By Friday Phiri in Dar-e-salaam
|Charcoal ready for transportation|
It is the development puzzle of the 21st century and perhaps the hardest of choices facing humanity; tackling climate change, or ignore the realities of its negative effects threatening the very existence of humanity.
Unfortunately, developing countries, most of which are in Africa are said to be the most vulnerable despite their negligible contribution to global carbon emissions—the primary cause of climate change.
Sea level rise, prolonged droughts, food insecurity are among the notable climate related events that have increased in frequency and intensity over the years and this, according to Mohammed Gharib Bilal, United Republic of Tanzania Vice President, is putting pressure on the existing vulnerabilities for developing countries.
“For the developing countries, these challenges are interacting with existing vulnerabilities to worsen the already bad situation”, Dr Bilal told delegates at the official opening of the African Climate Talks (ACT) for Southern, Eastern Africa and Indian Ocean states being held in Dar-e-salaam.
The meeting, organised by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa through its arm, African Climate Policy Centre (ACPC), is aimed at leveraging Africa’s position at the upcoming United Nations Conference of Parties-COP 21 in Paris, France.
According to ACPC, climate change could stimulate developing economies into adapting sustainable development paths, through entrepreneurial opportunities to investors, and spaces for policy makers to address equity concerns in gender and youth policies.
However, the opportunities from climate change are significantly attenuated by its costs, a factor that requires a proper balance between costs and benefits so as to carefully develop a narrative that is realistic.
A major issue at the COP negotiations is the question of means of implementation – finance, technology transfer and capacity building, which has remained unresolved to date.
These are some of the issues that delegates at the ACT in Dar-e-salaam are deliberating upon and wish to find answers to for a unified African voice.
“Climate science has been compelling us to act. 97% of scientific findings show that climate change is real and humans are responsible…How can our children and grandchildren understand our failure to act in the face of such compelling evidence of impending disaster?” wondered Dr Bilal, saying it would be a moral and policy failure if the world does not act now when there is still a small window of opportunity.
“Climate change is about the very existence of humanity. It is not about how many years remain to reach tipping points, it is about the now which determines the future”, said Dr. Bilal.
And amplifying this argument is 30 year old single mother, Emelda Muleya of Siamuleya Village in Pemba district, who is among the over 133, 000 households requiring relief food assistance as a result of poor yields due to poor rainfall in the 2014/15 farming season.
Ms. Muleya only harvested 200kgs of maize this farming season, far less than her family’s annual consumption requirement of 500kgs.
“The rainfall pattern was poor this year, so I decided to do something that could bring me some money for additional food requirements”, Ms. Muleya said, pointing out that traditional gardening was not an option due to water scarcity.
With this state of affairs, several sustainable development issues emerge: worsening hunger, undernutrition and natural resource exploitation.
While Ms. Muleya and thousands more are seeking to stay alive, their children may not be getting the required nutritional content for proper cognitive development, threatening their future and fight against number one enemy--poverty.
With Zambia struggling with maulnutrition currently estimated at 40%, according to the country’s latest Demographic Health Survey, the statement by Dr. Bilal that climate change worsens the existing vulnerabilities is not far from the truth.
And the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) Secretary General Mithika Mwenda has urged delegates to have in mind women, youths and other most vulnerable groups.
“First and foremost is that issues of justice, community participation, smallholder farmers, women and all vulnerable communities should be captured in these discussions”, Mwenda said, pointing out that the African civil society is concerned with interference against Africa’s unified position in the COP processes.
While Africa prepares for the crucial COP, its poor and rainfall dependent farmers such as Ms. Muleya in Zambia, are waiting for realistic solutions to sustain their agriculture and feed their families even during drought stress periods.
Therefore, ending poverty, hunger, achieving nutrition and sustainable agriculture among other SDGs requires the collective effort of the world to reach a clearly enforceable, morally and legally binding climate deal without which a vicious cycle of poverty would continue.