The World Environment Day was observed this week punctuating the continuing fallout from President Donald Trump’s announcement of US pullout from the Paris Climate Change Accord.
It earned him yet another round of unflattering epithets from some of his most ardent critics. Take, for instance, Prof. Jeffery Sachs’ syndicated article, “Trump’s Climate-Change Sociopathy”, published in this newspaper this week.
Prof. Sachs unreservedly lamented the president’s “utter disdain for a world nearing the brink of human-made catastrophe.”
Note, therefore, the aptness of observing the Environment Day, themed, “Connecting People to Nature”, if only as a reminder to avert the impending climatic catastrophe signs of which we in the region are already witnessing.
Countries in the EAC and the Horn of Africa are just emerging from a harsh drought due to warped weather patterns, only for some parts to subsequently be deluged by floods in the ongoing rains further extending untold human misery.
The Paris Agreement was entered into force in October, 2016 in response to a warming planet. The aim is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to limit global warming with an ambitious target to reduce temperatures to below 1.5 degrees Celsius from the pre-industrial 2 degrees.
A roster maintained by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) indicates that, as of April this year, 148 states have ratified the pact of the 197 State Parties to the Convention.
So far, 33 African countries, including Rwanda, have ratified the pact.
The United States, being the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases after China, had, under then President Barack Obama, pledged to cut its domestic emissions by 26 per cent by 2025. It had also committed up to $3 billion in aid to poorer countries to help them adjust to the effects of climate change.
Some $1 billion had already been disbursed before President Trump’s stated US withdrawal.
During the 2015 Conference of Parties 21 (COP21) that negotiated the Paris pact, African countries demanded compensation for the effects of the impending threat, ranging from desertification to forest degradation.
Consequently, wealthy nations agreed to provide $100 billion by 2020 to enable developing nations to move away from fossil fuels and use more renewable energy sources.
African nations have also been called to a similar financial obligation. The second Africa Adaptation Gap Report of the United Nations Environment Programme says they, too, must raise up to $3 billion to the kitty.
However, though US withdrawal will be a blow, leaders from around the world have maintained a defiant stance. China, India, the African Union and the European Union have said they will lead from the front in curbing emissions.
China and the EU have additionally agreed to bridge the financial shortfall that will be occasioned by US pullout.
With the continent’s negligible greenhouse gas emissions, experts have urged African countries to tap existing opportunities in adaptation and mitigation to achieve sustainable industrial development with minimal to zero emissions.
This would be possible by tapping the continent’s vast renewable energy resources, such as solar and wind. This could not only bridge the energy gap, but unlock income opportunities.
The net gain for Africa could be increased agricultural productivity leading to food security, climate adaptation, income and job creation.
The connection is, therefore, obvious between the climate change pact, the environment, and the tangible benefits to be reaped.
This makes it understandable why the US president should draw so much ire for his lack of appreciation of the larger picture.
Indeed, this year’s theme for the World Environment Day underscores the irony of Trump’s prized ownership of scenic golf courses – some of them by the seafront – and his apparent intellectual failure to appreciate that, in not taking care of the environment, neither does nature easily give of its beauty and bounty.
Nature always gives back in kind what you hand it. All Trump would have to do is look to The Maldives, a scenic archipelago in the Indian Ocean, reputed to be one of the flattest places on earth. It is innocent, yet dangerously close to being completely wiped off the face of the earth from rising sea levels due to global warming not of its making.
Perhaps he would see the point vis-à-vis his golf courses by the seafront.Follow https://twitter.com/gituram