By Tim Mugerwa*

Tim Mugerwa
Tim Mugerwa

It is an open secret that Africa is most severely affected by global challenges.  The scourges of poverty, disease, youth unemployment, hunger and famine have framed a common narrative of the African continent as a site of catastrophe and immense human suffering. This is further exacerbated by almost barren policies on climate change and its consequences for the continent. Why are we stuck with policies that have failed our planet?

The effects of climate change are already threatening our nations. Our lovely communities, beautiful flora, fauna, cultures and families are of a great value to us and a safe climate future can help us maintain their value. Like you already know, Africa has the youngest population in the world, which puts its future at a bigger risk if climate change is not urgently addressed.

There are natural causes of climate change that we barely have anything to do about but we have the power to address human induced climate change beyond politics. Everything in Africa is at stake and requires collective action. Like we united against slave trade, colonialism and apartheid, let us also unite against climate change.

I appreciate some of the beautiful policies formulated to address climate change but implementation remains a very big challenge. Your commitment during the day looks good but its quality fades at night. We always wake up when parts of our rain forests have disappeared yet during the day you encourage us to plant trees and your policies on paper emphasize afforestation and reforestation. In many parts of Africa thick forests are now becoming extinct, and many of the individuals involved are not prosecuted. This truly makes one wonder about the interests that are entrenched in the clearing of forests and whether there is sufficient political will to challenge these interests. The key question here is: who gives license or authority to investors to clear forests and wetlands?  This is absolute injustice to future generations.

In some of our countries, mining is done anywhere regardless of the impact it has on the neighboring communities. Authority of issuing mining licenses from the department of environment is being shifted to other departments to avoid meeting the criteria. Yes we need our economies to thrive but not on the expenses of our lives.

Your actions today together with the policies you formulate will determine the type of world today’s children and youth will live in. Your present is our future.

President Barack Obama greets leaders from Africa during a summit this week in Washington.
President Barack Obama greets leaders from Africa during a summit this week in Washington.

Dear leaders: climate change presents us with a watershed moment to fight for a common cause; this is a cause we can all believe in. It is the only cause that supersedes race, colour, creed, religion, nation, status, political belief or ego. This is a cause to fight for our collective survival in our beautiful continent on the only planet we all call home.

We need peace in Africa but Africa cannot be at peace with its people when climate change is displacing people and when young Africans are uncertain of their future due to the threats posed by climate change.

Please leaders, climate change is real, it also requires real policies and actions. Young African people have started uniting against climate change through different initiatives such as the AYU Green Campaign pioneered by the African Youth Union.  Young people need your consent, your willingness and support to mitigate the abovementioned threats. We need you to –truly- unite against climate change.

*Author is a Climate Reality Leader and President – African Youth Union (AYU)

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