Activists urge response to Climate impacts placed at the centre of post-COVID recovery

Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA)
Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA)

Robust response to the impacts of climate change must be at the centre of strategies by governments to ‘build back better’ in post-COVID-19 recovery, Climate activists have said.

Building Back Better (BBB) is an approach to post-disaster recovery that reduces vulnerability to future disasters and builds community resilience to address physical, social, environmental, and economic vulnerabilities and shocks.

Contributing to a meeting organized by the World Bank, Mithika Mwenda, Executive Director, Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA) said the world is now past the point where governments do not see interconnectedness of major global challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate emergency and that these need joint responses and not as separate crises. 

“The need for multi-threat approaches to analyzing and addressing local and global crises has never been more evident as now,” he said.

George Kronnisanyon Werner, Former Minister of Education, Liberia said there are important lessons picked from COVID-19 pandemic, mainly that it is possible for purposeful political leadership and non-state actors to come together to provide lifesaving solutions. “The post-COVID-19 pandemic world wants this strengthened to build back better”.

Eden Getachew, Head of Centre of Government and Delivery practice, Tony Blair Institute for Global Change noted the quick way in which governments went into emergency delivery mechanisms while responding to COVID-19. She said most governments, like Rwanda and Kenya were quick to repurpose their emergency plans to achieve much. This must be sustained in post-COVID-19 recovery plans.

According to George, for Africa to build back better, the continent has to identify and maximize on innovations capable of bringing more good to more people. “This might include the need for digital literacy across board with shared cost among public-private players, and shared expertise,” he noted adding that there is lots of thinking around partnerships with the private sector, particularly in the IT sector. 

Mwenda said the recent floods in Germany, Belgium, Netherlands and China, and the rising wildfire cases in the US, Greece, Tunisia, Turkey and the heat waves in Canada and India should be reason enough to drive home the point that responding to climate change is survival for all humanity — a key lesson he said which has always eluded the west.

“We are in this titanic ship we call planet earth together. We either act to save ourselves regardless of our races, geographical locations or national income classifications or we sink together,” he remarked.

Mithika said as CSOs, they have severally demanded technology transfer, and finance for adaptation to help adequately response to the climate crisis. But all along the message has been from the developed governments has remained the same: “there is no money”. However, the same developed governments came out strongly to raise billions of dollars within a short time in responding to COVID-19, a clear indication that what has been lacking is the political goodwill. 

Clement Uwajeneza, Chairman, Rwanda Chamber of ICT said African governments need to innovative on climate action not just in post-COVID-19 but even now while we are in it. He appreciated the Rwandan Government’s effort to leverage on public-private partnership to offer effective COVID-19 response.

But Rwanda’s case needs to be emulated across the continent. “We still have rigid governments who are not easy to adapt to new innovations. Such attitudes make delivery hard and may hinder effective post-COVID recovery,” said Eden. 

Olowo Okere of the World Bank noted that increasingly, governments realise that they cannot meet all the public service needs of citizens and that they need non-state actors. “We must review our experiences such as: the role of faith based organisations, the sharing of costs and expertise with the private sector, and how governments can learn from private tech firms,” he said. He however noted that weak public institutions would be a major challenge to resilient recovery.

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