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UK News

'I feel the pain of climate change in my day-to-day life': Tearfund backs African climate activists demanding attention from Rwanda Commonwealth meeting

by Tola Mbakwe

Tearfund is supporting a group of young African climate activists and religious leaders  who are raising the issue of climate finance to their country delegations this week at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Kigali, Rwanda.

The group of activists has written an open letter calling on the leaders of wealthy nations in the Commonwealth to rebuild trust with climate-vulnerable communities.
Fredrick Njehu, Tearfund senior policy advisor on climate, said: "Back in 2009, wealthier nations promised to deliver $100 billion a year by 2020 to help communities adapt to the impacts of climate change, build resilience and invest in a sustainable future. 

"At the Glasgow climate talks (COP26) in 2021, this commitment - by then already a year late -  should have been fulfilled but the leaders of wealthy nations failed to deliver.

"As a result, poorer countries are still paying the price of a crisis they did not cause, and the financial burden on these countries will grow as climate change intensifies.
"This meeting brings together the leaders of some of the wealthiest and some of the most climate-vulnerable countries, and is an opportunity to rebuild trust on climate finance. It's time for wealthy nations to deliver."

The open letter calls on Commonwealth leaders to rebuild trust with climate-vulnerable nations by ensuring that there is full delivery of the promised $100bn (£82bn) annually. They also want assurance that the money reaches local communities on the frontlines of climate change. The letter also demands that there is investment in good green jobs for youth.

The Commonwealth leaders gathered in Rwanda this week to discuss issues ranging from trade to health to climate change, a summit that will test the organisation's mettle at a time when its relevance is being questioned.

The Commonwealth, a club of 54 countries that evolved from the British Empire, encompasses about a third of humanity, with members ranging from India to tiny Nauru.
It presents itself as a network for cooperation with shared goals such as democracy, peace and prosperity, but critics, including many who are supportive of its values, say it needs to be more than a talking shop.

Collins Lungu, from Lusaka, Zambia, heads up the Zambia Youth Environmental Network, a group of young people who are campaigning for climate change and environmental care, protection and justice, he said: "I feel the pain of climate change in my day to day life. Coming from a family of farmers I can see how climate finance could help with irrigation systems so we can adapt. 

"The weather has become so erratic, even the meteorological station can't predict what is going to happen. The previous farming season we had floods that destroyed crops in some parts of the country and droughts in other parts. 
"This has caused high levels of food insecurity amongst the poorest families and malnutrition in children. My family and I will have to buy food from the markets which is now getting more expensive than ever affecting our livelihoods. More and more families do not have enough food to eat and are having to make tough choices to secure food. 
"People have to change, we will need to adopt alternative plants resilient to climate change, world leaders need to hear our stories." 
Climate activist Jessica Bwali, from Lusaka in Zambia, added: "Wealthy countries must deliver on climate finance. Growing up, my father was a farmer and today I am experiencing the impacts of climate change first hand. 
"We used to have every type of crop and the rainy season was always on point, we knew when to plant but it's not the same now because of drastic changes in weather patterns. 
"In Zambia we rely a lot on agriculture and not everyone can afford to use irrigation on their farms to help crops grow in tougher weather conditions, this is exactly where climate finance could help." 
Tearfund has called on the UK government to use the rest of its COP presidency, which lasts until November, to influence other wealthy nations to deliver the overdue finance to communities on the frontline of the climate crisis. 

Listen to Premier's interview with Frederick Njehu here: 

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