Backsliding on the Paris Agreement is not an option

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Martin Kapenda with Ravi Shankar Prasad, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change of India at COP24.

  I am a church leader who came from Zambia to attend the annual UN Climate Talks - COP24 - in Katowice, Poland as part of the Renew Our World team. Renew Our World is a global movement of Christians acting and praying for a fair and sustainable world for all, with a current focus on climate change. Back home farmers are constantly faced with challenges of either prolonged dry spells during the raining season or perennial floods. This is a concerning pattern I have seen over the past decade. This is not good for farmers and household food security is under threat. Many farmers in Zambia are living in poverty, and this is made worse by the impacts of climate change, especially the change in the predictability of rain patterns which threaten farming. Zambian farmers are looking for pathways to a future free from the worst impacts of climate change which threaten their livelihoods. And as a church leader, who takes God’s concern for the poor and stewardship of His creation very seriously, I must respond and speak out.

My dream at COP24

I attended this year’s climate talks full of hope that something good would emerge from the negotiations. I was anxious to see our leaders agree on the rules for turning the landmark Paris Agreement into a reality and then set stronger action in motion. Climate change will not wait and leaders need to take action immediately. Some of the people who live under constant threats of climate change are not even aware of the international negotiations. However, they are interested in solutions that will help reduce emissions to limit the worst impacts, and also help adaptation efforts to lead to improvements in their wellbeing. Back in Zambia, I want to be the bearer of good news and assure farmers experiencing poverty and food insecurity that more help is on the way. With COP24 we have the opportunity to realise the three main commitments of the Paris Agreement which will be part of  good news to the farmers in Zambia:
  • Holding the increase in the global average temperature to 1.5°C;
  • Increasing the ability to adapt to the adverse impacts of climate change and foster climate resilience and low greenhouse gas emissions development, in a manner that does not threaten food production; and
  • Making finance flows consistent with a pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate-resilient development. We need to see delivery on the $100bn committed each year by developed countries.

Handover to the head of the delegation from Mozambique and their Ambassador to the US, Carlos Dos Santos


What farmers in poverty need

This COP will make sense to farmers in Zambia if the world leaders actually deliver outcomes on climate finance. Zambia and other nations in the majority South need assurance that developed countries are willing and sincere to provide detailed quantitative and qualitative public finance in order to enhance predictability and accountability. When climate finance is predictable and accountable this will enhance trust and confidence in the post-Paris Agreements and I am sure this will help the Zambian Government to plan interventions with certainty and implement plans. Our generation is at a tipping point of an environmental disaster. Unless new policies and interventions emerge, which address the current environmental concerns the next generation will be inheriting a world full of environmental challenges. Climate change is the most crucial issue facing us today. If world leaders decide to increase resilience to climate change this will make farmers in poverty in Zambia feel supported in their quest to grow food sustainably. Climate actions need to benefit the poor who are hard hit by climate change.

Wise stewards and loving neighbours

In Genesis, we are given a picture of God’s delight in all he had created. We read of the special role he gave humanity: to work in partnership with creation and take care of it. God has given us all the glorious abundance of this earth to nourish and enrich our lives. As we go about our work, as we love and raise our families – serving the church and our communities in the work of God’s renewal – we need to reflect the biblical call to be wise stewards and loving neighbours. We must consider our impact upon the earth through the lens of our love for God and for people. This flows through to how we as individuals live and pray, but also how our Governments act.   Our God, creator and sustainer of our lives and the entire creation, we need your intervention as we plead on behalf of people living in poverty.  Heal our land so that the people living in poverty and work the land, can reap plenty. We do realise that creation is groaning due to our sinful actions and wrong choices and for that reason we ask for your forgiveness. We are grateful that you have promised to heal our land once we humble ourselves, seek your face and turn away from our wicked ways (2 Chron 7:14)  

Concluding thoughts

The stakes of moving the Paris Agreement forward are much higher than in the past. COP 24 took place in the wake of continued droughts in Zambia and/or floods whenever it rains - making it essential that just climate action is needed now. There is a need for dramatic policy changes that limit global temperature rise to the threshold laid out in the Paris Agreement. Back sliding on the Paris Agreement is not an option and inaction will trap millions of people into intergenerational poverty.