Kenyan Nobel laureate wants effective action on climate change

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (PANA) - On the eve of the Africa Union (AU) Summit in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, Kenyan Nobel Peace Laureate, Wangari Maathai, has called on African leaders to respond to the global climate change crisis that disproportionately impacts Africans, particularly African women.

“Climate change does not affect everyone equally,” said Maathai, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her work linking the environment, peace and sustainable development, while promoting democracy in Kenya.  

“Here in Africa, we are paying a high price for a rapidly changing climate – more droughts, food crises and it is set only to get worse.  We can see how climate change is already aggravating the competition for resources and the economic stability all over this continent,” said Maathai in a statement, made available to PANA here, by the Women’s Nobel Initiative.

In 2009, Maathai addressed the UN Special Session on Climate Change, and called on world leaders to commit resources to helping African countries address the destructive impacts of climate change.  

Now she is telling African leaders that they, too, must do their part.

“As African leaders, you must rise to the challenge posed by climate change,” she said, indicating that “Many of our countries have experienced decades of environmental mismanagement or outright neglect. Indeed, some governments -- including my own -- have facilitated the plunder of the forests, the degradation of the land and unsustainable agricultural practices.

“Many communities in Africa are already threatened by the negative impacts of climate change. Children in Africa are dying from malnutrition as women struggle to farm on land that is less and less productive.  People on coastlines are losing their homes as the seas consume the coastlines.”

The next Summit on climate change is scheduled for December 2011 in Durban, South Africa.  

Maathai said, COP17,  the official name for the 17th Conference of the Parties, is an opportunity for Africans to show global leadership on an issue that is critical to the future of the planet, particularly of the region.  

Noting that the AU Summit is the last chance for African leaders to come together and focus on climate change before the global gathering in Durban, she emphasised: “African leaders must use this opportunity to commit to some concrete actions that will increase the pressure on Western and other countries to accelerate their efforts to provide support to the countries that are most vulnerable to climate change.”

Maathai said heads of state should make every effort possible to reduce the vulnerability of their communities by giving them knowledge, skills and tools to adopt sustainable technologies and participate in the green economy.

“Africa can leap frog the polluting and carbon intensive development model that is the legacy of most western countries,” she said.

Maathai, who was made Goodwill ambassador to the Congo Basin Forests in 2005 and is co-chair of the Congo Basin Forest Fund, pointed to the UN Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation in Developing Countries Programme (UN-REDD).

In her opinion, REDD is an example of a programme that, if implemented well, could help empower Africans in addressing climate change and protect the natural environment on which all Africans depend.  

REDD seeks to reduce deforestation and protect standing forests -- deforestation is one of the leading causes of climate change -- by recognizing the additional value of forests based on their capacity to store carbon and thus reduce greenhouse gases.

The programme could lead to developed countries paying developing ones to reduce emissions caused by deforestation and forest degradation.

“If programmes like REDD are going to help communities in Africa, especially those in the Congo basin, then we must show leadership to ensure that the people most impacted by forest management issues, including women, are present at the decision-making table,” said Maathai.

“Protection of standing forests and other practical environment and community based measures to deal with climate change start with effective and transparent leadership at the top. The eyes of the world are on Africa to see how the resources offered to help her deal with climate change are effectively managed and make a difference to her people,” she added.

Leaders from across the continent are gathering this week in Malabo for the 17th Ordinary Session of the African Union, holding from 30 June to 1 July.

Maathai is the founder of the Green Belt Movement and founding board member of the Nobel Women’s Initiative.
-0- PANA AR/VAO 29June2011

29 june 2011 09:28:42




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