After city meeting, the earth's cry is the same from the world's poor

Dabaso Kantoma Sora planting drought resistant seedlings in North Horr. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

The just concluded African Climate Summit must go down as one of the most significant events in Kenya for quite some time.

The inaugural summit may have been an initiative of the African Union but it would not have taken place had Kenya not offered to host.

Over 20 African heads of state were in attendance and that figure would have been significantly larger had it not clashed with the presidential inauguration in Zimbabwe.

The presence of former and current Secretary Generals of the UN as well as the European Commission President and the US Special Envoy John Kerry showed the global importance of the event.

COP28 in Dubai is just around the corner and this time the African voice must be heard loudly. Africa is responsible for less than 4 per cent of global emissions but bear the brunt of the suffering for the global climate crisis.

Already, spread of desertification, annual flooding in Mozambique together with unreliable harvests everywhere are dangerous signs. Greed and exploitation of nature have not only destroyed our common home but left us facing an existential crisis of our own making.

Climate justice is a global issue and the rich, powerful nations who have contributed most to destruction of our planet must repent or face the consequences for the materialistic models of profit, development and growth that have guided the world’s financial institutions for a century. It is time to put people before profit and put children’s futures before the multinational extractive industries.

The migrant challenge the West is currently facing, according to experts, is due more to climate changes than any violent conflict.

Regretfully there is no quick fix solution to the crisis worsening by the day as the world has still not done nearly enough to keep within 1.5C temperature increase as agreed in Paris in 2016. Perhaps the most comprehensive analysis of the problem is that of Laudato Si, the 2015 Encyclical of Pope Francis.

His analysis included scientific, ecological, theological, economic, philosophical and social insights that challenge the world to recover its morality and humanity.

He says the human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together and this affects the vulnerable of society most of all.

The excluded from society will suffer the most yet in the global discussions, including those in Nairobi, they come almost as an afterthought, as if they are merely collateral damage.

Any ecological or scientific approach must always, Francis states, become a social approach. In other words, it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and cry of the poor.

Francis also addresses the issue of debt. Indeed, an ecological debt exists between the global north and south, connected to imbalances in trade and rape of natural resources over the decades, as well as the foreign financial debt of developing countries.

The two are connected since the financial debt and ecological debt are keeping much of the continent in shackles of poverty.

The African Union has been a pretty footless organisation for some time. One hopes this Summit was not just a one off event intended to justify its existence and rent collections.

There is an urgent need and golden opportunity for the continent to take up a leading role defending the poor from ravages of greed, technology and finance whose interests have dominated recent global summits.

Francis says the most we usually expect from these gatherings are “superficial rhetoric, sporadic acts of philanthropy and perfunctory expressions of interest for the environment”.

President William Ruto has received plaudits for the summit and reminded everyone that 92 per cent of Kenya’s energy is clean and renewable. He did not, however, explain why it is the most expensive electricity on the continent.

Moreover, if he is to be a leader on clean renewables, how can he justify considering a nuclear plant in Matsangoni in Kilifi, or why his decision to resume logging in the Mau?