Earth Day 2017 And Conflicts In Post-Paris Agreement Africa


Earth Day is celebrated on the 22nd of April every year to raise awareness around climate issues and the general environmental problems facing the planet. However, 2017 is considered by most to be a decisive year of change about issues surrounding climate change as it is the first year after the Paris Agreement entered into force in October 2016, having reached the required number of ratifications. The Paris Agreement has shown a lot of promise due to the overwhelming support accorded by countries. Currently, the United Nations Framework for Climate Change cites 143

Currently, the United Nations Framework for Climate Change cites 143 ratifications globally, among the highest in multilateral treaties. The Paris Agreement has drawn major lessons from its predecessors such as the Kyoto Protocol by enshrining in a diplomatic manner the principle of common but differentiated responsibility upon the developed and developing countries of the world. The debate surrounding how much responsibility should be accorded to each group of countries has been quite contentious both in the present and before. The Paris Agreement, although quite progressive, decisive and opportune in its timing, faces great challenges in implementation. Climate change is being felt as a daily and often insurmountable struggle by many underdeveloped countries especially island nations such as Comoros and Kiribati. The stark contrast between underdeveloped nations and developed countries in the context of climate change is the degree of damage in which the impacts of climate change cause. From the droughts in the Horn of Africa claiming lives to displaced persons in Chad and coastal areas in Ghana, the impacts of climate change are experienced on a much-heightened level with vast losses experienced in underdeveloped nations yet they are the least contributors. Thus, the disturbing question posed by many is how fair is the international law on the implementation of the equality of states in the face of climate change? The conundrum is often times at the heart of the climate change debate and is answered through mechanisms such as Nationally Determined Contributions, Transfer of Technology and Carbon Trading which are arguably skewed in favour economic powerhouses among the developed countries.

Thus, the disturbing question posed by many is how fair is the international law on the implementation of the equality of states in the face of climate change? The conundrum is often times at the heart of the climate change debate and is answered through mechanisms such as Nationally Determined Contributions, Transfer of Technology and Carbon Trading which are arguably skewed in favour economic powerhouses among the developed countries.

In Africa, where all countries have not developed, the impacts of climate change are often catastrophic causing a number of sociological, economic and political challenges that have long-term impacts on human rights of various peoples, having an already difficult historical experience with colonialism and post-colonial governments. Due to the degree of complexity of the nature of conflicts in Africa, climate change is often overlooked as a major contributor to conflicts. Although no direct correlations can be cited to link climate change to conflicts in Africa, the basis of conflicts are usually centred around natural resources such as land, water, minerals and oil which are either depleting at alarming rates or are being adversely affected due to the impacts of climate change.

Most African countries have to worry both about the plausibility of economic development under strenuous security situations and the dire urgent effects on climate change; the developed countries, on the other hand, worry about propagating economic development with minimal concern for the impacts of climate change. The recent drought in the Horn of Africa, as well as the Lake Chad Basin humanitarian crisis, provide conducive situations for conflict to escalate as they are already conflict-prone areas. Illustrations of the same are available in volumes.

So what does Earth Day post the Paris Agreement mark for Africa? Well, it marks hope arising from a positive change in policy and the undying resilience of its people albeit minimal progress in curbing global economic inequalities that are greatly undermined by climate change.