- On December 30, 2014
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The Challenge of Climate Change has become very topical globally because of its importance as a life sustaining or devastating issue.
Manifestations of climate change include crop failures, water stress, very high and humid temperatures, excessive floods, severe and prolonged droughts, coastal erosion, erratic rainfall patterns, rising sea levels etc. all these have serious implications for food and nutrition security, energy security, livelihoods, health and education.
The United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change [UNFCCC] obliges all countries to take specific steps to reduce the known causes of Climate Change and its effects under the Kyoto Protocol and other similar instruments. The main culprit of climate change is the ‘’Emission of Green House Gases’’ [carbon dioxide +] [GHG] that produces the phenomenon known as Global Warming.
The Global negotiations prepared a road map in 2007, known as the BALI PLAN OF ACTION [BAP] under which all developed countries committed to undertake drastic reductions of the emission of GHGs in order to lower the high global temperature that is threatening living things on earth. They were expected to cut back specific amounts of emissions over time by which global warming would have stabilized and effects of climate change reversed if further measures were taken.
However, the Developed Countries reneged on their promises to cut back as requested under the Kyoto Protocol Commitments, citing various reasons including the fact that other countries not mentioned in the 1st Commitment period are also polluting and must be brought to book.
Aside that, they wanted to be left on their own to decide when, how and what quantum they were prepared to shed. This is known as the Pledge and Review system which does not impose any obligations on these countries.
Developing countries, Small Island Developing States [SIDS] and others vehemently objected to this form of approach with explanations that Climate Change is already causing so much havoc to their countries and immediate steps are needed to roll back these effects as quickly as possible.
In Ghana, coastal erosion, crop failures, high temperatures, are evident. Ghana loses 3 metres of coastline annually to sea erosion, while the Northern Regions are registering near desert daytime temperatures (42 degrees Celsius) of late. Most maize farms in the Volta and Greater Accra Regions that were cropped in the minor season last year failed due to a long drought. These are but some tangible effects that are obvious in this country.
In the midst of all these challenges facing developing and poor countries, the countries that caused the problem continue to pollute and carrying out their activities in a ‘’business as usual’’ manner. Meanwhile, several dimensions of Climate Change continue to emerge. Climate Change and Human Rights, Migration [Climate Refugees], Health, Education and many others.
Ethical and Moral Concerns
Ethical and Moral concerns of Climate Change have also emerged strongly from Ethicists who argue that Climate Change is no longer an economic or political issue but a MORAL ISSUE which calls for equity, distributive justice and morality.
This angle of the discourse is being strongly espoused by FAITH BODIES and intellectuals around the world. One of such intellectuals is Professor Donald Brown from the Widener University of Law and Ethics. He lamented that nations have failed to adopt climate change policies consistent with their equitable obligations despite the fact that all nations who are parties to the UNFCCC agreed, when they became parties, to reduce their emissions to levels required of them based upon “EQUITY” to prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.
It is argued that it is ethically unacceptable, that developed countries in being requested to cut back on emissions and roll back the effects of Climate Change want to do so only by taking into consideration mainly their national economic interests without regard to the REALITY that their actions affect others globally in other jurisdictions that do not contribute anything substantially to cause climate change. These countries are obliged ethically not to cause harm to others through their actions or inactions.
According to Professor Donald Brown, economic arguments in opposition to climate change policies are almost always arguments about self-interest that ignore strong global obligations. Climate change is a problem that is being caused mostly by high emitting nations and people that are harming and putting at risk poor people and the ecological systems on which they depend around the world.
It is ethically unacceptable for those causing the harm to others to only consider the costs to them of reducing the damages they are causing while ignoring their responsibilities to not harm others.
All Nations therefore have a strong ethical duty to reduce their emissions to their fair share of safe global emissions and therefore national economic self-interest is not an acceptable justification for failing to reduce national GHG emissions. According to other experts, Public Policy on Climate Change must not be based upon economic self-interest but rather on Responsibilities to those who are most harmed by inaction.
Many developing countries including those from Africa are becoming increasingly worried about the laissez – faire attitude of the polluting countries. They argue that the industrialized countries are not taking the issues of cutting back drastically on their emission targets seriously.
Therefore at the COP 19 IN WARSAW, in 2014, over 800 Civil Society Organizations including those from Africa staged a walk out from the negotiations to demonstrate their resolve that they would quit the global talks if nothing was done to advance the negotiations towards a fair and equitable outcome.
Africa Civil Society led by Pan Africa Climate Justice Alliance [PACJA] has held several talks with similar movements from the Global North aimed at building a strong Global Movement of People towards future negotiations and to reconsider any strategies that will ‘SHAKE UP’ polluting countries to submit to more ambitious reduction targets.
In recent times, two (2) important reports jolted the World from slumber. The Inter – Governmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC] 5th Assessment Report [Working Group 1] and the UNEP Report on Closing the Emission Gap. These reports have made it clear that time was running out for the world, and that we were approaching the ‘’tipping point’’ where dangerous climate change cannot be reversed. They indicated that the world MUST ACT NOW if we were to avoid the catastrophe that lay ahead, by immediately adopting a global approach to climate change which is much more ambitious than current national commitments provide.
Justice and Equity
In Warsaw, the issue of Justice and Equity took centre stage in spite of the machinations of the polluting countries to steer the discussions away from those important issues that reflected and remained their agenda at the negotiations.
For over Two (2) decades, Africa and other developing countries have been crying for Climate Justice but their cries however, went unheeded or at best met with unfulfilled promises. They are concerned about the effects of global warming and have taken the position that global efforts must reduce warming to below 1 degree Celsius to avoid Africa being turned into a big incinerator in the future. They are strongly of the view that Africa is also entitled to its fair share of the Earth’s Commons and Resources like anyone else.
Africa has prioritized ADAPTATION interventions to counter the harm already being experienced throughout the continent and is also demanding Compensation for Loss and Damage caused by extreme weather events attributable to Climate Change.
They are calling for the enforcement of the Polluter Pays Principle, transfer of Technology, adequate Finance for Adaptation and Mitigation Interventions and the building of adequate and relevant Capacity to deal with the challenges of Climate Change.
Africa demands that the Annex 1 [polluting] countries support the adoption and development of indigenous and locally innovated technology as well as ensuring efficiency in technology transfer and deployment and also honour and deliver on their financial commitments.
Finally, they called for Gender Equity in negotiations and representation.
Role of Faith Based Organizations
Faith Based Organizations are called upon to create awareness, promote public education, undertake massive tree planting activities and integrate environmental and climate change education into their school curricula. Establishment of Eco Clubs, Nurseries, Eco Congregations and Mosques and Temples are also strongly advocated.
It is the expectation of Faith Based Organizations in Ghana that the appropriate measures will be taken by Government and all stakeholders to tackle the menace of climate change but also take advantage of any opportunities that it would present for the betterment of citizens.
RELIGIOUS BODIES NETWORK ON CLIMATE CHANGE