Updated: Oct 20
On Monday 4 September 2023, history was made as Kenya’s capital Nairobi hosted the 3-day Africa Climate Summit. The first of its kind, this conference explored innovative and sustainable solutions to climate-related issues that affect the continent. Passionate discussions centred on strategies to increase the development of renewable energy sources and methods to encourage sustainable farming and agricultural practices in rural communities. Debates included a proposed global carbon taxation scheme which would tax countries on their use of carbon and fossil fuels in industries such as transport and aviation. A ‘less talk more action’ slogan drove strategy debates with policymakers turning their attention to promoting climate awareness campaigns in schools and in the workplace. This Summit prioritized women’s role in advocating the transition to green energy supplies with the launch of the ‘Coalition for First Ladies on Gender Energy Transition in Africa’. These progressive policies proved the Summit’s capability to champion positive change for the continent and globally.
Alongside this, a prominent conversation point that cemented itself in the minds of policymakers was the issue of climate vulnerability: the degree to which a community or ecosystem is likely to be negatively impacted by the adverse effects of climate change. A key focus of this Summit revolved around identifying these climate-vulnerable communities and responding with effective strategies to mitigate its effect, for example, by funding packages for farming communities facing climate-related weather extremes like droughts or flash floods.
Closely related to climate vulnerability is the equally pressing issue of climate injustice. Why is it often developing nations that have statistically contributed the least to the worsening climate crisis that are often tasked with the most responsibility in the fulfilment and implementation of global climate policies? Whereas, on the flip side, more developed, industrial economies are given substantial freedom and leeway to mould these policies to fit their own economic needs and benefits. According to an article by PBS NewsHour, the USA has contributed to approximately 24.6 per cent of cumulative CO2 emissions from 1750-2020 in comparison to the whole of Africa whose figure is at 2.8 per cent. This opens up a wider conversation of who should be actively partaking in the most climate-sensitive practices and held most accountable if they fail to deliver on agreed climate crisis solutions.
While the Africa Climate Summit focused on generating effective environmental solutions for the continent, I believe there are an immense number of key lessons that we can gain over 11,000km away here in St Andrews. Firstly, the importance of the student youth in encouraging open conversations around climate change. St Andrews is extremely lucky to have an expanding and diverse international student body, each with their own stories, experiences, and memories that shape how they view the ongoing climate crisis. Having these conversations will allow us to better support friends and peers who may potentially come from climate-vulnerable communities and give us tools to better educate and advocate for local and international measures to encourage sustainable climate-related solutions.
“There are so many ways to help,” says Rayaan, a fourth-year student at the University. “Using social media platforms, helping to raise donations for climate charities, researching the issue of climate vulnerability are all ways to make an impact.’’ In an increasingly technologically driven world, utilizing resources like social media and the Internet is a powerful way to make an impact. With the Conference of Parties (COP) summit set to begin on 30 November 2023, using social media platforms and news sources to follow recent climate updates are examples of the many ways we can better understand concepts like climate vulnerability. With a multitude of resources, articles, and news programmes readily available, we have the opportunity to be active followers and supporters of positive climate actions like the Africa Climate Summit. Through these progressive initiatives, whether globally or within the St Andrews community, we can work together to ensure our climate is preserved and protected.
Image from WikiCommons