May 29, 2024

Standing up for climate justice and accountability to children in Africa

Africa is sitting on a climate time-bomb. Across the continent, children and young people – including those
not yet born – will suffer the financial, social and environmental costs of the climate crisis for decades, if not
centuries to come.

One of the paradoxes of the climate crisis is that those who are primarily responsible for climate change are
relatively better insulated from the impact, while those who have made the least contribution to the crisis
suffer the most. Africa features at the top of the regions most affected by climate change, but it accounts for
less than seven percent of total greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) and its emissions per capita are less than
half the global average. Yet, Africa’s children bear the brunt. Today’s rich countries reached the highest levels
of material welfare the world has ever seen – primarily by harnessing cheap energy from fossil fuels, – but
most of the negative consequences of this strategy have fallen on the world’s poorest countries

Consequently, there have been repeated calls for high-income countries to take responsibility for their
carbon footprints and provide the necessary financial and technical support to low-income countries bearing
the brunt of those footprints.

In 2009, in Copenhagen, wealthy nations made a pledge to commit US$100 billion a year to less wealthy
nations by 2020, to assist with climate change adaptation and mitigation. Twelve years later, at COP26 in
Glasgow, African negotiators were calling for US$1.3 trillion per year by 2030. So far, however, the annual
sums mobilised have fallen far short of what is needed: US$58.5 billion in 2016, US$71.1 billion in 2017,
US$78.3 billion in 2018, and US$79.6 billion in 2019.

Tackling climate change cannot be left to western countries and governments alone. It is important that
African governments also take responsibility to be accountable to the people affected, including children.
They must develop comprehensive, all-inclusive national adaptation plans (NAPs) and respect what they have
already agreed to contribute to adaptation and mitigation budgets. So far, only 13 countries in Africa have
developed and published their NAPs, and very few of them mention children. Only three African countries
have funded measures to address climate risks within their investment priorities.

For the most part, children are missing from climate change discussions and deliberations – both in Africa and
globally. Children’s perspectives are not integrated into NAPs, hence the continent’s lack in child-centred
adaptation plans. This is despite the fact that climate change is primarily an issue of youth. The majority of
Africans are under the age of 18, and close to half a billion children in 35 sub-Saharan countries are at risk
from the worst impacts of climate change. Despite this, African governments have given children and young
people enough space to influence the climate change agenda. That has to change.

This week, the Ninth International Policy Conference (IPC) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, is focused on climate
change and child rights in Africa. The conference aims, among other things, to underscore the gap in
accountability among global and national actors to children in the context of the climate crisis.
As a civil society activist, Legal Resources Foundation champions the right of children to be heard and
respected, and we strive to ensure the meaningful inclusion of children and young people in discussions and
decisions about climate change.

We urgently call upon the Zimbabwean Government to put in place comprehensive adaptation plans that
take full account of the plight of children, and Legal Resources Foundation commits itself to supporting the
Government in that effort. We also call upon the government to step up its financial investment and
economic policies to prevent and respond to the effects of climate change on its children and young people.
We also urge industrialised countries to take serious technical and financial steps to support African
countries’ efforts to mitigate the impact of climate change, and to undertake adaption interventions. Finally,
we strongly encourage governments to use existing funds with efficacy and purpose.

For Africa and its children, the climate crisis is both an existential threat and an obstacle to development.
And as such, it requires a concerted response from all stakeholders. As a civil society organization, Legal
Resources Foundation renews its commitment to advocate for stronger climate mitigation and adaptation
efforts, including public awareness programmes and supporting children to have their voices heard.

The only way we, as Africans, can redress the prevailing global climate injustice and the gap in government
accountability to children is if we act now. As we head towards COP27 in Egypt in November, the voices of
Africa’s children and young people must be heard, listened to and acted upon.

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Source: LRF