Open, accountable dialogue needed for climate solutions

Open, accountable dialogue needed for climate solutions

Date: January 6, 2012
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Global warming is indeed a global problem that requires global solutions. However, there are concerns about the attitude of some countries responsible for causing the problems. Developed countries make significant contributions to global greenhouse gas emissions (20 countries accounted for 72% of emissions between 1950 and 2000), yet acceptance of responsibility and willingness to assist the most vulnerable countries is sorely missing.

According to the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, the top 10 countries emitted 67.07% of the world’s greenhouse gases in 2007. This includes Canada, United Kingdom, United States, China, South Korea, Russia and India. The United Nations Statistics Division reported this year that China now contributes 23.33% of global emissions, followed by United States (18.11%), European Union (14.04%), India (5.78%), Russia (5.67%) and Japan (4.01%).

It is disturbing to note that some countries listed above are the very countries reluctant to commit to a second Kyoto Protocol period or provide funding desperately needed for Africa to adapt. This crisis shows that the survival of poorer people and nations is at the mercy of powerful countries who refuse to accept that they are in the wrong.

For its part, civil society plays an important role in pushing the agenda of the voiceless. Organisations such as Greenpeace, Mupo Foundation, GenderCC and the Rural Women’s Assembly have made huge contributions to raising awareness of the plight of those likely most affected if countries do not commit to the Green Climate Fund (GCF).

If immediate steps are not taken to make the GCF take off, the results will surely be devastating for Africa and her people, most of whom are poor and depend on the environment for their livelihoods. As COP17 comes to a close, it is time to put aside political agendas to ensure that gender and climate justice is achieved.

At a side meeting with civil society organisations, South African President Jacob Zuma strongly motivated for the GCF to be one of the outcomes of COP 17. He pointed out that there is an “African way of finding solutions.”
There was a time when prisons did not exist in Africa because people always found a way to talk things out. “In my opinion, prisons were created because people have failed to find meaningful solutions, so they lock people up as a way to deal with them,” he said. In Africa, when there was a problem, communities would gather and discuss a way to solve the problem.

Zuma used the analogy of a traditional story of when a husband found his wife in bed with another man. There would be a process of deliberation and consultation with elders to find the best way forward. Although the husband had every right to grab his spear and kill the man, instead of using violence, people would talk.

The man found in bed with the wife would be given the opportunity to explain his actions. “You were found sleeping with this man’s wife, why did you do this?” the elders would ask. “I was tempted, what I did was very wrong. I ask for your forgiveness and I assure you this will never happen again,” the man would answer.
The elders would also ask the wife why she did what she did. She might respond and say, “I am very sorry for bringing this shame upon myself, my husband and my community. I was also tempted, I am sorry.” So stereotypical, isn’t it?

After these talks, the elders would tell the man to bring a cow to the chief for slaughter, as a way to cleanse the homestead of his evil deeds. They would also command the wife to provide a cow for slaughter to cleanse the community of her unjust actions. As for the husband, he would be told to put his spear away because the problem had been solved.

To much applause, Zuma concluded that global warming requires a similar approach to address the issue of climate justice. Zuma said that, like the offenders in his story, the countries known to be responsible for the increased temperatures on earth should be honest and take responsibility for their actions.

“If money is required [and it is], these nations should provide compensation and accept the crimes they have committed.” An open “African way of finding solutions” may very well be the answer to securing peace and justice for the earth and those who bear the brunt of the impacts of climate change.

Ticha Tsedu is an intern at Gender Links. This article is part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service and African Woman and Child Feature Service special series for the Sixteen Days of Activism on Gender Violence and COP 17 Conference.


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