by Malek Romdhane and Soumaya Zaddem
Considering that countries have different circumstances, resources and abilities, the Paris agreement was designed so that each country defines its pledges, in terms of targets and contributions to the universal agreement.
Ahead of Conference of Parties 26 (COP26), some countries are still preparing to submit their enhanced version of their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). Initial NDCs weren’t ambitious enough to combat climate change and its impacts.
Tunisia is in the process of finalising and submitting its revised 2020 NDCs. However, there are still some additional inputs that have to be considered in its contributions.
In this regard, a group of Tunisian youths proposed to Tunisia’s United Nations Framework for the Convention of Climate Change (UNFCCC) Focal Point, Mr. Mohamed Zmerli, that they should have their contributions and recommendations included in the NDC.
This is not the first time Tunisia’s national Focal Point has supported climate-related youth initiatives.
Consequently, the Ministry of Local Affairs and Environment, with support from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), organised a workshop entitled “Contributions of Young People in Updating the NDCs” on 16 February 2021.
While this workshop was open to the public, public attendees were following the session online to comply with COVID-19 safety measures. An exchange with the national experts, activists and civil society representatives followed each block of contributions.
The Background of The Initiative
The idea of gathering young environmental activists from different backgrounds to collaborate together on the enhancement of the Tunisian NDC was initiated by Emna Fourati and Wafa Hmadi, two Tunisian climate consultants, who have been working on different climate-related initiatives for many years.
From diverse backgrounds and with a strong will and ambition to add value to the Tunisian NDC, young people presented well thought-through work that was the result of one year’s preparation. They demonstrated adaptation and mitigation strategies which would impact sustainable development and help to achieve climate resilience in Tunisia.
It has since become their ambition and target to convince and engage government officials to take more actions and demonstrate more ambition by updating the Tunisian NDC.
The Themes of Contributions
These contributions were mainly elaborated and presented by Tunisian climate activists, each in their domain of expertise. Tunisian youth’s ambitions (as demonstrated in their new NDCs’ recommendations) are more in line with the Tunisian climate policies and international agendas and commitments. It is therefore worth noting the following different contribution areas:
Cities and local governance: Local governance proposal for the Tunisian NDC enhancement should take into consideration the integration of the local climate action approach in the national climate engagements.
Environmental education: The integration of environmental education into schools’ curricula is a fundamental step towards solving the majority of environmental problems that we are facing, and this will be increasingly critical in the next few years.
Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR): Disaster risk reduction needs to be outlined as a specific adaptation priority in the Tunisian NDCs and to focus on building DRR short, medium and long term action plans with considerable relation to all the international commitments.
Sustainable Tourism: Sustainable tourism contribution outlines the needs for mitigation strategies to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions in the tourism sector and the increase of ambition for mitigation measures. Decarbonising the tourism sector and compensating for the emissions that we cannot cut is considered the best way forward for sustainable development.
Access to environmental information: Access to information plays an important role for Tunisia, a country that’s in the midst of a democratic process. Additionally, access to environmental information will enable the concerned institutions to demonstrate greater transparency of scientific data relating to climate change.
Vulnerable population: The integration of vulnerable populations into the process of creating comprehensive climate change adaptation/mitigation strategies is vital. The survival of society starts with how resilient the minorities and vulnerable populations are. When marginalised communities are strong enough to adapt to climate change, the whole society will be able to survive.
Human rights: Human rights is an area that is rightly at the forefront of international discourse. With regard to the environment and climate change, there is still a gap between discourse and action.
In the hope of taking into consideration the recommendations that have been shared by Tunisian youths and different experts, it’s conspicuous that these proposals are a key factor for meaningful change towards a sustainable future in tackling climate change. These ambitions can only be achieved through such strengthening recommendations to the Tunisian NDC. In the same spirit, this is an open call for the Tunisian ministries to involve youth in drafting the national strategies and consider our inputs while executing the action plans
Names of activists in the order of contributions:
Emna Fourati and Wafa Hmadi, Ahmed Belhaj, Rahma Chikh, Soumaya Zaddem, Malek Romdhane, Rahma Chikh, Imen Al-Nighaoui, Nadia Ben Aissa
Ms. Soumaya ZADDEM is a Tunisian Engineer in Biology. She has over eight years of work experience related to the fields of environment, climate change, food security, sustainable development and Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR).
Currently, she is the North Africa representative of the Africa Youth Advisory Board on “Disaster Risk Reduction” (AYAB DRR) as well as the secretary of its executive committee. Besides that, Ms. Soumaya has experience working with UNESCO Regional office for Easter Africa in Nairobi, Kenya as an Individual Consultant to develop the content of an Edutainment Smart Phone Application on Knowing Disaster Risk Reduction (KNOW-DRR). She also serves as a board Member responsible for foreign affairs in the “Arab-African Council for Sustainable Development (CAADD)” which is an international organization based in Tunisia.
Malek is currently the regional coordinator for North and Central Africa at the 16th UN Climate Change Conference of Youth (COY16) and director of External Relations with the International Youth Council, Tunisia Chapter. Having a background in business specialised in communication and green marketing and six years of experience with international organizations, she advocates for a sustainable and fair future. She believes that business leaders have a shared responsibility in addressing climate change. She is passionate about sustainable fashion, food security, waste management and climate policy. Her interest in climate action grew when she actively participated in the youth exchange «Environmentally Friendly Targets» in the Modbury City Council, in the UK, the first town in Europe to ban plastic bags from its shops. This project shaped her perspective on how leadership and the acquisition of the right knowledge can influence policies and generate an impact on advancing climate within businesses. Her motto in life is: «My dream is to live in a world where human rights and climate justice are not just slogans.»