Sunday,22 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1273, (3 - 9 December 2015)
Sunday,22 October, 2017
Issue 1273, (3 - 9 December 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Egyptians march

Sunday marked the global march to fight climate change. Egyptians, too, came together to have their voices heard, Heidi Elhakeem reports

Al-Ahram Weekly

As world leaders from 195 countries converged on Paris for the UN climate conference, a run was held in Cairo and Alexandria on 27 November. Hosted by some of Egypt’s environmental NGOs, the event’s slogan was “Egypt fights climate change.”

The run took place on Friday in the leafy district of Zamalek. Some 4,500 people took part, according to Tarek Gnaid, an environmental engineer with the Social Movement for the Climate and Environment.

“I can’t separate the number of people who came for the run and those who came for the climate,” said Sarah Rifaat, a 350 Arab world coordinator, adding that she believed about half of that number showed up in support of the fight against climate change.

“We incorporated the run for climate change with Cairo Runners [the pioneering local running community] as they already hold a run every Friday,” Gnaid said.

The reason it was a run and not a march like all other countries was due to the difficulties organisers could have faced when needing permission from the authorities. Under government law, mass crowds on the streets need official approval.

The climate march, as stated on globalclimatemarch.org, is a global movement for climate justice where “people everywhere are coming together for two weeks of action calling for climate justice and an end to carbon pollution.”

“It was mainly an awareness event,” Rifaat said. “We were able to reach a decent number of people.”

September 2015 was the hottest on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the American agency that tracks worldwide temperatures.

“Egypt is at huge risk. I don’t think people are aware of the major climate change threat on the country. We are talking about major flooding that could happen in the Delta,” Gnaid said.

“It’s important to take part in this global event to send a message to world leaders to react and take action.”

Several stories were posted on the Internet with the hashtag “Egypt fights climate change.”

A frame made from cardboard bearing the slogan “I want 100% renewable energy” was meant to send out a message to the world. “We got a great number of people to take a picture with it,” Rifaat said. One of those pictures taken in Cairo was shared on 350.org.

A number of environmental Egyptian enthusiasts came together in another small event for climate change, this one organised by Austrian expat Axel Swoboda, co-founder and chief technology officer of Solar Shams, a solar and renewable energy company in Cairo.

“To be honest, I was afraid to hold this event outside the garden of my villa, because I don’t understand most of the demonstrations laws in Egypt,” Swoboda said.

Hagar Radidi, a 24-year-old student, says she was “worried to go to a march so I decided to come to this event instead.”

The mother organiser of this event was Avaaz.org, a campaigning community. Avaaz means “voices” in some European, Middle Eastern and Asian languages, according to a statement on its website.

The founding engineers of Solar Shams want to use renewable energy to reduce carbon emissions. During the event, they explained simple ways that people can use solar power in their households, including installing solar panels on rooftops.

The idea may sound strange but “it’s not impossible”, said Faisal Eissa, co-founder and chief operating officer at Solar Shams.

“Solar water heating and generating electricity using a photovoltaic power plant could be practical solutions for households,” Eissa said. Photovoltaic is the name of a method of converting solar energy into direct current electricity using semiconducting materials.

“We wanted to contribute to the global climate change event,” Abdullah Mustafa, an engineer in Solar Shams, said. “The point is to make people aware of the ways that could reduce the carbon emissions in the atmosphere.”

Since 1990, Egypt has shown an increase in carbon emissions, calculated in 2010 at 2.62 metric tons per capita, according to the World Bank. Countries including the United Arab Emirates, Iran and the Ukraine have succeeded in reducing their carbon emissions, starting from 2012.

People the world over came together to join the global march, including in the US, the UK, Australia, Brazil, and China. About 785,000 people in 175 countries have marched, according to Avaaz.org.

Parisians were prevented from marching this year because of security reasons. The French government had advised against the march following the terror attacks that killed 129 in the French capital on 13 November.

But not being able to participate in the yearly global march did not stop Parisians from showing their support. They left thousands of shoes in the Place de la République as part of a silent protest on Sunday morning.

In Paris, world leaders are meeting from 30 November to 11 December at the United Nations climate conference, known as COP21, to negotiate solutions that could reduce climate change. Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi is attending the conference.

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