Climate Change: We shall fight on the beaches

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After two intense weeks of political statements, massive protests and side deals on coal, stopping fossil fuel finance and deforestation, the climate war has not ended in Glasgow. It will break again during COP27 on the Red Sea, in Egypt’s Sharm El-Sheikh. Meanwhile, in a year plagued by catastrophic floods, wild- fires and heatwaves, the world has an imperfect Glasgow Climate Pact which is still better than no deal at all.

At the closing ceremony, Britain’s President for COP26 Alok Sharma could not refrain from shedding tears in the face of “the moment of truth”. While world leaders were clapping for the pro- posed agreement, it was clear that no one loves the deal. It was obvious that delegates did not want to go back home empty handed. A compromise had to be sought at the eleventh hour. Nations did agree on the paper to speed climate action but the 1.5 degree Celsius remains off target. At a Glasgow cemetary, Climate activists held a “funeral for COP26”.

Interestingly, in last-minute changes, India’s climate negotiator Bhupender Yadav proposed that language calling for the “phase-out of unabated coal and inefficient fossil fuel subsidies” be changed to the “phase-down.”

Climate change is arguably the most pressing environmental issue facing humanity today. In fact, the current global economic slowdown, combined with climate change can potentially hamper and, in some countries, even reverse the political and economic gains that have been achieved in recent years. As governments seek to craft policy responses to these challenges while addressing Covid-19 ongoing impacts, there is consensus that their success will also depend on the adaptability and preparedness to climate change and international platforms.

Nowadays, the causes of climate change are no longer a matter of contention. Scientific experts all posit climate change is driven by the Earth’s natural cooling and heating cycles and carbon emissions, most of which emanate from industrialized countries.

In Africa the realities of climate change have induced two related human security challenges: food and water shortages (paradoxically despite increasing floods).

Little doubt now exists that human activities are causing an overall warming. Further, this warming has significant potential implications for agriculture, the spread of disease, sea level rise, polar ice, and biological diversity. At the same time, curbing climate change with minimum interference on the global economy and the need to continue raising the quality of life, particularly for the poor, will take creative and innovative law and policymaking at all levels. This is precisely why governments, private sectors, media and civil society must strive together, at the global level, to develop and promote innovative legal approaches to climate change, including approaches to carbon emissions trading, technology transfers, liability for climate change, and carbon financing.

The precise role that climate change plays in provoking security risks in Africa remains the subject of some debate. While some argued that there is no direct scientific evidence linking climate change to conflict, there is general consensus that climate change has the potential to exacerbate local tensions and combine with other political factors to result in conflict. In addition to local-level tensions and conflict, climate change is depleting shared water resources along borders and has the potential to create tension between countries and communities. Mark Twain was right: “Whiskey is for drinking, but water is for fighting.”

Although Africa stands to suffer the most from climate change, it has contributed the least to its human induced causes. In particular, Africa’s island countries stand to lose significant amounts of territory should ocean levels rise. This is why we can no longer sit and wait! We have to wage war against climate change at all levels, whatever the cost may be, and like Churchill once stated, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the ground, we shall fight in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender !

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