From Milan to Glasgow, young Moroccan leaders commit to fighting climate change
13 January 2022
"It is young people who can tip the balance to the right side in the fight against climate change," reminded Manal Bidar, a young activist from the city of Agadir, Morocco, who is committed to climate action.
Now 18 years old, Manal got involved in her first action to preserve the environment and take action to mitigate the impact of climate change when she was just 13. "With my friends from a local club, we cleaned a beach". Since then, she has made youth mobilization for climate action and participation in global climate negotiations her focus. She is an ambassador for the African Youth Climate Hub, a platform that brings together young African activists committed to fighting climate change, and serves as an advisor to the Global Center on Adaptation (GCA), an international non-profit that works on accelerating, innovating and scaling adaptation solutions to promote climate-resilience around the world.
Like Manal, Hasnae Bakhchouch, a 22-year-old student from Rabat, the capital of Morocco, is also taking action to tackle the impact of climate change on our planet and the people. She warns that "With its adverse effects on biodiversity and the health of living beings, climate change jeopardizes societies and can cause conflicts over access to natural resources."
Hasnae was a National Coordinator of the Moroccan youth delegation to the United Nations Conference of Youth on Climate, held in late September 2021 in Milan, Italy. "The aim [of the Conference] was to include young people in the fight against climate change by helping them draft recommendations for the [26th United Nations Climate Change conference] (COP26), [which was held in Glasgow, Scotland in 2021]," she explains. COP26 was the latest and one of the most important steps in the decade’s long, UN-facilitated work to tackle what has been called a looming climate emergency.
The Conference closed with a “compromise” deal on climate, which UN Secretary-General António Guterres says is not enough, with the UN chief going on to encourage young people and everyone leading the charge on climate action that sometimes there are challenges along the way but “We are in the fight of our lives, and this fight must be won”.
In line with the call of the Secretary-General, Manal, Hasnae and other young Moroccan leaders have been doing their part on climate action, as well as the overarching work to advance progress towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Their engagement is featured in a campaign called, "From Milan to Glasgow: Moroccan Youth Leaders in the Spotlight", which was launched by the UN country team in Morocco in July 2021 as part of the UN's broader support to empower young people in Morocco as well as to the work of the country on climate action to mitigate the impact of climate change.
“Coinciding with their preparation for COP26, we bet on the importance of partnering with Moroccan youth invested in climate issues, making our platforms related to the subject available for their use,” notes Sylvia Lopez-Ekra, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Morocco.
Bringing ideas together and encouraging start-ups for a green economy
One day, while enjoying a cup of coffee, Hamza Laalej, a 23-year-old Moroccan student from Meknes, asked himself if there would be a way to recycle the large amount of coffee grounds that end up in the garbage every day for other practical use.
After months of hard work, Hamza eventually managed to turn his idea into a green business, where one of the main products is an eco-friendly brick made with a mix of coffee grounds and the regular clay found in this widely used building material. He says that "Inspired by the Moroccan craft tradition, the production of these bricks relies on [using less] heating, thus helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions."
Hamza teamed up with a fellow youth, 23-year-old Moroccan Nour El Houda Ben Khoudja, to launch a company that specializes in the collection, sorting, and transformation of coffee grounds into building materials and decoration products. Together, they are looking to the future with great optimism, and reflecting on their journey and contribution to the green economy, recommended that:
"You don't have to wait for the perfect time to start [a green business]. It's the obstacles you encounter along the way that make business creation an inspiring and fruitful adventure".
A roundtable organized last November, during the launch of this UN campaign for “Moroccan youth leaders” saw other young people present similar green start-up projects, contributing to a rich and innovative exchange on entrepreneurship, environment conservation, clean energy production, and the area where they intersect.
Oussama Nour and Mohamed Taha El Ouaryachi, for example, introduced WAVEBEAT, a company that aims to produce electricity from ocean waves, to provide companies operating in the Moroccan port of Tangier Med with a renewable alternative to meet their energy needs.
"Thanks to its climate policy for the past years, Morocco has become a key leader on initiatives for climate action and is one of a few countries with a nationally determined contribution (NDC) in line with the global target of 1.5°C", underlined the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Morocco.
A version of this article was produced in French by the UN in Morocco and published on their website. This adapted version was produced with the editorial support of Ahmed Ben Lassoued, Development Coordination Office (DCO) and with additional translation support from the DCO New York editorial team. To learn more about the UN's work in Morocco, please visit https://morocco.un.org/fr.