PACJA: COP26 will offer nothing to African people

Members of Panafrican Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA),  Dr Mithika Mwenda, protesting in Glasgow, Scotland during the COP26 climate change conference. PHOTO/PACJA

By SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT

The first week of the 26th edition of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, popularly known as COP 26, ended without signals of success, with African delegates and civil society terming the summit a potential failure.

The Executive Director of Panafrican Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA),  Dr Mithika Mwenda, accused industrialised countries of circumventing the multilateral process under UNFCCC to ensure that climate action serves their nationalistic interests.

“Rich countries’ priority now is to use climate change as another strategic imperialistic and dominance tool,” Dr Mwenda said that they were tricked by signing a suicidal pact that was not to serve their interests.

Speaking during the Global Day of Action that was marked by street demonstrations around the City of Glasgow in Scotland the venue of COP26, the PACJA boss said his organization had warned African countries during a meeting in Paris, France they were tricked by signing a suicidal pact that was not to serve their interests.

“Now they have come to realize,” the Executive Director of the Nairobi-based organization, arguably the largest civil society network across the African continent said.

Dr Mwenda said the African delegation to the COP26 climate talks was interested in issues such as climate finance, adaptation and special  needs and circumstances region status, which he said were expunged from the COP 26 agenda.

“I don’t think anything will come up from this COP,” Dr Mwenda said adding reports coming from the discussion rooms showed lack of political will, and lack of action that is going to impact future generations.

He said although Africa was not being listened to, through street demonstration; civil society groups wanted their leaders to know that it was no longer going to be business as usual and that people will no longer be coming up year in and out for COP to witness failure and inadequate focus on the continent’s aspirations.

“With this march we are able to articulate issues which are not heard from the halls of negotiations which have largely excluded voices of people at the frontline of climate crisis. We will shout from the depth of our hearts until we make it itchy for rich countries to avoid us,” he added.

Dr Mwenda said their street demonstrations in Glasgow were aimed at making the citizens of Glasgow and rest of the rich world to know that the windows for endless discussion for leaders on climate change are nearing an end.

Dr Godwin Ojo from Friends of the Earth Nigeria address protestors at COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland. PHOTO/PACJA

“We want the global communities to know that the solution to climate change will not come from the these privileged rooms, rather people and communities take it upon themselves to find solutions,” he emphasised.

The march drew people all walks of life, from pressure groups, NGOs to smallholder farmers, fisherfolk, women, the youth and the vulnerable communities and the indigenous communities.

Dr Godwin Ojo from Friends of the Earth Nigeria noted that he got motivated to step out to demonstrate in bad weather because like any other African, he is fed up with the exclusionary tendencies governing the discussions in Glasgow.

Noting that the groups have failed to adequately get a physical platform to express their views, Ojo decried the way they have sent numerous memos to leaders without getting a hearing.

 “They are all here out of frustrations and see this street march as their only solution to be heard or their concern to the powers that be,” Dr Ojo said.

The big news at the COP26 conference on Wednesday was that the COP26 draft agreement was published by the Presidency, a preview of the final outcome document of the conference when it wraps up on Friday.

The document urges countries to strengthen their national commitments and submit their strategies for their net-zero plans by 2022 to keep the 1.5C goal within reach.

It also includes, for the first time in a COP outcome text, a mention of ‘loss and damage’, as well as a call to end fossil fuels subsidies.

Members of the NGO Climate Action Network said that they welcomed the first mention ever of “loss and damage” recognizing that communities dealing with the challenges of rebuilding and recovering after climate disasters need the support of the world to do so but said that the text’s words were just “fluff”.

“When it comes down to it, they will make no difference to the communities, to the small holder farmers, to the women and girls in the Global South. This text will still not do anything for those who have been hit the hardest by deadly flooding, cyclones, droughts, rising sea levels,” said Teresa Anderson of Climate Policy Coordinator of Actionaid International.

The Executive Director of Panafrican Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA),  Dr Mithika Mwenda, lead protests in Glasgow, Scotland during the COP26 climate change conference. PHOTO/PACJA

Indeed, she said the text was yet more empty rhetoric, and that merely calling the situation “urgent” means nothing without a real commitment to action.

“If COP26 doesn’t match its recognition of urgency with real action to address it, to meet the needs of the people in the frontlines of the crisis, then it will be an empty vessel. A text that creates the illusion of action is arguably worse than no text at all,” Ms. Anderson declared, and added that the people of the world were sick and tired of “all this pretense” and of “leaders sitting on their hands…while devastation is heading our way.”

She said world leaders need to “go back and get it right by referencing all fossil fuels – not just coal – and by recognizing equity, by demanding more of the biggest polluters, and linking the call to action with finance for developing countries,” she added.

Finally, she said net-zero promises are a myth used by polluters and governments to lure people into a false sense of security that the climate crisis is being addressed.

“If you scratch the surface of a net zero target, you’ll likely search in vain for the radical systemic transformationin energy, food, transport, and industrial systems that are so urgently needed to ensure a livable planet,” Ms. Anderson said.

The activist told journalist that with the draft outcome document leaders are ‘still failing us” with empty words that are not on target to meet the scale of the “enormous challenge facing humanity.”

“Where is the support to help people forced to pick up the pieces from climate disasters? Where is the action to meet all this urgency? And where are the commitments to limit global warming or to back up climate finance?” she concluded.

Also today, Greta Thunberg and other youth activists announced on Twitter that they sent a letter to the United Nations filing a legal petition to the UN Secretary-General urging him to declare a system-wide climate emergency, which would allow him to send resources and staff to countries most susceptible to climate change disasters.

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