African lead­ers re­main mum

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - AZAD ESSA

Azad Essa is a jour­nal­ist at Al Jazeera. He is also co-founder of The Daily Vox

SO MUCH has been writ­ten about the US gov­ern­ment pulling out of the Paris 2015 climate ac­cord last week. For most of us, the move was just an­other cir­cus act by the world’s clown; an­other moment of lu­nacy to mock and jeer. And then to move on.

But Trump has a point: the climate deal signed by some 194 coun­tries at the end of 2015, the first of its kind in the move to tackle climate change, was pretty or­di­nary. While world lead­ers lauded the deal, many en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists close to the cause de­scribed it as “weak” and “lack­ing am­bi­tion”. Ba­si­cally, the non-bind­ing deal only re­ally urged coun­tries to do more.

In­deed, most climate change ac­tivists, fight­ing against the use of fos­sil fu­els and the like, have ar­gued that the Paris deal was a sham in the first place. It made the best hand in a poor pack of cards.

Of course, Trump’s de­ci­sion to pull out of the climate deal has noth­ing to do with the en­vi­ron­ment, and more about Trump want­ing to ex­ert his tyranny over the globe. He may have cited the deal as treach­er­ous to Amer­i­can in­ter­ests, but given that the goals were vol­un­tary, and put for­ward by the US gov­ern­ment it­self, it was noth­ing the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion was ac­tu­ally com­pelled to carry out.

Make no mis­take: when In­dia, China, or a wide set of Euro­pean coun­tries now con­firm their com­mit­ment to the climate deal, they com­mit them­selves “to act­ing on their own time”, ie. of do­ing noth­ing if they don’t want to. The deal is a lib­eral dream; the per­fect mix of in­dus­tri­al­i­sa­tion, green-cap­i­tal­ism and white guilt. Na­tions get to con­tinue as they were, but now, with ac­knowl­edge­ment. Noth­ing has to re­ally change.

As ar­gued else­where, Trump’s ob­sti­nance, crass and pithy man­ners to­wards the climate, and just about any­thing, has al­lowed more tra­di­tional pres­i­dents and prime min­is­ters like the Justin Trudeaus and the Naren­dra Modis of the world to spew unchecked rhetoric of car­ing for the en­vi­ron­ment, while push­ing on with a dis­as­trous in­dus­tri­al­i­sa­tion agenda. In many ways, Trump has only dis­man­tled the sham.

Lead­ers with an ounce of charisma have man­aged to cap­i­talise on his com­par­a­tive id­iocy, forc­ing our hand in be­liev­ing our lead­ers are not that bad af­ter all.

But our lead­ers, pre­cisely those on the African con­ti­nent, are re­ally just as bad, af­ter all.

If our con­ti­nent’s lead­ers had an ounce

Ac­tivists claimed that the Paris climate change deal was a sham long be­fore Trump’s pullout

of self-re­spect, they would be ex­press­ing their ab­so­lute damna­tion at the US with­drawal from the Paris ac­cord, or us­ing this moment as an op­por­tu­nity to speak of the dan­ger­ous con­se­quences of not tak­ing climate change se­ri­ously. South Africa’s De­part­ment of En­vi­ron­men­tal Af­fairs de­scribed “its pro­found re­gret over the de­ci­sion of the US to with­draw from the Paris Agree­ment… (and called) on the US to re­con­sider its po­si­tion and to recom­mit to the mul­ti­lat­eral process”.

But in March, the South African gov­ern­ment sig­nalled the green light to the frack­ing of shale gas in the Ka­roo, which is cer­tainly harm­ful to the en­vi­ron­ment. Our dis­ap­proval of the US is as per­func­tory as the climate ac­cord it­self.

The African con­ti­nent con­trib­utes the least to global warm­ing, but it is the con­ti­nent that stands most to lose from climate change. Sci­en­tists say that by the end of the cen­tury, it is likely that land tem­per­a­tures on the con­ti­nent will rise faster than the global av­er­age; rain­fall will de­crease sub­stan­tially in parts of north and south­ern Africa; ocean ecosys­tems will suf­fer dam­age; chances of flood­ing in Ethiopia will in­crease dra­mat­i­cally. As ur­ban dwellers, we might be okay in the in­terim; the price of maize, rice, vegeta­bles will rise, but so long as they are avail­able in Shoprite or Woolies, we will “ad­just”.

For those re­liant on crops, it means hunger even death. Climate change is not just about failed crops or inconvenient higher prices. In 2009, be­tween 30000-50000 chil­dren died on the con­ti­nent due to mal­nu­tri­tion.

In fact, so many of the wars and con­flicts, be they in South Su­dan or So­ma­lia or Cen­tral African Repub­lic are over re­sources, and par­tic­u­larly, over land. If you are liv­ing in Sand­ton in Jo­han­nes­burg, or West­lands in Nairobi, it is easy to for­get that the con­ti­nent re­mains ru­ral; that en­tire wars start over in­fringe­ment over land by goats and sheep search­ing for graz­ing land. We of­ten fail to recog­nise that mil­lions of peo­ple have been forced to va­cate their land to move to so-called greener pas­tures, as a re­sult of poor or extreme cli­matic con­di­tions over the past decade.

While we sleep, for­eign gov­ern­ments, be they from the Gulf, Is­rael, In­dia or China, are pre­dict­ing a po­ten­tial food cri­sis in the decades to come and splashing gifts upon our lead­ers in ex­change for land on the con­ti­nent. De­vel­op­ing agri­cul­ture is para­mount to pulling peo­ple out of poverty on the con­ti­nent. Yet, our lead­ers re­main so will­ing to sell it all to the high­est bid­der.

To quote an oft-re­peated line from Kumi Naidoo, the for­mer di­rec­tor of Green­peace: “The strug­gle has never been about sav­ing the planet. The planet does not need sav­ing. If we warm it up to the point where we can­not ex­ist we’ll be gone, the planet will still be here.”

CLIMATE MOVE: Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump lis­tens as En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency ad­min­is­tra­tor Scott Pruitt speaks about the US role in the Paris climate change ac­cord.

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