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When PACJA met with faith groups to chart African roadmap to COP26

Charles Mwangi, the Thematic Lead, Resilient People Society and Economies, Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), attempts an overview of the faith climate justice meeting held recently in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. According to him, faith leaders need to push for higher ambition and commitments for touchable action to confront climate change

Charles Mwangi PACJA
Charles Mwangi

At a meeting in Adds Ababa, Ethiopia last week, the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) joined faith leaders under the umbrella of All African Conference of Churches (AACC) to chart the roadmap that would lead to a desirable outcome during the 26th Conference of Parties (COP26) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. The faith climate justice meeting was also meant to galvanise the continent into a strong collective voice capable of securing major victories in the negotiations.

The annual climate summit holds from November 1 to 12, 2021 in Glasgow, UK.

The engagement the faith-based institutions have been one of the missing links in the fight against climate crisis which has revenged the African continent. The faith leaders need to push for higher ambition and commitments for touchable action to confront climate change. Africa is already witnessing the effects of rising temperatures, excessive droughts, changing weather patterns leading to cyclones and excessive flooding, conflicts arising from competition for resources such as grazing lands due to droughts.

Cognisant of the need to strengthen the involvement of faith institutions in the climate change discourse, AACC and PACJA met with bishops and pastors from across the continent in Addis Ababa from May 19 to 20, 2021 for a climate change roundtable meeting under the theme: “The welfare of the earth is our welfare.”

Key issues that emerged at the faith’s climate justice meeting included the demand for sufficient finance support to the African nations’ nationally determined contributions (NDCs) targets and the primacy of the adaptation approach to climate response.

In addition, the faith’s meeting from May 18-19 agreed that Africa should head into the COP26 to press for meaningful technology transfer and capacity building, foster a low-carbon, just and equitable pandemic recovery strategies.

“After the failure of COP25 to deliver meaningful progress, Africa now counts on COP26 for a global climate policy and action framework that responds to their unique circumstances created by the injustices of disproportionate vulnerability, exposures to risks and incapacity to protect itself without help – despite its insignificant contribution to climate change,” noted a statement released from the meeting that brought members of diverse groups coalescing under the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance from across Africa.

The Climate Justice advocates say they will use the COP26 Summit to call upon industrialised countries to substantially increase climate finance flow to Africa and address the challenge of disproportionally small flow of desperately needed adaptation finance to the continent, which today stands at only 25%, despite the global commitment to raise it to at least 50%, at par with mitigation spending.

The meeting in Addis Ababa noted that, as a vulnerability hotspot, Africa should head to COP26 to demand premium placement on strategies and frameworks that lean heavily towards adaptation given that the continent faces an even wider adaptation gap, with far-reaching impacts already being felt in agriculture, health, infrastructure, and livelihoods, talk less of floods and cyclones which have killed more than 1000 people and affected millions on the continent in the past few years alone.

Further, the Climate Justice coalitions said they will seek to demand meaningful technology transfer and capacity building targeting the developing nations especially in renewable energy to address the energy needs of the African people by harnessing the already abundant natural resources like solar, geothermal and wind resources.

At the same time, it was not on the activists that much demand would still be needed to be placed upon the developed countries to continue along the path of a low-carbon emission that fully integrates climate change and the need to strengthen the resilience of African countries and communities, and other developing regions to minimise the adverse impact of major disruptions.

The meeting in Addis took place against the background of the on-going global public health crisis occasioned by COVID-19 which continues to exacerbate an already dire situation, particularly in the global South and Africa in particular.

The participants noted the continued havoc the COVID-19 restrictions have had on movements and economies but urged the UN and the UK to not restrict the COP26 to hold virtually only.

Although the clouds of uncertainty still linger across the world, consultations spearheaded by the COP26 Presidency-designate as well as the UNFCCC Secretariat continue to keep the momentum and optimism that workable solutions would emerge and which might narrow the north-south divide which almost collapsed the discussions at the COP25 held in Madrid, Spain two years ago.

“The breakdown of COVID-19 and its aftermath to the global economies is a stark reminder to the global community that a time will come when the entire humanity will be put at the same scale irrespective of the level of technological sophistication, resources, race or region,” noted the participants.

The global shutdown and the trillions of dollars mobilised within record time to tackle the pandemic signaled that with political will, those who bear the biggest responsibility to address climate crisis have ability to raise sufficient resources to build resilience of communities and the acceleration of actions towards net zero emissions at the turn of the century.

On April 15, the UN, the UK and representatives of developed and developing countries agreed to hold virtual negotiations from late May and mid-June. As COVID-19 restriction remain generally stringent across parts of the world, the idea of virtual negations – and potentially COP – has become both prominent and popular, especially in the north.

But such position fails to acknowledge Africa’s low capacity to participate in virtual negotiations due to weak infrastructure (energy access, internet connectivity and lack of gadgets), the remote location of most of its constituents and time zone differences. However well-intended and organised, virtual negotiations will disenfranchise the Africans at forefront of climate change impacts and create procedural injustices that will be difficult to repair. 

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