Act on the Climate Crisis! Save our People and the Planet!
25 March, 2019
African women’s movements, movements and women-led organisations call on our governments, the United Nations, and African Union to act on the climate crisis to save our people and our planet!
The death and destruction accompanying Cyclone Idai, which made landfall in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe just 6 days past, continues as rainfall and flooding endures, hampering rescue efforts in countries with wholly inadequate infrastructure and resources. The number of confirmed fatalities keep rising and, at the time of writing, is well into the high hundreds with Mozambique estimating a death toll there alone of more than 1000 people. Infrastructure has been destroyed, whole families have been washed away by the flooding, and mass burials are being prepared. Hundreds of thousands more have been injured and displaced, and close to 3 million people have been affected across the three countries. Rescue organisations report, five days post the Cyclone, of survivors on rooftops and palm trees still awaiting rescue as floodwaters continues to rise.
This tragedy, which the World Meteorological Organisation is referring to as likely the worst tropical cyclone on record in the Southern Hemisphere, is unfolding in countries ranked amongst the poorest thirty in the world. Now inundated with water, these countries have endured drought since 2014, with ReliefWeb estimating that about 10.8 million people in southern Africa faced severe food insecurity at the end of 2018, a trend forecast to extend into 2019. These countries, and southern Africa, live the realities of unfolding climate crisis with little capacity, funds or supports from the rich global North and parts of the global South for climate mitigation and adaptation.
This is a great disaster and tragedy, but it is not “natural”; it is human-made and certainly not by all humans in this planet’s history. Bar Nigeria and South Africa, the other 52 countries in Africa have collectively contributed only 5.7% to total accumulated greenhouse gas emissions since 1850. Compare this to the largest single emitter, the United States of America (18.6%) and the latest contender, China, estimated at 11.6% in 2010. Those who have contributed least to the climate crisis, are the ones carrying the greatest burden. Sub-Saharan Africa is projected to be most impacted by climate change. Any average temperature increase beyond 1.5 degrees, which the distinguished Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports we are on track to achieve in less than 12 years without radical efforts to cut fossil fuel emissions, would cut corn yields in parts of Africa by half, result in the extinction of 50% of Africa’s birds and mammals by 2050, and will transform more than 86 million Africans into “climate migrants” in the same period.
And it is African women who are already carrying and will continue to carry the burden of climate change. In Africa, 80% of the food produced comes from peasant farmers, the majority of whom are women. Ill-health arising from heat stress, malaria, malnutrition and diarrhoea, estimated to result in more than 250 000 additional deaths each year during the period 2030-2050, will be a burden of women who carry the main responsibility for care. Migration puts women at particular risk of exploitation, abuse and sexualised violence. And they will face increased risk of domestic violence, a trend recorded in South Africa, China, India and the US, as families struggle with the stresses of water, food and income shortages.
Fossil fuels energy – oil, coal and natural gas – is responsible for more than 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions, closely followed by the transport sector (25%) and large-scale industrial agriculture, which contributes over 11% of global emissions. The climate crisis is fuelled by the overproduction and overconsumption of goods in the global North and small pockets of the global South. This production require raw materials, water and energy to feed mostly unnecessary needs created by the trillion-dollar marketing and advertising industries. More and more raw materials have to be extracted to feed this system and this only creates more crisis for people, and accelerates climate change. The logic of profits and the fixation on economic growth, which requires the ever-expanding use of finite natural resources, is driving the planet and its people to extinction.
Corporations and rich governments, and some parts of the scientific community, undermine what is needed – an end to fossil fuels extraction, the deindustrialisation of agriculture, and rapidly reduced consumption in the developed parts of the world – in favour of false solutions to climate change. Once again, the rich and the powerful try to control the forces of nature by seeding clouds for rain, depositing iron filings in the seas to absorb sunlight, and injecting aerosols into the atmosphere to cool the planet instead of cutting the carbon emissions.
To maintain this unsustainable model of development, a combination of military and private security forces routinely use threats, violence, and sexualised violence, targeting women and girl children, as weapons against communities where extractives activities are taking place. Those who stand in the path of profit by resisting dispossession, dislocation, and the violent denial of livelihoods, well-being and life itself, confront extreme violence.
The rich and the powerful continue to lie, obfuscate and distract from the real solutions as the planet burns and people – the poor, women and people of colour – die. These are people that, in the greater logic of the machinery of profit and preservation of privilege, are expendable!
The climate crisis is a crisis for women across the world, and women in Africa in particular. This is why we, women’s movements and women-led organisations across the African continent, are unifying to say NO – ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!
We stand up in defence of our people, our continent and the planet as a whole! We are strong, and we are united and we will not be stopped!
We call on our governments, organised under our Pan African body, the African Union, to take a clear and unwavering stand on the climate crisis. We need you to stand with the majority of your people, and women in particular, who are dying and will continue to die in ever-increasing numbers while the rich countries and the development banks which they control fail to do the needed.
We also call on our governments to put in place and properly resource disaster management plans. Extreme weather events – droughts, flooding, and cyclones – are part of the landscape which lies ahead for Africa. Rich governments are liable and should be placed under pressure to pay for adaption, mitigation and rehabilitation.
We call on our representative states to put their individual interests aside and act in a unified block, at the UNFCCC negotiations, in other multilateral spaces, and in bilateral negotiations on trade and investment, in defence of the continent and its people. This is what you have promised to your people and we have trust and confidence that you can and will take the stand that is needed.
We call on the United Nations to stand with the weaker nations in pushing rich governments to act on the banks and corporations, registered in their jurisdictions, which continue to invest in dirty energy and extractives projects which are the direct cause of the climate and ecological crisis.
Our women’s organisations and movements are unifying in Africa and beyond, and we will continue to grow our numbers and our strength. This is our promise and our commitment to the planet and all peoples!
To sign on to the statement send an email to Margaret Mapondera at email@example.com
WoMin African Alliance, regional network
World March of Women, Africa-wide and global
Rural Women’s Assembly, Southern Africa
Justicia Ambiental, Mozambique
Centre for Natural Resource Governance, Zimbabwe
Alternative Information and Development Centre
Southern Africa Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power