Thursday, December 11, 2014

Africa's Climate Change Challenge

‘The origin of global warming lies in capitalism. If we could end capitalism—and this is something we should do at global level—we would have a solution.” Bolivia’s president, Evo Morales

Nnimmo Bassey, a Nigerian environmental activist, director of Health of Mother Earth Foundation, and author of "To Cook a Continent: Destructive Extraction and the Climate Crisis in Africa." Bassey says the carbon trading included in the draft agreement could increase deforestation, displace farmers and contribute to the food crisis in Africa. This is what he says :

“…with regard to the Conference of Parties on climate change, I believe that there was a big derailment right from Copenhagen at COP 15. So, there is no real reason to think there’s going to be something that we can say, yes, finally, the world is on track to tackle global warming. We’re still seeing situations where nations are haggling and debating over figures, nothing to show that there is an understanding that climate change is something that has been scientifically investigated and that there must be a way to evaluate aggregate actions by different countries that would add up to a result that will tackle the problem. Right from the arrival of the Copenhagen Accord, everything is moving in terms of the direction of voluntary commitments to reduce emissions…What is causing global warming? One of the major causes is the dependence on fossil fuels. And all the conservative organizations, like the World Bank, the International Energy Agency, have all indicated that unless up two 80 percent of known fossil fuel reserves are left under the ground, we are on track for catastrophic temperature increase. There’s no talk about leaving fossil fuels. Everything is about how to offset the pollution, so every mechanism is being developed that would help polluting industry and rich countries to continue with business as usual.

…the effect of climate change is real, already being experienced. It’s not something for the future. And Africa is so central in the whole of this because Africa experiences 50 percent more in terms of temperature rise than the global average. So if the global average temperature goes up by two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, in Africa the experience will be three degrees Celsius. If it goes to six degrees, that will be nine degrees. Africa is set to be roasted. We’re going to a scenario where we may have Africa without Africans. It’s really horrible.

The floods are getting more, the droughts, the desertification. Africa may well be the only continent where the desert is still spreading. And then, with the assault on land grabs and everything, we are really being squeezed. In 2012, we had floods across the continent. In my country, Nigeria, six million people were displaced by flooding in one year. Over 300 lost their lives. We had similar flooding replicated across the continent. We’re having also the challenge of sea level rise. Where I come from, the Niger Delta, the land is naturally subsiding. So when you have a combination of sea level rise and land subsidence, you’re having a heightened impact.

We are seeing a situation also, from research, that if the situation continues the way it’s going, by 2050 we may well have more than 50 percent increase in conflicts on the continent. I mean, this is something I don’t even want to think about, considering the level of resource conflict, political conflicts and other manifestation of violence on the continent…

….REDD is Reducing Emissions for Deforestation and Forest Degradation. That’s what it’s meant to mean. That’s what it—I mean, it’s a concept that nobody will really oppose, but when you look at the practice on the ground, it’s just a carbon market mechanism, where polluting industries and rich nations, instead of stopping pollution at its source, will secure and buy up forests in Africa, in Latin America, somewhere else, and even some forests in the Global North, so as to permit them to pollute. REDD is a mechanism that permits the polluter to continue polluting….what they would do in Brazil is that the forests would be—the forest-dependent communities would now be more or less displaced from having access to the forest, forest resources and also their territories. If I take this back to Africa, right as we speak, the displacement of communities in the Sengwer—of the Sengwer people in Kenya, who have been displaced from their forests because the REDD project is about to set in there. We’ve had displacement of thousands in Uganda already. In Nigeria, my own country, the Cross River forests, part of it is being secured for REDD projects….People are being forced out with military power, military might, so as to secure carbon. Forest trees are being seen as carbon stocks, not as trees anymore. And the fearful thing is that with the discussions in REDD, this may move on to issues of not just carbon in trees, but carbon in agriculture. So farmers will be farming carbon rather than growing food for people to eat. And unfortunately also for the United Nations, a forest is—a plantation is accepted as a forest. So, REDD is set to kind of accelerate plantations across the tropical world. This would mean more displacement of communities, more displacement of farmers from farming land. And, of course, it’s going to compound the food crisis in the region….”

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