Marouane Joundi is a project manager at the Rivières Foundation. He holds a master's degree in political science, and he was actively involved in the student movement for climate action in 2019 and 2020. Originally from Morocco, Marouane participated in COP 27 with great sensitivity for international justice issues and the impacts of climate change on the African continent. Marouane attended COP27 as a member of the Génération Climat Montréal delegation.
As a member of a civil society delegation, how do you contribute to the discussion and influence the negotiations?
This year, COP 27 had between 20,000 and 30,000 delegation members. Suffice to say that one can quickly feel like a fish lost in a vast ocean, disoriented in the sometimes labyrinthine physical space and in the technical UN language rich in acronyms. Especially when it is the first time that one participates as it was my case. I had big ideas and ambitious goals when I arrived, but I quickly realized that I was going to have to lower my expectations.
My experience has taught me three things:
1. We contribute by learning, by becoming familiar with the jargon of climate negotiations and more generally, with the procedures and the mental universe of the UN processes. Climate change is a global problem that requires a global response, so it is essential to understand the mechanisms of global dialogue to see the interstices where civil society can infiltrate and influence things. Learning is used to think better and this learning must be passed on.
2. We contribute by getting organized as a group, especially with more experienced and knowledgeable people. So, in the myriad of things going on simultaneously at the COP, you can divide up the negotiations to observe or the parallel conferences, to take notes effectively, to monitor the news and make the connection with the country, to go scouting for local politicians… There is a role for everyone as long as we work together.
3. Finally, most influencing work is done less in the negotiating rooms than outside by meeting government representatives, asking them difficult questions, following up on domestic matters, thinking about the year-round local impact of this international meeting through interesting scale games. But also, and above all, by meeting members of civil societies from all over the planet to put faces, smiles or tears on the seemingly remote impacts of the climate crisis. For example, international civil society has also responded to calls for solidarity from human rights movements in Egypt by calling for the release of political prisoners, including Alaa Abdel Fattah.
Do you think that the presence of more than 600 representatives of fossil fuel companies had an impact on the decisions taken during this COP and what role did Canada play during the negotiations?
The COP is a microcosm that very well represents the diverse and unequal economic interests that collide around the world and in Canada itself. I will not be able to demonstrate the impact of representatives of fossil fuel companies, but their strong presence is undoubtedly not unrelated to the long and difficult negotiations that took place on the exit from oil and gas, which ultimately did not not figure in the final consensus text.
For example, the United Arab Emirates, which is organizing COP 28, had an official delegation made up of 70 representatives from this sector, in first place ahead of Russia with 33 representatives. Canada, for its part, had 8 representatives in its delegation, including the vice-president of the Alberta company Cenovus, whom I was able to question and who fervently defended the efforts of Alberta and the oil sands industry in reducing methane emissions with Alberta Environment Minister Sonya Savage. Canada held a position that was ambivalent to say the least, blocking efforts for a long time to recognize the necessary exit from fossil fuels to meet carbon neutrality targets in 2050, while playing a positive role with Germany to push the important file of climate finance and loss and damage.
How do you react to the fact that fossil fuel phase-out was not mentioned in the final declaration, despite a growing consensus around India?
It seems that every year, a new tactic emerges to avoid mentioning the fossil fuel phase-out. Sometimes we talk about carbon capture technologies that we are still waiting for, sometimes we talk about green hydrogen - without really understanding what it is... This year at the COP, I heard a lot about the objective of making oil and gas as clean as possible - complete nonsense. I have also heard a lot about reducing methane emissions from gas exploitation (essential reduction, of course) but very little about reducing greenhouse gas emissions linked to fossil fuels more generally. Sooner or later, fossil fuels will be phased out. We know that this exit will not be easy, will take time and will require unprecedented work and a level of social dialogue. It is essential to officially set this horizon of action, as soon as possible, so that this long, laborious, but structuring work for the rest of the century (and beyond, I hope) can finally begin.
The States historically responsible for the climate crisis have undertaken to finance the losses and damages suffered by the most vulnerable States. What do we know about this fund?
The creation of the Loss and Damage Fund is a historic step forward and the result of many years of tireless mobilization of activists in the States of the Global South exposed to disasters due to climate change. This is an important recognition of the principle of climate justice and the responsibility of countries historically emitting greenhouse gases for their role in financing reparations to countries that are victims of climate change. This fund remains to be financed and there is debate as to the participation of economically powerful states such as China or Saudi Arabia.
What were the biggest difficulties, but also the greatest successes of COP27?
COP 27 was marked by numerous logistical and accessibility difficulties, in particular due to the sudden and dizzying rise in housing prices in the host city of Sharm-el-Sheikh. The discussion on loss and damage was a great novelty, which at the same time resulted in a difficulty in integrating it properly into the agenda and addressing it comprehensively. The stagnation on fundamental solutions to the climate crisis is finally disappointing and disheartening. Many states have mentioned the possibility of a breach of confidence in the absence of concrete progress on the objective of keeping the increase in the earth's temperature at 1.5 degrees Celsius.
The broadening of the consensus for phasing out fossil fuels is nevertheless encouraging: it encompasses 80 States and offers civil society a precious opportunity to mobilize and imagine alliance and influence strategies to play a leading role in COP 28, organized in a state that very well symbolizes the economic and political influence of the oil sector. We can also welcome the decision of the Government of Quebec to join the States of the Beyond Oil and Gas (BOGA) alliance. Finally, this fifth African COP recognized the importance of preserving water resources and aquatic ecosystems in anticipation of future impacts, but also of ensuring sustainable food systems in the face of pressures and protecting biodiversity considering the links between crisis of the living and the climate crisis. These conclusions set the stage for the upcoming COP 15.
Marouane won the Canadian Political Science Association's "My thesis in 3 minutes" competition for his master's thesis subject - to be published in the spring of 2023 -"Quebecor and ecologists: polemics, polarization and tracks of depolarization" (Université de Montréal)