A coalition of religious leaders in Africa and Beyond proposed a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty as an urgent response to the devastation of climate change on the continent and around the world.
The multi-faith organization known as the GreenFaith hosted a virtual event on September 28 to make its case and call on others to sign a letter to be released ahead of the 27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, also known as the COP 27.
The suggested treaty would be a binding pact that would pause the development of new fossil fuels, sound the death knell for oil, gas and coal production, and channel efforts and resources into cleaner, sustainable energy for industry. and the global environment.
The recent event was a collaboration between GreenFaith and the Catholic University of East Africa, the Supreme Council of Muslims in Kenya and the Laudato Si movement. It brought together religious leaders and activists from diverse backgrounds who deliberated on the way forward for a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty.
Many of those who spoke at the symposium supported a legally binding fossil fuel treaty, saying it is a moral and just cause worth fighting for.
“The main cause of the climate emergency is fossil fuels,” said Meryne Warah, global director of Nairobi-based GreenFaith’s organization. “For the sake of life and to avoid massive and cruel levels of suffering, Africa and the world need a binding agreement that stops new fossil fuel projects, phase out existing production and provides generous support for a transition to a clean energy future and universal access to clean and affordable energy.
Sheikh Yussuf Nassur, religious leader of the Supreme Council of Muslims in Kenya, said the continued reliance on fossil fuels stands in direct opposition to the central teachings of Islam, known as Maqasid Shariah. “Historically and currently, those who are first and most affected by climate change in Africa and around the world have a minimal carbon footprint. Why should they suffer when the world’s biggest corporations and wealthy governments fail to act? »
Hilda Nakabuye, a religious activist from Uganda who opposes the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline, said: “To be true to their religious beliefs, believers must call for an end to fossil fuels and a just transition for all. ”
Frances Namoumou, based in Fiji with the Pacific Council of Churches, spoke of the devastating effects of fossil fuel development and climate change in her region: “People in the Pacific Islands are already losing their homes, jobs and communities. due to sea level rise.”
Agitation for a fossil fuel treaty did not start with the September virtual event. In 2017, at COP23, representatives of least developed countries called for “increased ambition by all countries to put us on track to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees. Celsius by strengthening our national contributions, managing a gradual exit from fossil fuels, promoting renewable energies and implementing the most ambitious climate action.
Recently at the United Nations General Assembly, the President of Vanuatu, Nikenike Vurobaravu, also argued for a fossil fuel non-proliferation treaty.
“Those who are first and most affected by climate change in Africa and around the world have a minimal carbon footprint.”
The treaty initiative has attracted the support of more than 100 Nobel laureates (including the Dalai Lama) and a long list of other notable figures.
Speaking to BNG about the virtual fossil fuel symposium, Lynet Otieno, acting communications manager for GreenFaith, said the organizers had achieved their goal and the event had attracted people from diverse religious backgrounds.
“There was widespread international interest from people of different religious backgrounds,” she reported. “Over 750 people from over 20 countries have registered for the event. Representatives of respected Muslim and Christian organizations across Africa, the Vatican, Hindu, Jewish, Buddhist and other religious communities attended. It was a well-attended and beautifully diverse event that showed that more and more believers – especially in Africa, which hosts COP27 – care deeply about this issue.
She added that grassroots believers are leading the way and presenting themselves as examples for powerful and passionate leadership for climate justice.
“They oppose new pipelines, pressuring banks and asset managers to stop funding fossil fuels and instead fund a clean energy transition, bravely standing up against governments that are either ineffective in addressing the climate crisis, be corrupted by the financing of coal, oil and gas companies,” she said. “These leaders must call on government, extractive industries, asset managers and banks to change. These institutions can and must change.
While the clamor to tackle climate change is global, many people, including Otieno, believe that Africa, despite being the least contributor to global warming, has borne the brunt of climate change.
“The evidence could not be clearer that Africa is bearing the worst impacts of climate change, despite having contributed minimally to the cause of the problem,” she said. “Droughts, heat waves, severe weather events are driving forced migration to ever-increasing levels. It is cruel and patently unfair. This is why the wealthy emitters of historically significant greenhouse gases must pledge to pay for the losses and damages suffered by Africa.
Anthony Akaze is a Nigerian-born freelance journalist living in Houston. He covers Africa for BNG