Is it possible to save the planet and oppress its inhabitants at the same time? The question may seem absurd, also because that to a clean and livable environment is now considered one of human rights.
Yet COP27 is taking place in a country that violates the rights of its citizens. We are facing a fatal contradiction. Marshal Abdel Fattah al Sisi al Sisi’s Egypt, where the 27th world climate conference was inaugurated on 6 November, experienced such a despotic drift that it is considered more authoritarian than the Mubarak regime, overthrown by the 2011 revolution.
Symbol of this degeneration is the fate of Alaa Abdel Fattah, one of the most prominent figures of the 2011 Tahrir Square riots and a pioneer of online democratic activism. After the fall of Mubarak, Abdel Fattah spent more time in prison than on his own. This forty-year-old man, imprisoned on suspicion of spreading “fake news”, has been on a partial hunger strike since April. On November 6, he stopped drinking, causing concern for his already weakened health.
Dialogue and respect
The connection between this affair and COP27 was highlighted by Greta Thunberg, the young environmental activist who, before the start of the Sharm el Sheik summit, showed a sign asking for Abdel Fattah’s release.
Some might think that for activists like Thunberg the planet’s cause prevails over individual ones, regardless of everything. Instead, the young environmentalist had the intelligence to connect the two causes and point out that it is possible to ask for a dialogue between states and at the same time demand respect for fundamental human rights.
This commitment is all the more commendable if we consider that in view of Cop27 the regime of Marshal Al Sisi has launched a communication campaign to give the impression of a dialogue with civil society. According to those directly involved, this is only a facade maneuver to dampen criticism before the event.
The climate, therefore, is not an isolated cause from the others, even if it is still difficult to connect the different battles. Do you remember the “end of the world or end of the month” debate at the time of the yellow vests in France? And today how can we reconcile the commitment against the climate crisis with the wars and geopolitical tensions that are shaking the planet?
Earlier in his tenure, Joe Biden hired former Secretary of State John Kerry to manage the climate negotiation. By appointing a skilled conciliator, Biden had tried to save climate diplomacy from growing tensions. Kerry even went to China when relations between the two countries plunged into a new cold war. But he failed to achieve his goals, and the bridges were partially cut.
At the COP summit in Sharm el Sheik, the first of this importance to take place in the presence after the pandemic, we would have hoped for progress on this level. But the improvement should have started with an example of the host country. We cannot save the planet and at the same time keep Alaa Abdel Fattah and his comrades in prison for political crimes. In this there is a fatal contradiction that only the realpolitik governments prevent reporting. At this point, however, it’s hard to believe the rest.
(Translation by Andrea Sparacino)