African faith leaders urged to push for tangible climate change action

African faith leaders are being urged to push for commitments on tangible climate change action, as governments head to the next climate negotiations at the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of Parties (COP 26) in the city of Glasgow in the United Kingdom from 1-12 November.

By Fredrick Nzwili*

According to the Rev. Dr Fidon Mwombeki, general secretary of the All Africa Conference of Churches, the faith leaders can no longer remain silent as the people in Africa continued to suffer from the extreme effects of the phenomenon.

“Faith leaders are witnessing the effects of rising temperatures, excessive droughts, changing weather patterns leading to cyclones and excessive flooding, conflicts arising from competition for resources such as depleting grazing lands due to droughts…,” Mwombeki, a pastor from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania told a climate change round table meeting in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

The Protestant grouping had organized the gathering from 19-20 May, under the theme, “The welfare of the earth is our welfare.” Inviting faith and church leaders, and climate experts, the grouping wanted to sharpen the focus of its climate change program and draft a position paper for engagement before, during and after the COP 26.

“Our planet is in danger because of climate change…creation has wealth of its own, nothing is a mere raw material. The gift of our planet and ecology must be treated with devotion and gratitude,” said Archbishop Dr Abba Aregawi, the Supreme Head of the Private Secretariat of His Holiness, The Patriarch and Foreign Affairs Department of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church.

Even a small increase in global temperatures devastates living creatures, flora and fauna, the meeting’s concept document says. It further adds that rainforests—the world’s lungs—are threatened. It warns that the world is accelerating alarmingly towards the upper limit of global warming, a development that would cause long-lasting changes to the climate system.

Climate change is seen in global warming-driven greenhouse gases emission (mainly carbon dioxide and methane), and the large-scale shifts in weather patterns. Experts say that fossil fuel burning—including coal, oil and natural gas—for energy consumption is the main source of the gases. There are also additional emissions from agriculture, deforestation, and manufacturing.

“The world cannot continue to cause anthropogenic climate change which is driven by human-caused emissions to the atmosphere unabated.  Carbon emissions have to be mitigated,” warns the document.

Dr Augustine Njamnshi, chairperson of the Political Committee at PanAfrican Climate Justice Alliance, said Africa’s circumstances and needs have not been fully addressed at the global climate change negotiations.

“African negotiators have requested and failed to obtain any acknowledgement of the needs of the continent, which since the Paris Agreement, is no longer part of the least developed countries and island development issues,” said Njamnshi, adding that the demand from the African countries and people is a COP26 outcome that is desirable and that is consistent with the continent’s realities.

Dr Solomon Belay Faris, a representative of the Baha’i International Community, Addis Ababa office said the faiths have to move beyond the technical issues dominating the climate change discussions.

“It is our role as religious leaders to infuse the will of God into the climate change agenda,” he said.

Leah Wanambwa, a senior policy officer on climate change at Africa Union, urged the churches and faiths to help break down the complex language around climate to one that ordinary people can understand.

“We have learned that nature can fight back. When we throw mud at it, it will throw it back. So I think with COVID we have learned that we need to connect with nature, go back to the basics and start again,” said Wanambwa.

* Fredrick Nzwili is an independent journalist based in Nairobi, Kenya.

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