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Climate Justice Diaries: 'We Only Have One Earth'

Climate Justice Diaries: 'We Only Have One Earth'

Wednesday November 3 2021

In the first in a new series, Gorden Simango of the All Africa Conference of Churches explains how the climate crisis affecting the poorest in Africa, and how the churches are trying to help.

If we take care of the earth, it will take care of us. If we throw mud at it - when it throws back, it is disastrous.

We only have one earth – this earth, and let’s be responsible enough to care for it – for our benefit and for the many generations to come.

For human-induced climate change, we must repent of our guiltiness for stealing from the future generations – of their right to enjoy the gifts of nature as we have in our times. Human activities that take from the earth with no concern of giving back and replenishing in manners that enhances the natural ecosystem make us accomplices to destroying the natural environment.

Certainly, time is ticking, and each of us must do the best we can to replenish nature lost in the name of advancement and development. We urgently need to move from relying on fossil fuels to relying on renewables. The continued degradation of the earth poses an existential threat to humanity. Humanity must challenge itself by finding alternatives for sustaining our lives in ways that are friendly to the natural environment. Political will and investment in nature-friendly technologies can help us achieve this, but also our voices and actions together will make a huge difference. 

Although climate change has been the subject of much political controversy, the scientific evidence is overwhelming that ‘warming of the climate system is unequivocal’ (International Panel on Climate Change, 2013). Playing politics with climate change and the environment is playing with our own lives.

Its effects are already hitting those living in poverty the hardest. In Africa, people have seen the worst droughts, the worst flooding, the worst cyclones ever experienced. The depletion of grazing lands is resulting in cattle herder conflicts.

We are also experiencing armed conflicts which are hitched on countries competing to extract resources from mother earth; also big competition between rich countries on who controls resources from different parts of the world.

Where minerals have been discovered or are being explored – be it gas, oil, diamonds, gold, uranium - you name it, they have been a source of conflicts – and worse, their extraction is leaving painful damages to the earth.

Activities in the extractives sector in Africa are not only causing an environmental crisis but also bleed billions of dollars off the continent in terms of illicit financial flows – all shrouded in corruption and selective enforcement of environmental, and extractive laws. The race is to be bottom especially in jurisdictions where the political leadership fails to stand the pressure and heat from powerful nations in their scramble to get and control raw materials in Africa.

Attempts to access bilateral investment treaties in the extractives sectors are meant with pushbacks and suspicion. Wetlands, natural game reserves, etc are threatened by the quest to control and dig minerals out of the ground. For the greater part of the citizenry, the benefits are not direct at all – and if it will ever trickle down. 

Climate adaptation remains unquestionably and rightly the top priority for African countries. To create optimal responses, mitigation needs to be considered to balance the climate change solution equation. The continent has immense mitigation potential in its vast landmass, forests, agricultural systems, and oceans. Africa also has potential for renewable energy, especially solar for its development and export

In its roundtable meeting of faith leaders from across the African continent in May 2021, which met under the theme “The Welfare of the Earth is our Welfare”, the leaders urged the COP26 Presidency to:

In the same meeting, the faith leaders committed to:

Gorden Simango is Director for the African Union Office & Advocacy of the All Africa Conference of Churches, based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

In this new series, Church of Scotland partners from around the world will explore the impact of climate change, and what can be done to help.

Download our COP26 Supplement here.

Read our previous series, the Coronavirus Diaries, here.