Daring to do something about climate change

Conrad Gweru Correspondent
Pope Francis in his Laudato Si’ once said; “Our goal is not to amass information or to satisfy curiosity, but rather to become painfully aware, to dare to turn what is happening to the world into our own personal suffering and thus to discover what each of us can do about it.”

Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity today and therefore there is need for continuous dialogue around environmental policy in the international, national and local communities. This dialogue must result in transparent decision-making so that the politics serves human fulfilment and not just economic interests. It must be a dialogue which cuts across sectors, from religious groups, private sector, science and research institutions working together for the common good.

The COP21 meeting held late last year in France offered a great opportunity for dialogue. Signed by 187 world leaders including 54 from African countries, the Climate deal reached at the meeting set the tone for all nations to seriously create a sustainable environment through implementation of set resolutions and targets.

To the developing countries, the agreements have their own benefits and flaws too. At this point, one cannot ignore the fact that around the world, climate change is undermining important development progress, with the poorest and most vulnerable being hit the hardest.

With little ability to plan for disasters or adjust to growing climate variability, they are bearing the brunt of more frequent droughts, intense storms, and floods, a situation that has seen critical ecosystems being destabilised and undermining livelihoods especially amongst the poorest and most vulnerable populations.

The need for mitigation and adaptation is here to stay: in spite of the ambitious climate agreement reached in Paris, the global climate will keep changing for many years to come. Without appropriate mitigation and adaptation, many of the hard-won development gains of recent decades will be at risk. For this reason, investment in mitigation and adaptation is inseparable from poverty reduction.

The recent climate change deal in Paris includes clauses around loss and damage mechanisms for addressing the financial losses vulnerable countries face from climate impacts such as extreme weather. This is more than just an appreciation that developed countries have contributed significantly to changes in climate.

The highly industrialised countries emit more than developing countries hence they should be held accountable to changes in climate. Unfortunately it includes a clause that protects developed countries and has insulated them from any financial claims from vulnerable countries hit by the change. This failure to provide a basis for any liability or compensation from developed countries represents a key loss from developing countries who are disproportionately impacted by the climate crisis caused in large part by their developed counterparts.

Finance to help developing countries adapt to climate change and transition to clean energy was an important sticking point in the negotiations. This part of the deal has been moved into the non-legally binding “decision text”. Given the vulnerability of most affected nations, developed countries hugely benefited from this standpoint.

The developed nations in this case have refused to be responsible for their actions. Their industries are making billions of profits at the expense of many poor nations who have to find ways of adapting to changes in climate often using inadequate resources and technology.

For accountability to make sense, there is need to first of all appreciate each country’s or region’s responsibilities to climate change as well as appreciating our differential responsibilities for mitigation and adaptation. Developed countries should at this stage be more accountable to developing countries by offering adequate resources for adaptation and mitigation whilst developing countries have a mammoth task of ensuring that they adapt to current changes and find possible ways to ensure that the environment is not always at risk.

  • Conrad Gweru is an Advocacy Accompanier with CAFOD working with poor and vulnerable communities around Zimbabwe to mitigate the negative impacts of climate change on their livelihoods. He writes in his personal capacity.
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