As Africa joins the rest of the world in grappling with the disastrous impacts of Covid-19, we need the same urgent efforts to address climate change. Climate change is having a growing impact on the African continent, hitting the most vulnerable hardest, and contributing to food insecurity, population displacement and stress on water resources. In recent months we have seen devastating floods, an invasion of desert locusts and now face the looming spectre of drought in many Africa Countries not excluding Uganda, Kenya and others.
In Kasese District, western Uganda the rivers overflowed, flooding wide areas of Kasese district. The waters of lake Kyoga also have kept rising submerging areas of Amolator district in the northern region of Uganda. The flooding keeps worsening further inland areas. Lives, homes, crops and roads have all suffered damage. In Namasale Sub- County alone, about 400 households have been displaced and about 2,000 gardens have been submerged by floods. About 500 people who have been displaced are now cultivating in Ajuka Forest Reserve in Nabwoyo Parish.”
These keep happening every year, In August 2020 the government in Uganda reported rising water levels on Lake Albert and Lake Kyoga had displaced over 8,700 people in Buliisa, Nakasongola and Amolatar districts. Other areas like Bududa and others are facing landslides. As these parts in the country keep suffering floods, the areas of Mbarara, Masaka corridor, Kampala, Wakiso and other surrounding districts are stuck with a long period without rain not forgetting the locust invasion.
In Kenya, the mere mention of the term El Nino brings bad memories to Kenyans who were affected by the heavy downpour around 1997 and 1998. That kind of rain has not been experienced since then. There are erratic rains nowadays, the month of July is not as cold as it used to be, and people who used to reap from their farms twice a year are now reaping once.
It is on record that Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Malawi, South Sudan, and Niger, are among the world’s top 10 nations to be the worst affected by climate change through disruptions to productivity in key economic sectors including agriculture, roads, dams, and other infrastructure according to the new Global Climate Index 2021 released by German watch.
Reality is clear now that Climate change is no longer a political or economic issue. It’s a human rights issue, perhaps the biggest one in human history. If we continue spewing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, degrading and polluting the environment, we are not only destroying ecosystems and driving species to extinction, we indirectly violating human rights.
Based on the United Nations Environment Programme outlined in its 2015 climate change and human rights report, extreme weather events are more prevalent in a warming world, leading to death, destruction of property and crops and limited access to food, water, shelter, healthcare and education. The African governments must understand that environmental collapse as well as climate change specifically is completely a cross-cutting issue. Our leaders and responsible authorities must understand what’s at stake for humanity and the human rights threats if we continue to delay climate action.
Human rights are intimately linked with climate change because of its devastating effect on not just the environment, but our own wellbeing. In addition to threatening our very existence, climate change is having harmful impacts on our rights to life, health, food, water, housing and livelihoods.
The longer governments wait to take meaningful action, the harder the problem becomes to solve, and the greater the risk that emissions will be reduced through means that increase inequality rather than reduce it. Every time the African governments delay to take action, they are aiding to the extinction of wildlife, extinction of green nature of Africa, Drought and its devastating results, High temperatures, Shifting of seasons, deaths of tax payers and other climate change impacts.
The impacts of climate change we face today are not just about our future, our future generation. This is about the lives that are being lost today and the people that are being displaced today and living at a risk. Women and children are 14 times more likely to die in climate change disasters, according to the U.N. Women make up most of the world’s poor, and women tend to rely more heavily on natural resources for their livelihoods and societal gender roles. They are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate-related events as they are less able to protect themselves against it and will find it harder to recover.
Indigenous people are among the communities most impacted by climate change. They live-in marginal lands and fragile ecosystems which are particularly sensitive to alterations in the physical environment. They maintain a close connection with nature and their traditional lands on which their livelihoods and cultural identity depend. Future generations will experience the worsening effects unless action is taken now by governments.
Yes, Africa’s Agenda 2063, which was concluded in 2013, recognizes climate change as a major challenge for the continent’s development. Since 2015, the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the Paris Agreement have become the main instrument for guiding policy responses to climate change. Fifty-two (52) African countries have submitted their first NDCs and by now should have submitted the revised NDCs. The question that lies in the hearts of African leaders are; are they taking action? Are they following up on the terms and obligations agreed in the 2016 agreement by all the parties?
It is also not in doubt that Africa promised great efforts in driving the global climate agenda. This is demonstrated by the very high levels of ratification of the Paris Agreement – over 90%. Many African nations committed to transitioning to green energy within a relatively short time frame. Clean energy and agriculture are, for example, prioritized in over 70% of African NDCs. This ambition needs to be an integral part of setting the economic development priorities of the continent. But are these efforts implemented or the commitment has remained on paper.
Look at Uganda and Tanzania, the governments of two countries alongside France’s Total Energies (formerly Total) and the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) are pushing against all environmental, climate and social warnings to develop the EACOP oil project. In April 2021, the governments alongside the aforementioned oil companies signed three key agreements to pave way for development of the pipeline.
What do these agreements mean to the efforts of Africa towards unlocking itself into clean energy transition? What do they mean to the efforts taken by the parties of the Paris agreement to fight climate change? It is one thing to agree on something, it is another to enforce it. The enforcers of the Paris agreement should implement the terms of the agreement or declare it defunct.
This is a call to African governments that they must know that many options lie ahead of us, but the most effective ones are those that reduce greenhouse gas emissions as fast as possible. Humanity’s best-case scenario is to immediately transition into clean-energy economies, fair and equitable systems that don’t exploit lower classes but instead empower and enrich communities. The longer we take to do this, the more we will have to rely on costly technologies that could have harmful impacts on human rights.
To the African governments, lets focus on our roots of agricultural sector which employs over 60% of Africa’s population, value-addition techniques using efficient and clean energy sources are reported to be capable of reducing poverty two to four times faster than growth in any other sector.
Solar-powered, efficient micro-irrigation is increasing farm-level incomes by five to 10 times, improving yields by up to 300% and reducing water usage by up to 90% while at the same time offsetting carbon emissions by generating up to 250 kW of clean energy. Don’t get caught up in making jobs like oil jobs and kill the present and future generations. When we keeping accepting investments from fossil fuel companies, when we fail to hold Europe, China accountable for their contributions on the climate change problem. Africa loses and they win.
To the youth, let us read about climate change because it is already affecting us. When we know these issues, we shall make a choice whether to join movements all over the world to climate change crisis or to watch our world perish. I call the youth of Uganda in particular to stand up against the destruction of Bugoma central forest, the bad EACOP project and oil threats.
The world is in a crisis. Climate change is a world problem that needs world joint solutions. Local communities, young people, women, developed and developing countries must be on board to make meaningful change or the future of humanity stays on the brink of extinction. I commend and thank 350.org, Fridays for Future, Youth for Green Communities (YGC), Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO), Inclusive Green Economy Network East Africa (IGENEA) and other partners campaigning for a just energy transition to increase clean energy access while stopping dirty energy investments in East Africa and Africa at large.
The writer is a lawyer and Chief Executive Officer, Youth for Green Communities (YGC)
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