COP 26 Time for global community to act on climate change

SANF 21 no 48 – by Kizito Sikuka
The tone of opening statements delivered by global leaders at the climate change conference currently underway in Glasgow, Scotland has raised alarm bells on how the global community is addressing the climate crisis.

One can feel the anger, disappointment and even mistrust in the way that the world is tackling climate change and its impact on socio-economic development.

For example, how does one explain the fact that Africa, which has done very little to create the climate crisis — is the hardest hit due to limited financial resources to adapt to the impact of climate change?

Furthermore, why do industrialized and more developed countries who are the biggest polluters of the environment continue to play “hide and seek” and refuse to honour their pledges to cut down emissions and increase climate change finance to developing countries in the form of loans and not grants?

Increased aid was promised as far back as 2009 to help developing countries to cope with climate change. However, few have met these pledges, while calls to cut emissions are also being challenged by the highly polluting countries.

Addressing the 26th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP26) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) that runs from 31 October to 12 November in Scotland, the SADC chairperson, President Lazarus Chakwera of Malawi said time has now come for the global community to have a frank discussion on climate change.

He said gone are the days that Africa “will take no for an answer. Not anymore.”

“When will rich countries take responsibility? Last week, ahead of COP26 in Glasgow, it was revealed that many of them had lobbied against the UN’s climate recommendations – namely that urgent action is needed. At the same time, some questioned the need to fund poorer countries to adapt to the effects of climate change – despite the failure by developed countries to deliver the $100 billion they had pledged,” President Chakwera said.

He said Africa is “paying the price of others’ emissions,” adding that the proposed “fund that some would like diminished is not charity, but a cleaning fee that must be paid.”

For example, the growing impact of climate change has not only affected economic development in Africa but is now increasingly threatening peace and stability in the continent.

In the Darfur region, climate change has escalated the crisis with competition for scarce water in refugee camps, and scarce land between farmers and herders sparking serious conflicts in the arid region.

In the North Rift and North Eastern regions of Kenya, climate change and human pressures on natural resources have induced violent pastoral conflicts that have resulted in some locals migrating to new lands.

The complexities of climate change also saw Kenya and Uganda at one point coming to an agreement to demarcate Lake Victoria using bright beacons so that fishers from both countries do not cross into another border.

This was after longstanding clashes between fishers “encroaching into another country’s waters” in search of better and bigger fish.

To address such challenges caused by climate change, President Chakwera said “a more nuanced approach is needed if climate equity and justice are to be respected.”

“If countries with the greatest capacity to effect change do not, those with more modest means should not be expected to do so. At COP26, the west must show that it is now fit for the challenge and will finally fulfil its obligations. Only then will equity and justice become more than a mere slogan,” he said.

Various other leaders were in agreement with the message by President Chakwera, saying the time is now up to “save the environment for future generations.”

“What excuse should we give for the failure? When will leaders lead? Our people are watching, and our people are taking note. And are we really going to leave Scotland without the resolve and the ambition that is sorely needed to save lives and to save our planet?” Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley said.

Two of the global powerhouses and polluters – the United States and China – pledged to do more in finding answers and solutions to climate change and its impact.

“There is no more time to hang back or sit on the fence or argue amongst ourselves. This is a challenge of our collective lifetimes. This existential threat, is a threat to human existence as we know it, and every day we delay, the cost of inaction increases. So let this be the moment that we answer history’s call here in Glasgow,” the US President Joe Biden said.

Chinese President Xi Jinping concurred, and urged developed countries to “provide support to help developing countries do better” in dealing with the climate crisis.

Indeed the climate crisis requires a collective approach by the global community since it cuts across boundaries.

Furthermore, climate change and its impact is a phenomenon that is not only here to stay but getting more severe.

Predictions by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) indicate that over the next 50 years, the African continent is expected to suffer from more frequent and intense droughts and floods, more unpredictable growing seasons, and higher average temperatures.

In this regard, there is need for COP26 of the UNFCC to deliver some sheds of hope come 12 November when the climate change conference comes to an end because the impacts of climate change have had a profound effect on sustainable development.

The annual event brings together world leaders and key experts to negotiate on the Paris Agreement and discuss the climate crisis and solutions.

The Paris Agreement, reached at COP21 in 2015, is the crown jewel of the UNFCCC process since it gave the world its first universal global agreement on climate change. sardc.net


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