Two wrongs don’t make a right

Tamika Du-Pont – Hlumisa (Eswatini Youth Climate Network)

In November, the world closely watched what is arguably the biggest and most important annual Global Climate Conference. COP26 kicked off strong as world leaders such as the Prime minister of Barbados ‘Mia Mottley’ and legend Sir David Attenborough called for rapid and ambitious global climate action. Young climate activists weren’t left behind and made good use of this opportunity and made their voices heard on a global scale. Of all the speeches given by these brave young activists, I was especially touched by the words of Kenyan activist Elizabeth Wathuti who pleaded to world leaders to lead their negotiations with a deep compassion for the damages and human lives already lost to the devastating impacts of climate change. She reminded leaders of the severity of the crisis most especially for Africans and those from other developing regions. 

This year the issue of Climate Justice has taken centre stage, which is a concept based on the recognition that the impacts of climate change are not felt equally with the Global South, particularly developing nations bearing the brunt of the impacts. Climate Justice is rooted in principles of social justice and recognises the fact that developed nations have contributed immensely to the crisis whilst developing regions who have made insignificant contributions to global emissions stand on the ‘frontlines’ of the climate crisis. Whilst it is pretty clear that developed nations have the responsibility of helping developing nations combat and adapt to climate change, the role of developing nations in the global fight against climate action remains a shaky topic particularly as it pertains to the use of fossil fuels for development. Many nations including China and India have demanded that they get a greenlight to continuously develop using fossil fuels (particularly coal) before they make the transition to greener means of development. 

Whilst one could easily argue that developed nations should support developing nations in building or transitioning to a greener economy; I can’t help but ponder on the following questions; why should developing nations be allowed to choose a development pathway that undermines the integrity of the environment and which continuously contributes to the rise in global temperatures? Should governments (developed or under-developed) continuously get away with development pathways that are harmful to human life? Should people, particularly young people living in developing regions, be okay with a development pathway that is unjust and threatens their futures? Should young people living in developing nations not expect and demand their leaders to make choices that ensure multi-generational well-being rather than short-term gains? 

Just recently, the African Climate Alliance (an African youth led climate group) partnered with various legal and environmental groups in taking the South African government to court for increasing the proportion of coal generated power in their National Energy Plan. This is the first time a youth led environmental group has taken the SA government to court and should be an early warning sign for what is to come (aka more protests, more action).Whilst climate advocates from the West receive most of the limelight, one must not forget that there is a growing climate movement happening right here on our African soils. The necessity of African leaders to tackle climate change head-on is paramount. The latest IPCC report reveals statistics showing that Sub-Saharan Africa is warming up three times faster than the rest of the globe. This of course presents a worrying trajectory for the future of young people on the African continent as rising global temperatures threaten the security of people’s livelihoods.

It is no surprise that Climate Change has been labelled the defining issue of our generation. Young  people such as myself hope and want a more sustainable and greener future and expect our leaders to work towards the same goal. Like many, I felt disappointed at the COP26 outcome of “phase down” coal rather than “phase out”coal, which was a plea pushed by leaders from developing regions. This for me was an indication that leaders from developing nations do not fully appreciate the opportunities that a green economy presents. Secondly, it also highlights that they do not care to listen to the demands of young people from their own countries and would rather point fingers at the West instead of moving at the pace necessary to prevent surpassing the 1.5 degree threshold. My wish as a young African is to see Africa realise her greatest potential, for leaders to take the responsibility and opportunities that sit within greening an economy and to do so with much commitment, ambition and execution. I’d like to end off with a phrase a good friend of mine usually says:.. “We Owe It To Our Ancestors”