One of the major causes of poverty, insecurity, and destruction today in Africa is climate change. Rising oceans are swallowing coastal cities. Drought is spreading and forcing communities to abandon their homes. Disrupting agriculture, hunger and starvation have become even more intense. The combined effect of desertification and shrinkage of lake Chad have resulted in pronounced migration of Climate Refugees who flee only to be met with fences, borders, and death of over 3,231 recorded at sea in the Mediterranean. The future of Africa is closely tied to what we do concerning Climate Justice.
Climate Change is not primarily a natural phenomenon. It is the result of capitalist, extractivist and imperialist exploitation of people and the planet. A class war between the rich and the poor, the working class and those who till the land. The violence of Climate Change is driven by a choice. A choice made by Transnational Corporations (TNCs) and Western governments, backed by laws together with domestic elites and militaries to keep burning fossil fuels — an activity that has been identified as the major cause of Climate Change, releases heavy amounts of greenhouse gasses, notably carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This has resulted in various significant changes, especially for Africa. Not only is Africa the worst hit, but the continent is also left with the burden to cope, adapt, mitigate, or even left for the worse.
The 2021 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) revealed that Africa is impacted harder by Climate Change for two reasons; first because of its poverty levels, deficient infrastructure, political instability and, in some areas, endemic violence making it more vulnerable to climatic impacts. And second, because for every one degree Celsius global temperature increase, Africa suffers 50 percent more, making the region particularly vulnerable to global warming impacts. It is also predicted that by 2030, about 75 to 250 million Africans will lack access to potable water. And already, the continent is suffering the worst flooding and droughts ever recorded.
At a time when the world should be weaned off fossil fuels, more scramble for such resources is being witnessed in the pristine ecosystems in Africa. Such areas range from what is left of the Niger Delta region in Nigeria where criminal wastes as well as massive release of greenhouse gases and toxic chemical go on daily in the oil fields through gas flaring by the oil majors and in protected areas in Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Okavango Delta in Botswana, and Saloum Delta in Senegal. The levels of pollution in the Niger Delta, for instance, has driven life expectancy to about 41 years. In Uganda, the East African Crude Oil Pipeline threatens the Lake Victoria basin and the livelihoods of over 40 million Africans. The more this march forward, without checks, the faster Africa descends into chaos, and environmental and justice issues are sacrificed on the altar of greed and might.
(Flooding in Rivers State area of Nigeria)
Climate Justice for Africa
Africa is least responsible for Climate Change but suffers some of the most damaging consequences. The industrialised regions such as Europe and North America only suffer fewer impacts and have better coping mechanisms. Given that these regions bear the most responsibility for causing Climate Change – and yet refuse to take meaningful action – the injustice of Climate Change, the dangers of a global power structure driven by corporate interest and backed by merciless military machinery becomes obvious and unacceptable. Climate Justice means a recognition of the historic responsibility of the industrialised West in causing climate change, bearing in mind the disproportionate vulnerabilities faced by some countries and communities. It recognizes the role of power in shaping how Climate Change is caused and who carries the burden, and therefore demands the awakening movements against climate change and environmental crimes.
It is clear from the 27th Climate negotiations under the UNFCCC that real Climate action will not be agreed on by powerful polluters nor by emerging economies who insist on the right to catch up and gobble up whatever atmospheric space is left for carbon. Proposed solutions so far are market-based, neoliberal and take a top-down approach. Instead of promoting the necessary emissions reductions, they give polluting permits and subsidies to multinationals and extractive industries. Leaving the response to Climate Change to the bankrupt elite means that we will not survive. The solutions lie not in elite conferences but with the mobilization of the dispossessed, linking formations across Africa, joining up social forces and active engagement in communities. The solution lies in resisting all forms of fossil-fuel extracting activities and pushing for REAL solutions.
What is needed in Africa to stop Climate Change is a revolutionary movement against the Climate Crisis. Movement akin to the anti-colonial and pan-African liberation struggles of Amilcar Cabral, Frantz Fanon, Thomas Sankara, etc. for Climate action with the understanding that Climate justice is inseparable from social and economic justice. We need a radical political alternative, a moral commitment from our brothers and sisters, in the struggle to redress the injustices emanating from an economic system that is waging ecocidal war in Africa. We have a duty not to only indict the system, to shut it down, but to build new ways of being, doing and sustaining. This is but for our simple desire to continue to survive, flourish and live in dignity. When there is no justice, there is just us and so, we must stand up to the rampant imperialist power in Africa or we can never begin to reclaim and repair the environment and meet the challenges of emissions and global warming.
A piece by Magdalene Idiang.