima will be attending COP27 in the hopes of sharing their stories with a global audience — and demanding change.

COP27 will host more than 30,000 attendees, many of them youth demanding change and action

Abigael Kima (left) and Nyombi Morris are two young climate activists who are trying to bring more attention to the ways climate change has impacted people in Africa. (Submitted by Abigael Morris, Nyombi Morris/Twitter)

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Growing up in Iten, Kenya, Abigael Kima's family used to pay for her tuition fees using bags of corn they harvested rather than money. 

It gave Kima the chance to get an education; an opportunity to study secondary school outside of her hometown.

But when she returned to Iten in 2015, she realized that climate change had taken that same chance away from several of the village's children.

"Changing weather patterns have had drastic impacts on our livelihoods because, for example, we used to plant two seasons of maize, but because of climate change, you can only plant one," she told The Current's Matt Galloway.

Abigael Kima during COP26. Through her podcast and attendance of COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, she wants to put a face to the climate crisis and show that it's impacting real people like her. (Submitted by Abigael Kima)

The crop reduction was mainly due to the drying up of a local stream that was her village's primary water source. Kima says that stream disappeared because of deforestation and climate change.

"What was shocking for me this year was the fact that we had water rationing from the months of January to around April, which is something that has never happened before — in that you only get running water from the tap in the morning," she said.

It's an experience that put Kima on the path towards climate activism. She's since visited other parts of Kenya that were hit hard by climate change and started her own Across all of Africa climate podcast, Hali Hewa.

She'll also be attending this weekend's United Nations Climate Change Conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. It'll be her second COP in as many years. 

She says the goal is to bring stories like hers to decision makers.

"So that beyond the numbers, the statistics … putting a face to the climate crisis and seeing that, indeed, real people are facing this issue," she said.

'I'm not the only victim'

Kima is far from the only young African activist who will attend COP27. Nyombi Morris, a 24-year-old from Kampala, Uganda, will also be attending the conference.

"The day it was announced that it would be in Africa, everyone was so, so happy because for so many years, we have talked about [the] Global South being left out," he said. "At the same time, we have been talking about [the] Global North exploiting us."

Morris is a [self described] "climate migrant" — his family was displaced by flash flooding in 2008 when he was 10 years old. At COP27, he wants to demand compensation and support from world leaders.

"I'm not the only victim, and the number is more than 100,000 people who are said to be displaced in some regions," he said. "Some are already in camps today, and others are said to be displaced."

"So for me, my main focus is on how are we going to make sure that the people who are being displaced … how are they going to survive in 2023?"

Nyombi Morris (centre) leads a climate strike in front of Gayaza Primary School in Gayaza, Uganda. (Submitted by Nyombi Morris)

It's work that Morris says has gotten him in trouble at home.In 2021, Morris was arrested during a climate change protest in Kampala. He said police accused him of inciting violence so close to the January 2021 presidential election, and interrogated about who was financing him.

"So being an activist in Uganda is not something easy," he said. "They look at us as criminals. Also as people who are trying to challenge the development." 

WATCH: Nyombi Morris on why world leaders need to 'put an end to fossil fuels'

Young Ugandan climate activist pushing for world leaders to help fight climate change

2 years ago
Duration 6:11
Nyombi Morris, a 23-year-old climate activist in Uganda, spoke to CBC chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton about the impact of climate change on his country. His message for world leaders at COP26 is 'put an end to fossil fuels and make polluters pay.'

Taking responsibility

According to the United Nations, more than 30,000 people have registered to attend COP27. 

Many of those making the trip to Egypt are young people, like Morris and Kima, who may be concerned that world governments are not addressing climate change quickly enough.

"Young people are not just bitter," Morris said. "Most of them are worried of what might happen in the future because they are witnessing everything now."

Kima said it's a concern for many young people from countries such as hers because it's having an immediate effect on their day-to-day lives, which may be overlooked by some in the Western world.

"I feel it's the lack of taking responsibility and not also seeing that this is serious, because maybe the impacts of climate change have not hit home," she said. "But it's happening to us … and there's something that needs to be done about it."

For Morris, that something is support and action, from Western governments specifically.

LISTEN: Rich nations won't fight climate change until more of their own die: Gabonese minister

Gabonese Environment Minister Lee White wants to know what happened to the billions of dollars that rich countries pledged to help developing nations like his deal with the effects of climate change. He spoke to As It Happens host Nil Köksal head of COP27.

"I will ask them, if possible, if you cannot approve the $100 billion US [climate finance goal], it's OK. What you have in your pocket, give us that, because what might happen tomorrow, we are not sure," he said.

"We want to start with what is available. So my mission is for them to accept what is available. If the plans are in place, then what is left? Implementation."

Produced by Julie Crysler.

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