Two Christian climate activists, Laura Young and Jessica Bwali, will be attending COP 27 in Egypt next month,
Young, from Scotland, and Bwali, from Zambia have partnered with Christian humanitarian charity Tearfund, to call for action on the climate crisis.
One month from today we will be together in Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt for the next UN Climate Summit. This is being billed as an ‘African COP’; world leaders are coming to the African continent, and we hope and pray they will not leave without hearing stories and maybe even walking a mile in the shoes of African women, men and children who are innovating and wrestling to thrive in this changing world. An African COP needs to genuinely look to and hear from African communities and activists, and to the voices of the next generation who particularly bear the brunt of decisions made now.
We are Christian women from different places. One of us is from Zambia, excited for the UN Climate Talks to come to and learn from my continent. One of us is from Glasgow, the city that is passing the baton as last year’s host to world leaders brought together to tackle this crisis that threatens us all, but women, men and children in poverty most. We have lived very different lives, and we have come together to campaign for climate justice.
We are both in our twenties, so half the world’s warming has happened in our own lifetimes. In Zambia, a country that has contributed just 0.02 per cent to global emissions, this means disappearing rainy seasons and failing crops. It meant seeing my father suffer as a farmer due to the erratic weather patterns going from having every crop and the rainy season being on point to this now not being the case at all. It means seeing a 70-year-old woman walking to a drying up river, standing in it next to the cattle, and bending to drink from the only water source that’s still left. For us, climate change is not a discussion topic; it’s an emergency, an urgent reality. Let us treat it as such.
Last November, we were both in a Glaswegian conference centre for COP26 - the 2021 UN Climate Talks - where we saw some progress but nothing like justice from the world leaders gathered there. Hosting COP26 meant a lot to Glaswegians; it felt like the whole city was buzzing with it, with thousands of people taking to the streets to march for the climate. And the legacy from that time matters to us. Perhaps most disappointing was the work left undone on delivering vital finance promised to the communities least responsible but whose lives are most changed by this crisis. Back in 2009, leaders from wealthy nations committed to deliver $100 billion every year from 2020 for low-income countries and communities to adapt to the climate crisis and build a more sustainable future. But 2020 came and went without the full amount being delivered. COP26 was a moment when we were looking for integrity from leaders, for them to deliver action that meets the scale of this climate crisis.
In this, they fell short.
Since then, global news headlines have been dominated by the war in Ukraine, the cost of living crisis, and most recently the death of Queen Elizabeth II. Climate disasters have occasionally made the front pages, but often quickly disappeared. Meanwhile in Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia, the worst hunger crisis to hit East Africa so far this century is happening. This is the result of intersecting crises, but the climate emergency is at the heart of the problem. And - without urgent action and support - crises like this will only get worse.
If the world leaders coming to Egypt are listening, they will hear us say that COP should not and cannot be a political platform to show power or sell individual agendas. This should be a place where people take their seat at the table wherever they are from. A time when people listen to each other, and particularly those at the cutting edge of this crisis. And a moment when there is tangible, real action. This means leaders - especially those representing nations whose wealth has been fossil-fueled for decades - putting their money where their mouth is, particularly on the long overdue finance for low-income communities to adapt to our rapidly changing and increasingly volatile climate. Because climate justice is measured in far more than words.
We are glad that this UN Climate Summit is taking place in Africa. We know that climate justice is not for one event or one day; it is shaped by a multitude of moments, decisions and actions. COP27 is not the only time to see action, but it could be two weeks when leaders turn talk into decisively walking towards a safer, fairer future. Anything less would be to make a mockery of the scale of this crisis and the lives of those who bear it most.
We are looking to the African continent to shape the future we want and to find the justice we need to make it possible. And we continue to seek climate justice every day, together.
Christians around the world can join together in calling for their governments to deliver climate justice for people at the sharp end of this crisis - as well as praying and demonstrating by our own actions that we want to shape a fairer, safer future. Specific things you can do include:
-Sign the Time to Deliver petition: www.tearfund.org/timetodeliver
-Send a Coin to the UK Prime Minister: www.tearfund.org/sendacoin
-Pray. You can sign up for regular climate-focused prayer texts; find instructions for this and other prayer resources at www.tearfund.org/prayforclimate
Listen to Premier's interview with Laura Young here: