on 7th February 2017

The United States Administration Should Commit to Global Leadership on Climate Change

It is important for the new US Government to recognize that climate change has brought a lot of challenges and misfortunes to the poor people in southern Africa, with a disproportionate effect on women and children. Southern Africa is projected to continue to receive less rain due to climate change. Poor farmers depend on rain for farming to produce food for themselves and to sell. With such kind of precipitation projections, the region’s vulnerable communities will continue to suffer.

While national governments in southern Africa continue to apply their own resources to combat the climate challenge, the scale of the problem has reached levels that are beyond their capacity to manage. That means governments and communities will continue to need resources and technology to adapt to the negative impacts of climate change. Children will continue to drop out of school because they cannot learn on an empty stomach. Period floods and droughts will roll back all the development investment that governments like the US and others have supported in southern Africa. The World Bank President has determinedly been on record that climate change is the biggest phenomenon that will impact development. There is practically no sector that has not been impacted by climate change.

USAID and other donors are investing a lot in climate change adaptation in southern Africa. These are the things that we – developing countries – have come to associate with United States of America for a long time. Does the US want to walk back on this important service to humanity?

While under the Paris Agreement no Party can effectively withdraw from it until 2020, any symbolism of inaction or lack of ambition will not motivate developing countries that have put up strong national plans to implement these plans. Most of the emissions are now coming from emerging economies and if the US does not demonstrate leadership it will be challenging for these countries to sustain their decarbonization initiatives. The climate action commitments from developing countries have – for good reasons- been anchored on the predictability of support that will come from developed countries. Therefore, the inaction of the most powerful government will trigger negative ripple effects of climate in-action.

In his campaign Donald Trump wasted no time to cast doubt on climate change. That was scarring because of two reasons: 1) His election comes after all of the 194 countries agreed in Paris to combine their efforts to fight climate change and 2) The USA stood with unwavering commitment with countries heavily affected by climate change and the whole world to agree to a global strategy to combat the problem. If the Trump Administration decides not to commit themselves to the Paris Agreement, the support for those already affected by climate change will be compromised and developing countries will be left to combat climate change alone.

Author
Vitu Chinoko

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