African religious leaders condemn hijacking of continental Climate Summit

Global North

Faith leaders have condemned the inaction among those responsible for the climate crisis and blamed the Global North for hijacking the Africa Climate Summit.

In a statement read at the historical Ufungamano House in Nairobi, on the sidelines of the Africa Climate Summit, representatives from the Hindu, Muslim and Christian communities from diverse denominations said the event ignored the most crucial voices in the effort to address the climate crisis.

They made six demands. On Climate Finance, they said: “We are cognizant of the fact that there has not been adequate financial support directed to the African continent despite efforts and commitments from the developed countries to avail the same. The African Climate Summit presents an opportunity for developed countries, who have contributed the most to the climate crisis, to move beyond rhetoric and deliver on the long due finance.

The leaders pushed for funds to compensate victims of Loss and Damage, adding that the continent anticipated “severest adverse effects of human-induced climate change, compared to most other regions of the world due to a relatively low adaptive capacity”.

They called for operationalization, “including capitalization by rich countries, of the loss and damage fund to offer relief to Global South countries through provision of grant financing.”

Others were “Youth and Green Jobs”, in recognition of the demographics’ growth in numbers. “We call upon African leaders to adopt a plan of action with robust policy and regulatory measures necessary for African countries to implement and support the growth of inclusive green economies that can provide jobs for the youth”. Others were support for research and innovation to advance greener economic diversification and growth, strategies that facilitate development of financial solutions among others.

The fourth demand was on Climate Adaptation, with a call for the African Climate Week to “have clear implementation plans on the strengthening of adaptation actions and resilience against the consequences of the climate crisis as one of its core outcomes”.

The faith leaders addressed Fossil Fuel Phase-out and Supporting of Renewable energy access, as well as Agriculture, Food Security and Sovereignty.

“As guardians of spiritual wisdom and moral guidance, we are disheartened by how actions to tackle climate change fall short of the required urgent ambition. The values of stewardship, empathy, justice, equity and solidarity as enshrined in our faith traditions must guide every decision and action that is taken at the Africa Climate Summit and Week,” the statement read in part.

Speaking after reading the statement yesterday, Sheikh Ibrahim Lethome of the Islamic Religious Council said the youth were crucial in achieving action through agriculture and several sectors. He emphasized the need for the voices of faith leaders in climate change discussions, as a moral guide to the rest of the world to restore Mother Earth’s well-being.

“I have never seen someone buy a car but use it in ways that are not stated in the user manual. I have never seen anyone add porridge, black tea or soda to a fuel tank. Religion is an asset in reclaiming our environment. God created what’s good for us, and we need to follow the user’s manual. Our hope lies in going back to the user’s manual. We need to guide politicians. It is never about the cart leading the horse,” he said.

The cleric asked African leaders to have the interest of the continent at the summit that was condemned for locking out many and looking like lecture halls.

Bishop Chediel Elinaza Sendoro from Tanzanian called for reclamation of the faiths place in ensuring societal wellbeing, and encouraged youth to stay on course in the fight to stop the climate crisis.

Bishop Hassan Kukah from Nigeria, asked youth to “decide what type of seat they want at the decision making table”, and called for personal responsibility to achieve climate action.

“As we apportion God and governments blame and responsibility for the climate crisis, we must also remember to look inwards and decisively deal with corruption, locally, even as we deal with it internationally,” he said.

The cleric added that the climate conversation had to start locally, and go beyond issuing of statements. “The young people are far more equipped. They can borrow our voices as we seek to use their energy,” he said.

Sujarta Kotamraju of the Hindu Religious Council said all holy books commanded protection of the environment. “Before plastic, we survived. Now it messes animals in parks, water falls, oceans and all creations therein,” she said, adding her joy at the meeting’s participant’s decision to ask the hotel to serve them water in glasses rather than plastic bottles.

Ms Kotamraju urged youth to employ their energy and agility to demand climate justice from their leaders, while at the same time championing the wellbeing of the same in their surroundings. “If you take care of the environment it will take care of you,” she said.

Charles Chilufya, a cleric from Zambia, urged Africans to ensure locally-led climate action. “Growing climate finance is important, but must not be the only focus. Lives are at risk. We need to have more respect for human and other creations’ dignity, as well as compassion to boost action,” he said.

Jessica Mwali, a youth from Zambia, asked the religious leaders to push for the recognition of Africa as a special case, to stop the idea of the continent being loaned money to address the challenges of climate change. “The money should come to Africa in the form of grants, not loans,” she said.

A Ugandan cleric named Matobu asked the participants to be good stewards of God’s creations. “Just like humans, trees are crying and the environment is equally tired. We need to incorporate teachings that encourage treating of God’s creation’s as per His command,” he said.

He called upon youth to loudly speak out on the climate issues, and grab their rightful space to offer solutions. “We don’t need the support of the West to teach our people to treat the environment right,” he said.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Sheikh Lethome gave participants food for thought: “We cannot go to heaven without preparing a better place on earth. You must treat the environment right to earn your rightful place in heaven.”