Marrakech’s old walled city seems a long way from the battleground states that will determine the next president of the United States. But on Election Day in the US, thousands of people gathered there at this year’s UN climate change conference are paying close attention to what happens across the Atlantic.
That’s because when it comes to climate change, everyone in attendance seems to agree that the winner of the race for the White House matters. A lot.
“It’s the big boy, so whatever the US does, it reverberates around the world,” says South African delegate Happy Khambule. Khambule can’t vote in the election but he did watch two of the three presidential debates this fall. He says he found them “uh, interesting — to say the least.”
No surprise — Khambule says the debates didn’t give him a good sense of where the candidates stand on policy. But like everyone else at the conference, he knows that Hillary Clinton wants to continue the climate agreements and policies President Barack Obama has signed on to, and that Donald Trump wants to reverse course.
Khambule says if Trump wins, “it will bring a greater level of uncertainty” to the process of forging and implementing global climate policy. But he also says a Clinton victory wouldn’t bring complete certainty, because Congress could still block progress.
Conference attendee Marie-Paul Lusaba, from the Democratic Republic of Congo, also hopes Clinton wins. But not just because she thinks it’ll be better for the climate.
“A woman in charge is better,” Lusaba says, “because we are the one, we go in to fix things, and we are more effective.”
Many other female conference attendees share Lusaba’s excitement about a woman in the White House. So do many Moroccan women.
Abidoullah is part of a large group of students helping out with the climate conference. She and her friend Mabrouka Aitsalah say no one in Morocco wants to see Trump win.
“We just never imagined that Trump would be president, that’s the point,” says Abidoullah.
“We are women and we want women to win,” says Aitsalah.
Sana Mabuje, who works in a Marrakech hotel, and her friend Batta Majga are also rooting for Clinton — but not just because she's a woman.
“We know something about Clinton’s family and her history. About Trump, I have no idea about him,” says Mabuje. “This is a very important period for all the American people and for the world.”
As for Majga's reasons: “Because she knows a lot of things about politics,” she says. “And because she likes Muslims and different religions and she’s a political woman. We support women in the world.”
College student Yussuf Raouh agrees. He says if he were an American citizen, the choice would be easy.
“Hillary Clinton is not racist like Trump.”
Most of the people I’ve spoken with here not only support Clinton, they also think she’ll win. But that wouldn't mean an easy road foward. Tomas Ayuso, a Honduran journalist covering the climate conference, worries that the rifts exposed by the election campaign won’t heal even if Clinton wins. He went to school in the US and worries about what he’s seen this year.
“I don’t recognize the United States that I moved into [compared to] the one that exists now,” Ayuso says. “Just the disbelief in the project. I think that those are the people that really do not believe in America anymore, they don’t think it’s working out.”
Susan Phillips's reporting from the Marrakech climate summit is supported by the International Reporting Project.