Africa is one of the most vulnerable continents to climate change, and COP27 presents a crucial opportunity to do something about it, says Simeon Kalua, a climate activist from Malawi.
Hello world leaders, if you think COP27 is just a mere conference with more blah, blah, blah speeches then let’s not gather in Egypt this November. We have had COPs before and we’ve heard your speeches and pledges. We’ve also seen you go back to your various countries after COP and renege on your promises and pledges. Climate change is a 21st-century global issue, and COP27 is an opportunity for us to come up with concrete and powerful climate actions, and commit to them.
COP27: COP for Africans
I call COP27 – COP for Africans. Africa is one of the most vulnerable continents to climate change. COP27 presents an opportunity to do something about it. The latest IPCC report says half of humanity is highly vulnerable – and this is especially true for a country like Malawi – which has been dramatically impacted by climate change, despite contributing little to global heating. Unpredictable rainfall and droughts pose critical threats to the country’s agricultural industries which support nearly 80% of the country’s working population to earn a living.
Impact of Climate Change on Malawi.
This year alone, Malawi has seen an increase in climate related disasters. In January, the country was devastated by Cyclone Ana. 994,967 people were affected, 46 were killed, and 206 were injured – and over two hundred thousand people were displaced from their homes. The heavy rains destroyed hospitals, bridges, school blocks and roads.
In October, areas in the Shire Valley were severely affected by extreme heat. Temperatures soared to about 40 to 42 degree Celsius. High temperatures are associated with negative impacts on mental health – “In recent years there’s been an increasingly large body of research showing us that heatwaves worsen outcomes for those with underlying psychiatric illnesses,” says Dr Laurence Wainwright, a departmental lecturer at the Smith School and the precision psychiatry lab at the University of Oxford.
Malawi has also seen a serious outbreak of cholera – a climate-sensitive disease. There have been 183 deaths this year. Africa is looking to COP to respond to the priorities of vulnerable populations.
Learn from young people.
Our world leaders need to learn from young people across the world and act urgently. As young people we are aware of our responsibility to the next generation – we don’t want to repeat the mistakes of the past. We’re standing outside parliaments, we’re demanding climate action, and we’re letting you know that we don’t have time.
I’m inspired by Swedish climate Activist Greta Thunberg. Greta isn’t the only one though – across the world, young people are taking action, big or small. Last year, Greta blasted world leaders. She said that their intentional lack of action was a betrayal toward all present as well as the next generation. Let’s not let this carry-on. As young people, we are looking for a change. And we are looking to COP to make a difference.
Simeon is a 23-year-old climate activist from Malawi. He graduated from the University of Livingstonia with a Bachelors' degree in Public Health in 2021. Since then he has worked on numerous projects around climate change and climate change awareness. He is part of the Malawi National Youth Network on climate change, and is also an ambassador for Malawi Creation Care Network. He has founded Fridays For Future Malawi. Simeon serves as a national coordinator for Climate Live Malawi as well as for YouthNet for Climate justice Malawi. He is also campaigner for food at COP - campaign that promotes indigenous climate friendly vegetables from Africa to be served in climate conferences like COP27.
Currently, he works with CorpsAfrica as community led Development Facilitator in the Chitipa district, which is in the northern part of Malawi. His role is to facilitate small-scale, high impact projects that are identified by local people, fulfill key need, and whose impacts and success can be carefully measured.