–On World Refugee Day, amid war, floods and heatwaves, this youth still has hope
By Mathew Carr
June 20, 2022 (Bonn/London): It was Feb. 24, 2022.
Ilyess El Kortbi, a young climate activist (they/them), was excited to be traveling from their home town in Kharkiv, Ukraine, to Kyiv. Their mission? To attend a conference on peace building.
When they awoke from a slumber on the train that was taking them there, they noticed people were behaving stangely. There was an eerie quiet in the carriage.
“It was like a horror film. Everyone was silent and looking down. Probably people were shocked and I asked them what happened? They said Russian troops have entered the borders.”
El Kortbi alighted the train and made their way to the alloted hotel.
“I tried to calm myself. Not panic. There were rockets over my hotel room. I opened the curtains. I heard some sounds like a rocket. I saw keeeerrrrrrrwww, flying through the sky. I closed the curtains.”
El Kortbi managed to leave Kyiv before the heaviest bombing of that city and, soon afterwards, arrived in Germany — relative safety.
Yet living in Germany, one of the world’s richest countries, El Kortbi has not been able to shake concern about how the economic structure there and lifestyle has boosted the risk of conflict related to the consumption of fossil fuels.
Their conern culminated last Thursday, when they helped close two weeks of UN climate talks being held in Bonn, Germany.
They represented youth, explaining to delegates from almost 200 nations that the Ukraine-Russia conflict was effectively financed by those buying crude oil and natural gas.
While living in Germany, “I realised this country, these people, are being manipulated,” they explained later in an interview at the Bonn UN campus.
Ukrainians were paying in blood because German companies chose to sell fossil energy instead of cleaner alternatives, they said. It was a choice, deliberately made.
“They are being forced to finance wars, just because they need to cook on something to live, themselves. How dare those companies force people to pay to finance wars. The companies have chosen fossil energy because fossil energy gives more profit.”
Europe is spending about 1 billion euros a day on Russian fuels. CNBC says here it’s withholding supplies of natural gas, which will boost use of coal and damage the climate even more:
Group of Seven officials are laying the groundwork for leaders to potentially discuss the introduction of a price cap on energy imports from Russia, in a bid to limit revenue for President Vladimir Putin and rein in prices, according to people familiar with the matter, Bloomberg reported.
Receiving gas from Russia was more profitable and safer than building new nuclear energy, was the previous thinking and that’s now shown to be extremely flawed, they said. The lack of safety in fossil fuels vs nuclear has been starkly exposed, El Kortbi said.
Germany’s economic system needs to become circular rather than extractive, they said.
Politicians know there are big problems with the system, but they hide those challenges behind technical names, “just to make it sound less horrible,” El Kortbi said.
“They need to take less time to act. It’s been 30 years of details. Thirty years of doing nothing.”
If the world does what the next generation wants, “I have hope we’ll be finding ruins of fossil-energy infastructures. We no longer need these infrastructure because we are going through a similar moral crisis” that followed the bloody Roman empire, when gladiators fought each other in arenas for the entertainment of the masses.
“People are using bloody energy. It is not the Russian gas which is flowing into your pipelines in Germany, it is the blood of Ukrainians,” El Kortbi said, citing fellow Fridays for the Future climate activist Vlada Zhuravlyova.
Furthermore, the system is killing the climate, El Kortbi said. “It’s so absurd.”
The answer is not for countries to blame each other but tell each other the truth, they said.
“I have a lot of hope because the Fridays for Future movement (which they support) is so big,” El Kortbi said.
El Kortbi is this week attending a different meeting about securring peace — the first meeting of the states parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which some activists are wanting perhaps by 2045…about five years before the world aims to achieve net-zero emissions.
“I am here I am present, with many of the youth activists.
“I will not step back until you act. Your choice for fossil fuels led the world to the climate crisis, but also now to make people finance wars, as in my country.
“Now there’s conflict escalation with the probability of use of nuclear weapons – if there was climate action and alternatives to fossil energies, nothing of this had to happen.
“I am here with other youth for this. And we will continue to watch leaders until they act.”
El Kortbi’s speech was shortened at the Bonn climate talks last week because of a lack of time on the last day. Here is the full version, spoken for CarrZee:
CarrZee complains of militaristic global corporate culture. A new capitalism is needed. (How I was fired)