Monday, April 15, 2024
Global AddisCommon cause, uneven burden

Common cause, uneven burden

The injustice at the heart of the climate crisis

The drought has ruled this land for far too long.

Its barren grip tightens each year, squeezing what little life remains from parched fields and weary souls. Analysts point their fingers at corruption, negligence and a misplaced sense of apathy that allowed this drought to fester into a catastrophe.

Now tens of millions suffer. Livelihoods wither. Lives crumble to dust.

Five rainy seasons have failed in a row, each planting time bringing more hardship, more desperation. Scientists warn that a sixth consecutive drought looms – something not seen for decades. Crop failures plague Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan and Uganda. Challenges mount while resilience weakens. Families are pushed to the breaking point.

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Political maneuvering and fancy speeches don’t fill empty stomachs or quench thirst. Corruption siphons away what little resources remain, like leeches sucking life from a once lush land. The people carry on, holding tight to what hope they have left. But each day they become a little thinner, a little weaker, a little less hopeful that this unrelenting drought will ever break. Scientists predict this could become the new normal.  But the people of the Horn still believe rain will return, crops will thrive once more, and life will nourish this thirsty ground again.

The drought has taken an immense toll on livestock in the Horn of Africa, with at least eight million cattle reported killed. This has prompted many people to migrate in search of water, grazing for their animals or food for their families.

Nearly 20 million people in the region are suffering from food insecurity, according to the UN Refugee Agency.

A recent study by the World Weather Attribution Group found that the drought was caused by human-induced climate change, not just lack of rain. Higher temperatures from global warming have made the land and plants significantly drier through increased evaporation.

The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission has called for immediate action in the Oromia and Somalia regions due to the devastating effects of the drought in Ethiopia. The Commission cited the absence of an early warning system, inadequate data and a delayed response.

The Ethiopian Institution of the Ombudsman criticized officials for failing to provide an early warning system during the climate-induced drought in affected areas, according to its findings released last month.

A report by the Institute for Security Studies found that the Horn of Africa contributes only 0.1 percent of global emissions. It calls for regional cooperation to recognize mitigation as an essential adaptive mechanism that must be implemented carefully to foster growth.

Scholars and conservative groups point to one of the bigger issues: how money from donors for green projects in developing countries is transferred, while climate finance comes from larger, industrialized and wealthier nations that contribute more to climate change, despite the looming global threat.

At the 2009 climate talks in Copenhagen, rich countries pledged to spend USD 100 billion annually by 2020. This would be to assist developing countries in coping with the effects of climate change, facilitate their transition to low-carbon, climate-resilient economies and societies, and mitigate the disproportionate effects of climate change on these nations.

Unfortunately, the goal of providing climate finance from wealthy countries to developing nations has not been achieved. Rich countries have failed to meet their funding commitments.In the meantime, the most vulnerable communities continue to suffer the impacts of climate change. This includes people in the Horn of Africa, who have been disproportionately affected by the changing global climate.

According to leading climate change researcher and lecturer Beyene Tekelu at Hawassa University, while the effects of climate change are similar everywhere, the Horn of Africa region has limited adaptive capacity due to its geographical location.

Beyene says the region’s location in terms of meteorological and climatic characteristics is relatively unstable compared to other regions for natural reasons. However, methane gas evaporation is relatively low in the region.

The researcher stressed the need for regional leaders to at least try to play a coordinated role in multiple international forums to push for and demand compensation for forestation efforts, carbon funds, lost revenues and any damages the region may face.

Beyene asserts that regional leaders must develop a comprehensive plan and strategy, push further and meet with wealthy, industrialized nations. Since carbon financing is both an economic and political issue, he believes assertive leadership is needed in forums with industrialized nations.

The researcher cited the bold visibility of the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s regime in climate conferences and its impact in uniting the continent for climate politics. However, he said while Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s tree planting efforts appear successful, global warming in Ethiopia will not be mitigated by tree planting alone unless regional leaders make a political commitment.

Beyene said “The injustice will be resolved if the Eastern African bloc Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the continental bloc, the African Union (AU), unite on the issue of the promised but unfulfilled funds.”

He explained the need to involve climate experts and researchers as political advisors to secure funding for carbon monitoring efforts.

Senior climate change expert Meseret Abdisa said the impacts of climate change are “borderless,” though wealthy nations are also affected, the shock is greatest in poorer nations like the Horn of Africa. He stressed the importance of united action and abandoning the current passive leadership.

Meseret said the fact that 8 million people die annually due to climate change indicates an alarming issue requiring immediate action. Though the “polluter pays” principle exists, lack of coordinated political leadership has left the region vulnerable.

“In short, unless developing nations, particularly climate shock regions, continue to speak out, the impact could become unmanageable,” Mesret said. He believes leaders should avoid inaction and stop claiming food shortages are the only public problem while ignoring the climate change threat.

In an interview with The Reporter, Belgian climate scientist Jean Pascal – a candidate for IPCC chairperson – said the IPCC has repeatedly noted that developed countries are primarily responsible for past greenhouse gas emissions, while the severe impacts of climate change are mostly felt by vulnerable populations and countries in the developing world.

The professor said this fundamentally unjust situation has been discussed in prior IPCC reports, including from an ethical standpoint. Climate change is a global issue requiring international cooperation, he noted.

“As we are talking about the habitability of the only inhabitable planet in the solar system, caring for it is a common responsibility. But we also know these responsibilities are differentiated, as rich countries have more resources, money and technology than poorer countries,” Pascal added.

Ultimately, achieving meaningful progress on climate change will require cooperation between developed and developing countries based on shared responsibility for caring for the planet. But it will also require recognizing that responsibilities are differentiated given wealth disparities, as many climate justice advocates maintain.

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Video from Enat Bank Youtube Channel.

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