Climate Activists Cautioned Against Commodification Of Climate Crisis

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African climate activists meeting in Kigali Rwanda have cautioned against commodification of climate crisis, instead said “it is all about people”.

Speaking on the sidelines of the eighth African Regional Forum on Sustainable Development, Robert Muthami, a climate policy expert and a Programme Coordinator at the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, said that amidst the climate crisis, economic losses as a result are now estimated at USD520 billion annually, “in the end it is human life that is at stake hence a social crisis. And this is what should inform the debates around just transition.”

According to Muthami, the call for the means of implementation with the required political will must be people centered.

“When, we in Africa demand raise of ambition in addressing the climate crisis coupled with insecurity and the covid 19 crises, from the background of common but differentiated capacities and respective capabilities, what we mean from Africa is urgent action to save livelihoods which are already at dire risk” he said

He added that science has time and again shown that a rise of temperature above 1.5 ⁰C will incapacitate the African people to adapt. “And am not sure if this is what those in the developed north want,” he posed.

Tracy Sonny, from Botswana and a Board Member of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance, which is Africa’s largest coalition of climate activists who clamour for fair and just climate regimes for the African people noted that the danger Africa faces emanates from bilateral agreements with the governments in the West. As a result, most governments do not invest in what they commit and have remained on fossil fuel development pathway.

The idea of just transition originated from the global north. The preservation of capitalistic interests were at the core of this idea before trade union movements were co-opted from perspective of securing employment opportunities.

The concept articulates principles and demands aimed at ensuring workers and their communities are not disadvantaged by environmental protection policies, and this unchecked can deeply compromise on environmental and social safeguards.

The idea has gained traction since the publication of ‘Guidelines for a Just Transition towards environmentally sustainable economies and societies for all’ by the International Labour Organisation in 2015 and following its inclusion in the preamble of the Paris Agreement adopted in the same year. But different institutions, this concept has varied definitions, not least in Africa.

According to Muthami, Just Transition is an inclusive support mechanism of climate action, and not a concept to slow down action.

“Just Transition is a tool aimed at smoothing the shift towards a more sustainable society and providing hope for the capacity of a green economy to sustain decent jobs and broadly livelihoods for all,” said Muthami.

Eugene Nforngwa, the energy thematic lead at the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance said the expression encompasses a range of concerns over the likely negative effects of the decarbonisation of multiple sectors on equality, human rights, access to resources and development.

There is now an increasing need for a broader conversation that includes questions around development rights, as nations forgo certain types of productive activities to align with global decarbonisation goals.

“This includes risks of asset stranding as nations and other actors phase out fossil fuels and certain extractive sectors (upon which most developing economies rely). Analysts in certain fields have coined the expression “just development” to embrace this burgeoning scope,” he said.

Hope Okuthe, of PACJA puts it in a plain language “Just Transition should be by the people and for the people supporting local development with Africa leading the solutions. This should not be a trade-off between transition and development”

“Africa needs to guard against polluters taking control of her desire to transit to low carbon.  In such a context the risk to compromise Africa’s future with high cost of energy mix is real” asserted Jiata Ekelle from Civil Society Development Network, Nigeria.

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