Race of Fury – The West and the Soul of Africa Again

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Holding summits for African heads of governments is fast becoming a recurrent event among the global power brokers. The EU has had about 5 of these summits, probably to massage and codify her colonial exploitative economic spree with Africa because nothing signfinicant has really emerged from those submits to enhance Africa’s fortune. Following the example of China in the recent past, Russia too had, for the first time, invited the African heads of governmens to a two-day Africa summit in Sochi from  23.-24 October, 2019. Over 40 African heads of government participated in the summit.

Just like China, Russia has the privilege of entering into the African political space as a non-colonialists but Russia had the added advantage of having supported African states in their struggle for independence. During the Cold War, it had close ties with socialist states like Guinea, Ethiopia, Mozambique and Angola. Those countries have now become the boosters for the rebuilding of Russian interest in Africa. Neither China nor Russia cares about human rights in Africa, but Russia in particular does not hide her thirst for arm sales, nor even shy away from helping autocratic regimes to sway national elections, as has been reported from DR Congo and Guinea while the Chinese unbriddled quest for mineral resources has no equal.

Obviously, both China and Russia are exploiting the vaccum created by the European colonialists from their lack of true and constructive commitment to Africa to market their respective products in Africa. But in the final analysis it is a race of fury for the control of Africa’s natural resources, the global digital economy and power.

The primary products offered to the African heads of governments by Russia during the most recent summit are worrisome. Among others, Russia has offered nuclear technology alongside weapons and mining expertise to Africa. As part of the summit, the Russian energy group Rosatom signed a preliminary agreement with Rwandato help her with the construction of an atomic research center and another contract with Ethiopia with the aim of building a high-performance nuclear power plant. Russia has granted Egypt a $ 25 billion loan for the construction of a nuclear power plant and is supplying enriched uranium for a research reactor. In South Africa. Rosatom had made a deal to build eight $75 billion nuclear power plants under former President Jacob Zuma, which was canceled after his removial from power. Truly, Africa needs power to drive her economic development but to suggest nuclear energy for Africa as an option considering its technical demands and environment threats is highly questionable and condenmnable. Rather than nuclear energy, is there no wisdom to suggest the development of the rich supply of sun and wind in Africa for solar and wind plants as alternatives for Africa that would be cheaper, cleaner and better.

However, it needs to be interrogated furher whether these summits are about the development of Africa or the exploitation and control of her resources. Like China and the European colonalists, Russia is fast leaving her foot print in Africa. In Guinea, Russian corporations exploit huge bauxite deposits and run a gold mine without paying taxes.

In Uganda, the Russian corporate group RT Global Resources is building an oil refinery for three billion Euros. Russian companies are planning platinum mines in Zimbabwe and want to develop one of the largest diamond deposits in Angola.

Russia could thus double its trade volume with Africa to $ 20 billion in 2019, though this remains modest when compared to China’s $ 300 billion.

Not only that, Russia is also strengthening its influence on the continent through military cooperation. Over the past four years, Russia has signed military cooperation agreements with 19 African states, to supply weapons and training. 40% of all military exports to Africa come from Russia, 17% from China and 11% from the US. At the Sochi summit, Putin declared his intention to double arms exports to Africa and on the spot signed a contract with Nigeria to supply Mi-35 combat helicopters. In the Central African Republic Russia is very present with 200 military advisors and a Russian is the security advisor to the president. The country is attractive because of its uranium and gold deposits. In an agreement with Mozambique Russia supports the fight against Islamist terrorists in the North and also granted a debt swap in exchange for access to the large oil and gas fields. In Sudan, instructors train the security forces and Russian soldiers supported them in the brutal suppression of demonstrations last June.

Often, military training is not carried out directly by the Russian army, but by mercenaries of the Wagner group, a private security company already notorious through its operations in Crimea and Syria. During the Sochi summit, President Wladimir Putin declared that, “Today, developing and strengthening mutually beneficial relations with African countries is one of the priorities of Russian foreign policy.” But only time will show what this new found love with Africa practically means

However, it is viewed that there is a debt crisis hanging over the neck of the continent. This new wave of interest is indeed a feast on the soul of the African continent. Every resource that the continent can boast of is targeted; the level of resource extraction is massive. In return, there is promise of infrastructural development. It is the replay of an old story. In the 1980s, most African countries fell into a “debt trap” that led to a “lost development decade”. The bail out by the International Monetary through the so-called HIPC initiative (Heavily Indebted Poor Countries) came at a high cost, with the imposition of strict conditions which stifled all possibilities of development. With China’s billions of credits for infrastructure projects, Russia’s arms exports, and governments borrowing further billions on the financial markets, Africa is well on the way to a new debt crisis. Time will tell if the seemingly huge debt reliefs that China and Russia have granted to some African countries are worth the soul of the African continent which has become the main dish for the insatiable appetites of Russia, China and the powerful western countries.

 

 

Madrid COP25: What does Africa want from the UN climate summit?

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Young activists on the continent have been calling for bolder action to deal with climate change

Africa accounts for less than 4% of the global total of carbon emissions but the continent is the most vulnerable in terms of the impact of climate change, the UN says.

While most of the world works to significantly reduce their carbon footprint, in Africa the debate is different.

The focus is instead on finding ways to cope with the increasing numbers of climate-related disasters and also achieving economic development with minimum carbon emissions.

Both of these objectives need huge funds which African countries cannot afford.

Ahead of the ongoing UN climate meeting in Madrid (COP25) scientists had been warning that the world needs to reduce carbon emissions – five times more than what had been pledged – if we are to avoid dangerous climate change.

While that agenda is proving to be a tough nut to crack, different negotiating blocs at the UN meeting have their own priorities depending on their circumstances.

Africa’s agenda

A UN study has estimated that sub-Saharan Africa would alone need climate adaptation finance of around $50bn (£37bn) annually by 2050.

“Africa needs to receive means of implementation,” Tosi Mpanu Mpanu, a lead negotiator from the Africa Group, said at a COP25 press meeting in Madrid.

“We need to receive financial resources, technology transfer, and capacity building. And these are not outrageous asks.”

His comments came amid concern among many poor African countries – 33 are listed among the 47 least developed countries – that they had not received the climate finance promised by rich countries and whatever was made available through international bodies was very difficult to access.

The Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) – a body representing 36 of the world’s most developed countries – however said last year that public climate finance from developed countries to developing countries had increased from $37.9bn in 2013 to $54.5bn in 2017.

Bad governance and corruption in some poor countries have been cited as a reason for ineffective use of climate funds.

‘Africa already hit by climate’

Africa’s need for adapting to extreme weather events, many of them linked to climate change impacts, is becoming increasingly urgent, experts say.

They point at recent examples of cyclones, floods and severe droughts.

“The health, livelihoods and food security of people in Africa have been affected by climate change,” the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the UN body on climate science, said in its fifth assessment report, some five years ago.

The report said production of wheat and maize in parts of Africa had already been impacted by climate change, as had the productivity of fisheries of the Great Lakes and Lake Kariba on the Zambia-Zimbabwe border and fruit-bearing trees in the Sahel.

More than half a decade since the report was published, climate experts say the effects have intensified and have become more frequent.

“No continent will be struck as severely by the impacts of climate change as Africa,” the United Nations Environment Programme said in a report.

“Given its geographical position, the continent will be particularly vulnerable due to the considerably limited adaptive capacity, and exacerbated by widespread poverty,” it said.

African negotiators at COP25 have been pressing for funds to adapt to the impact of climate change while demanding that major carbon emitters make significant cuts in their emissions to prevent dangerous warming.

“We from the Least Developed Countries bloc were very hopeful about adaptation financing in this meeting,” said Sonam Wangdi, from Bhutan, who heads the LDC bloc that has 33 African countries as members.

“But all of our member countries, including those from Africa, are quite disappointed because we see nothing concrete happening,” Mr Wangdi said.

Negotiators from the developing world have said climate adaptation and its financing were still not high enough on the main agenda.

An analysis by the OECD found that of the total climate finance mobilised by rich countries, less than 20% went for adaptation projects in 2017.

Another study by the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development estimated that less than 10% of $17bn international climate finance was committed for local level activities between 2013 and 2016.

The share for least developed countries would be lower still, with some climate finance experts putting the figure at around 5%.

“The main reason for Africa not getting adequate climate adaptation finance is because most international financing organisations don’t see it bankable as there is no profit in the short-term,” said Colin McQuistan, head of climate resilience with Practical Action, an NGO helping several African countries with climate adaptation.

“Africa is still largely a farming economy and it is mainly about small scale farmers… which means international climate financing agencies will have to deal with these farmers individually and that will mean huge administrative costs,” added Mr McQuistan.

‘Loss and Damage’

This is another contentious issue developed and developing countries have locked horns over, and Africa is very much involved.

The Warsaw International Mechanism, a special forum established six years ago to deal with the loss and damage idea, is being reviewed at COP25 and developing countries want it to be properly funded within the UN climate set-up.

Some experts consider “loss” to apply to the complete destruction of something such as human lives, habitats and species. “Damage” refers to something that can be repaired, such as roads or buildings.

However, developed countries have not yet recognised the concept of compensating impacted countries in the developing world.

African negotiators are actively involved in this negotiation but one of them said there wasn’t any progress on this front either.

“Just like on adaptation finance, we thought we would be able to create a robust mechanism for loss and damage, but that has not happened so far,” said the negotiator who wanted to remain anonymous.

“If we don’t receive money, we will not only fail to adapt to climate impacts… we will also have no choice but to carry on with carbon-intensive economic development, like burning fossil fuels,” said the African negotiator.

The meeting in Madrid is halfway through and last week largely focussed on technical sessions. With ministers joining this week, all eyes are now on them.

 

 

 

 

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-50712486

 

 

Haiti’s civil unrest reaches chaotic, disruptive point

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A girl stands at a Food for the Poor feeding center in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where families receive meals or provisions to take home. (Courtesy of Food for the Poor)

The humanitarian situation in Haiti, dire even in normal times, has worsened in recent months because of violence on the streets, stalling work throughout the country that is performed by sisters and by church-based relief agencies who work with sister congregations.

“Since September, the political situation has become worse, and so nobody has been able to go into the city,” Sr. Denise Desil, mother general of the Little Sisters of St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, a Haiti-based congregation, told GSR, referring to the capital of Port-au-Prince. The result, she said, is that sisters in her congregation are more or less “staying home” in the congregational motherhouse in nearby RivièreFroide because “we are not free to move out … it is not safe to travel.”

More than 40 people have been killed and dozens injured in the wake of street protests in Port-au-Prince and other major cities since September, the Associated Press reported.

“Obviously, everyone in Haiti is being seriously and adversely affected by the chaos,” said Sr. Marilyn Lacey, executive director of the humanitarian agency Mercy Beyond Borders and a member of the Religious Sisters of Mercy.

Lacey told GSR her program funds scholarships for 174 girls in the Gros Morne area of northern Haiti and several more at universities in Port-au-Prince, but the students are unable to attend their schools.

“All schools have been shut down nationwide since early September,” she said.

The immediate cause of the protests, many of which have been peaceful, is unhappiness with the leadership of President Jovenel Moïse, a Haitian businessman who was a political neophyte when he was elected in 2016.

Charges of electoral fraud have dogged Moïse since the elections, and Moïse’s political opponents say his administration has not done enough to deal with long-standing problems of government corruption. They also say his government is mishandling Haiti’s already-struggling economy. His opponents are calling on the president to resign.

Moïse, who has vowed not to step down, has pleaded for national unity.

“The country is more than divided, the country is torn apart,” Moïse said late last month, as reported by The Associated Press.

The struggle between Moïse “and a surging opposition movement, which coupled with economic struggle and corruption have led to soaring prices of basic goods, crumbling healthcare facilities, and pushed the country to the brink of collapse,” the United Nations said Nov. 1. The U.N. noted that the majority of those killed died of gunshot wounds, 19 of those apparently “at the hands of security forces, and others by armed demonstrators or unknown perpetrators.”

Though there is a long history of political street protests in Haiti, the current challenge for day-to-day life in many Haitian cities is the paralyzing street violence, sometimes by gang members, say the sisters and others involved in humanitarian work.

The picture is grim in other ways.

“Costs for ordinary things like food and fuel have skyrocketed due to transport blockades. People hunker down in their homes, fearful of venturing out,” Lacey said. “Street gangs have stepped up their activity and power.”

Sr. Sissy Corr, a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur who works with its Notre Dame Mission Volunteers ministry, told GSR that the current protests have to be seen in the context of a yearlong unfolding of events, noting that frequent gunshots and roadblocks have been the norm since February, accompanied later in the year by crippling inflation. The “tipping point,” she said, came in late August, “when there was no fuel for generators and huge rises in the cost of gasoline.”

“There’s underlying fear,” she said. “You sense it in the air.”

Corr said she feels those putting up road blocks are “young guys wearing bandanas without jobs” who just want an opportunity for work so they can provide for their families. Overall, she said, Haitians now “are just hungry and scrapping by to get some money for food. They hunger for a better Haiti.”

The situation has frustrated sisters, who are used to conducting their ministry against great odds, Desil said. The challenges of security, travel and dealing with potential gang threats have stopped some work, such as teaching, she said, and slowed (though not fully halted) the sisters’ work in providing food for children in an orphanage in Artibonite in northern Haiti.

Desil said one sister in her congregation has not been able to get her needed diabetic medications. Long-term, she said, “we can’t live in this condition.”

Those involved in humanitarian ministry must try to figure out when they can eke out some work around those days when it is not possible to get around because of security worries.

“Protesters allow us free days such as Saturday and Sunday so that we can go out to buy food and medication,” said Korean Sr. Matthias Choi, who heads the Haiti mission of the Kkottongnae Sisters of Jesus, a South Korean congregation with a 30-year history of work in poor communities throughout the world. However, the situation on the streets often limits that work to serving elderly residents of a senior citizens’ village.

“It seems like the cycle has become three to five days of demonstrations and one to two days off,” she told GSR.

Though Choi said members of her congregation are not in any immediate danger, she said they have had to deal with shortages of rice; fuel, such as propane and diesel gas; gauze for wounds; milk for children; and medication.

Lacey said her organization’s staff members have had to fly from Port-au-Prince to Gonaives in northern Haiti, which is normally a three-hour drive, “since the main north-south highway has dozens of daily blockades at which you pay multiple bribes to pass, if lucky, or get robbed or attacked if unlucky.”

 

More life in the street’ with tenuous improvement

There are tentative signs that the situation might be improving.

Corr said an industrial-sized bakery she helps run in the city of Les Cayes closed in October because of the insecurity in the coastal city. But the facility was scheduled to reopen Nov. 26 because of availability of fuel and baking ingredients plus slightly improved security.

Corr left Haiti in September because of a death in the family and has not returned to Haiti since then. Interviewed by GSR from Florida, she said she hopes to return as soon as possible, though she is still concerned about safety.

“What’s changed?” she said. “I want to be prudent.”

The situation in Port-au-Prince has improved a bit since late November, said Sr. Annamma Augustine, an Indian Missionary Sister of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. “There is more life in the street,” she said.

But Desil said she thinks the overall situation is not improving. Schools remain closed, people are afraid to go out, and gunmen are still shooting. “Things are not better,” she said. “We are tired of this situation.”

The situation is not uniformly dire across the country, but the effects of the stalemate are being felt everywhere.

Augustine told GSR that while the congregation has had to discontinue its ministries in Port-au-Prince for now, its ministries outside the capital are still running, including in the dioceses of Port-de-Paix in northern Haiti and Les Cayes in southern Haiti.

Work in and near Ouanaminthe, not far from the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic in northern Haiti, continues, and the overall situation is stable, said Colombian Sr. Alexandra Bonilla Leonel, a member of the Sisters of St. John the Evangelist, also known as the Juanistas. However, the paralysis in major cities like Port-au-Prince is causing prices for food and other goods to rise, she said.

“The economic impact is being felt,” Leonel said.

Humanitarian efforts continue

Lacey and others are concerned about the effects of the situation long-term.

“It goes on and on. Protestors have one goal: Shut down the country until Moïses leaves. Meanwhile, of course, it is really hurting the common people the most,” she said.

Other humanitarian efforts continue doggedly despite serious challenges. In a Nov. 21 statement to GSR from the Florida-based humanitarian organization Food for the Poor, agency director Angel Aloma said, “Getting food out to the areas in the countryside has been a challenge. Our workers have been shot at, and in one case one of our drivers was injured.”

Some families have still been able to make it to a Food for the Poor feeding center in Port-au-Prince, he said.

“Even when our workers could not cook the usual meals, they would package up dry provisions such as beans and rice and give that to the hungry who were able to make it to the feeding center,” Aloma said.

In another case, the agency sent bags of rice and beans by boat to La Gonave Island, population 87,000, “which has been severely impacted by the unrest,” said agency spokeswoman Kathy Skipper. It was not possible to ship food and water from a port in Port-au-Prince because of security issues, she said, so the agency found someone with a private port.

“It has been challenging, and we have been saddened to see how long it has continued. But we have seen these cycles in Haiti before and we pray that soon it will be peaceful enough to return to our normal operations,” Aloma said.

Chris Bessey, the Haiti country director for Baltimore-based Catholic Relief Services, echoed those sentiments in an interview with GSR, saying, “We’re doing everything we can to keep things going.”

Though hopeful that the situation will change, Bessey said he sometimes worries it could “go on for months or years” if a political solution to the crisis is not found, noting that the “masses of people” are caught in the middle of a political struggle.

Bessey said he does not believe donors to CRS’s work in Haiti will give up on the country, saying there is a loyal donor base in the United States for work in Haiti.

“I know there is a strong connection [in the United States] with the people of Haiti,” he said, citing individual, organizational, diocesan and parish-to-parish ties.

Boyer Jean Odlin, a young professional who has been out of work since Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti in 2016, is among those hoping for change.

He moved from the southern coastal city of Les Cayes to the island of Île-à-Vache in May in hopes of a better life. Though day-to-day life on the island is not as difficult as it is in the large cities like Port-au-Prince, Odlin told GSR that one example of the difficulties of life now in urban areas is that of armed gunmen stopping cars and demanding money, he said.

The only solution to the current political stalemate, he said, is to end the “fighting between the opposition and the government.” As it is now, he said, the situation in Haiti has become “unlivable. There is so much misery right now.”

 

 

 

 

https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/world/ministry/news/haitis-civil-unrest-reaches-chaotic-disruptive-point?clickSource=email

 

 

 

 

 

Dozens dead as migrant boat sinks off Mauritania coast: UN

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West Africa is struggling to generate enough jobs for its mushrooming young population, forcing many to take the perilous journey to Europe [File: Arturo Rodriguez/AP]

At least 58 people, including women and children, were killed after a boat carrying dozens of migrants capsized in the Atlantic Ocean off the West African nation of Mauritania, the UN’s migration agency said.

The perilous sea passage from West Africa to Europe was once a major route for migrants seeking jobs and prosperity.

The sinking is one of the deadliest incidents since the mid-2000s when Spain stepped up patrols and fewer boats attempted the journey.

The boat carrying at least 150 people was low on fuel while approaching Mauritania before it capsised, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said.

It said 83 people swam to shore. The survivors were being helped by Mauritanian authorities in the northern city of Nouadhibou, IOM said.

Survivors said the boat left The Gambia on November 27.

IOM’s Leonard Doyle said the vessel was unseaworthy and overcrowded when it overturned.

“It speaks really to the callousness of the smugglers who of course have made their money and disappeared into the wilderness. That’s the problem here, people are being exploited, people are looking for a better life,” Doyle told Al Jazeera.

An unknown number of injured were taken to hospital in Nouadhibou.

There was no immediate statement from authorities in The Gambia, a small West African nation from which many migrants set off in hopes of reaching Europe.

‘Horrible story’

Al Jazeera’s Mohamed Vall, reporting from Mauritania’s capital Nouakchott, said the military police discovered the survivors – most of whom came from The Gambia – and that is when the extent of the tragedy became clear.

“It’s a very horrible story and one of the deadliest incidents in regard to migrants trying to cross the Atlantic Ocean or the Mediterranean Sea towards Europe this year,” said Vall. “It’s been confirmed that women and children were on that boat and some of them lost their lives.”

Although home to some of the continent’s fastest-growing economies, West Africa is struggling to generate enough jobs for its growing population of young people.

Doyle said the survivors would likely be returned to their home countries.

“We can imagine that they’re deeply traumatised. People will need some medical care and our staff will need to establish their origin and try to help them return in the most dignified way as possible. The tragedy in all this is there is no happy solution for people who take these routes,” he said.

Despite the Gambia’s small size, more than 35,000 Gambian migrants arrived in Europe between 2014 and 2018, according to the IOM.

Economic hardship

The 22-year long oppressive rule by then-president Yahya Jammeh severely affected the country’s economy, especially for The Gambia’s young people, prompting some to look to migrating.

Since Jammeh was voted out of office in 2016 and fled into exile in January 2017, European countries have been pushing to return asylum seekers, but the country’s economy has still to recover.

The coastal nation, a popular tourist destination, was shaken earlier this year by the collapse of British travel company Thomas Cook.

At the time, The Gambia’s tourism minister said the government convened an emergency meeting on the collapse, while some Gambians said the shutdown could have a devastating impact on tourism, which contributes more than 30 percent of the country’s GDP.

 

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/12/dozens-dead-migrant-boat-sinks-mauritania-coast-191205011010131.html

Loss and damage from climate change: How much should rich countries pay?

“The wealthy countries must begin providing public climate finance at the scale necessary to support not only adaptation but loss and damage as well, and they must do so in accordance with their responsibility and capacity to act.” This is the main message of a technical report titled Can Climate Change-Fuelled Loss and Damage Ever Be Fair?, launched on the eve of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP25) to be held in Madrid from 2 to 13 December.

The US and the EU owe more than half the cost of repairing future damage says the report, authored by Civil Society Review, an independent group that produces figures on what a “fair share” among countries of the global effort to tackle climate change should look like.

“The poorer countries are bearing the overwhelming majority of the human and social costs of climate change. Consider only one tragic incident – the Cyclones Idai and Kenneth – which caused more than $3 billion in economic damages in Mozambique alone, roughly 20 % of its GDP, with lasting implications, nadvot to mention the loss of lives and livelihoods” argues the report. “Given ongoing and deepening climate impacts, to ensure justice and fairness, COP25 must as an urgent matter operationalise loss and damage financing via a facility designed to receive and disburse resources at scale to developing countries.”

The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has defined loss and damage to include harms resulting from sudden-onset events (climate disasters, such as cyclones) as well as slow-onset processes (such as sea level rise). Loss and damage can occur in human systems (such as livelihoods) as well as natural systems (such as biodiversity).

Eight weeks after Hurricane Dorian – the most intense tropical cyclone to ever strike the Bahamas – Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Amor Mottley, spoke at the United Nations Secretary General’s Climate Action Summit. She said: “For us, our best practice traditionally was to share the risk before disaster strikes, and just over a decade ago we established the Caribbean Catastrophic Risk Insurance Facility. But, the devastation of Hurricane Dorian marks a new chapter for us. Because, as the international community will find out, the CCRIF will not meet the needs of climate refugees or, indeed, will it be sufficient to meet the needs of rebuilding. No longer can we, therefore, consider this as an appropriate mechanism…There will be a growing crisis of affordability of insurance.”

An April 2019 report from ActionAid revealed the insurance and other market based mechanisms fail to meet human rights criteria for responding to loss and damage associated with climate change. The impact of extreme natural disasters is equivalent to an annual global USD$520 billion loss, and forces approximately 26 million people into poverty each year.

Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, recently warned that the climate crisis is the greatest ever threat to human rights. It threatens the rights to life, health, housing and a clean and safe environment. The UN Human Rights Council has recognised that climate change “poses an immediate and far reaching threat to people and communities around the world and has implications for the full enjoyment of human rights.” In the Paris Agreement, parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) acknowledged that they should – when taking action to address climate change – respect, promote and consider their
respective obligations with regard to human rights. This includes the right to health, the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations and the right to development, as well as gender equality, the empowerment of women and intergenerational equity. Tackling loss and damage will require a human-rights centred approach that promotes justice and equity.

Across and within countries, the highest per capita carbon emissions are attributable to the wealthiest people, this because individual emissions generally parallel disparities of income and wealth. While the world’s richest 10 % cause 50 % of emissions, they also claim 52 % of the world’s wealth. The world’s poorest 50 % contribute approximately 10 % of global emissions and receive about 8 % of global income. Wealth increases adaptive capacity. All this means that those most responsible for climate change are relatively insulated from its impacts.

Between 1850 and 2002, countries in the Global North emitted three times as many
greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as did the countries in the Global South, where approximately 85 % of the global population resides. The average CO2 emissions (metric tons per capita) of citizens in countries most vulnerable to climate change impacts, for example, Mozambique (0.3), Malawi, (0.1), and Zimbabwe (0.9), pale in comparison to the average emissions of a person in the U.S. (15.5), Canada (15.3), Australia (15.8), or UK (6).

In the 1980s, oil companies like Exxon and Shell carried out internal assessments of the carbon dioxide released by fossil fuels, and forecast the planetary consequences of these emissions, including the inundation of entire low-lying countries, the disappearance of specific ecosystems or habitat destruction, destructive floods, the inundation of low-lying farmland, and widespread water stress.

Nevertheless, the same companies and countries have pursued high reliance on GHG emissions, often at the expense of communities where fossil fuels are found (where oil spills, pollution, land grabs, and displacement is widespread) and certainly at the expense of public understanding, even as climate change harms and risks increased. Chevron, Exxon, BP and Shell together are behind more than 10 % of the world’s carbon emissions since 1966. They originated in the Global North and its governments continue to provide them with financial subsidies and tax breaks.

Responsibility for, and capacity to act on, mitigation, adaptation and loss and damage varies tremendously across nations and among classes. It must also be recognised that the Nationally Determined Contributions (climate action plans or NDCs) that have thus far been proposed by the world’s nations are not even close to being sufficient, putting us on track for approximately 4 °C of warming. They are also altogether out of proportion to national capacity and responsibility, with the developing countries generally proposing to do their fair shares, and developed countries proposed far too little.

Unfortunately, as Kevin Anderson (Professor of Energy and Climate Change at the University of Manchester and a former Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research) has said: “a 4°C future is incompatible with an organized global community, is likely to be beyond ‘adaptation’, is devastating to the majority of ecosystems, and has a high probability of not being stable.”

Equity analysis

The report assess countries’ NDCs against the demands of a 1.5 °C pathway using two ‘fair share’ benchmarks, as in the previous reports of the Civil Society Equity Review coalition. These ‘fair share’ benchmarks are grounded in the principle-based claims that countries should act in accordance with their responsibility for causing the climate problem and their capacity to help solve it. These principles are both well-established within the climate negotiations and built into both the UNFCCC and the Paris Agreement.

To be consistent with the UNFCCC’s equity principles – the wealthier countries must urgently and dramatically deepen their own emissions reduction efforts, contribute to mitigation, adaptation and addressing loss and damage initiatives in developing countries; and support additional sustainable actions outside their own borders that enable climate-compatible sustainable development in developing countries.

For example, consider the European Union, whose fair share of the global emission reduction effort in 2030 is roughly about 22 % of the global total, or about 8 Gigatons of CO2 equivalent (GtCO2eq). Since its total emissions are less than 5 GtCO2eq, the EU would have to reduce its emissions by approximately 160 % per cent below 1990 levels by 2030 if it were to meet its fair share entirely through domestic reductions. It is not physically possible to reduce emissions by more than 100 % domestically. So, the only way in which the EU can meet its fair share is by funding mitigation, adaptation and loss and damage efforts in developing countries.

Today’s mitigation commitments are insufficient to prevent unmanageable climate change, and – coming on top of historic emissions – they are setting in motion devastating changes to our climate and natural environment. These impacts are already prevalent, even with our current global average surface temperature rise of about 1°C. Impacts include droughts, firestorms, shifting seasons, sea-level rise, salt-water intrusion, glacial retreat, the spread of vector borne diseases, and devastation from cyclones and other extreme weather events. Some of these impacts can be minimised through adaptation measures designed to increase resilience to inevitable impacts.

These measures include, for example, renewing mangroves to prevent erosion and reduce flooding caused by storms, regulating new construction so that buildings can withstand tomorrow’s severe weather, using scarce water resources efficiently, building flood defences, and setting aside land corridors to help species migrate. It is also crucial with such solutions that forest dwelling and indigenous peoples be given enforceable land rights, for not only are such rights matters of basic justice, they are also pragmatic recognitions of the fact that indigenous peoples have successfully protected key ecosystems.

Tackling underlying social injustices and inequalities – including through technological and financial transfers, as well as though capacity building – would also contribute to increasing resilience. Other climate impacts, however, are unavoidable, unmanageable or unpredictable, leading to a huge degree of loss and damage. Experts estimate the financial damage also will reach at least USD$300-700 billion by 2030, but the loss of locally sustained livelihoods, relationships and connections to ancestral lands are incalculable.

Failure to reduce GHG emissions now – through energy efficiency, waste reduction, renewable energy generation, reduced consumption, sustainable agriculture and transport – will only deepen impacts in the future. Avoidable impacts require urgent adaptation measures. At the same time, unavoidable and unmanageable change impacts – such as loss of homes, livelihoods, crops, heat and water stress, displacement, and infrastructure damage – need adequate responses through well-resourced disaster response plans and social protection policies.

For loss and damage financing, developed countries have a considerable responsibility and capacity to pay for harms that are already occurring. Of course, many harms will be irreparable in financial terms. However, where monetary contributions can help restore the livelihoods or homes of individuals exposed to climate change impacts, they must be paid. Just as the EU’s fair share of the global mitigation effort is approximately 22 % in 2030, it could be held accountable for that same share of the financial support for such incidents of loss and damage in that year.

The table below provides an illustrative quantification of this simple application of fair shares to loss and damage estimates, and how they change if we compute the contribution to global climate change from the start of the industrial revolution in 1850 or from 1950.

Table 1: Countries’ Share of Global Responsibility and Capacity in 2019, the time of Cyclones
Idai and Kenneth, as illustrative application of a fair share approach to Loss and Damage
funding requirements.

Country/                            Fair share (%) 1950                          Fair share (%) 1850
Group of countries         Medium benchmark                       High benchmark
USA                                           30.4 %                                                         40.7 %
European Union                    23.9 %                                                         23.2 %
Japan                                       6.8 %                                                            7.8 %
Rest of OECD                          7.4 %                                                            8.8 %
China                                       10.4 %                                                         7.2 %
India                                        0.5 %                                                           0.04 %
Rest of the World                  20.6 %                                                         12.3 %
Total                                        100 %                                                          100 %

The advantage of setting out responsibility and capacity to act in such numerical terms is to drive equitable and robust action today. Responsible and capable countries must – of course – ensure that those most able to pay towards loss and damage repairs are called upon to do so through domestic legislation that ensures correlated progressive responsibility. However, it should also motivate mitigation action to ensure that harms are not deepened in the future.

In the Equity analysis used here, capacity – a nation’s financial ability to contribute to solving the climate problem – can be captured by a quantitative benchmark defined in a more or less progressive way, making the definition of national capacity dependent on national income distribution. This means a country’s capacity is calculated in a manner that can explicitly account for the income of the wealthy more strongly than that of the poor, and can exclude the incomes of the poorest altogether. Similarly, responsibility – a nation’s contribution to the planetary GHG burden – can be based on cumulative GHG emissions since a range of historical start years, and can consider the emissions arising from luxury consumption more strongly than
emissions from the fulfilment of basic needs, and can altogether exclude the survival emissions of the poorest. Of course, the ‘right’ level of progressivity, like the ‘right’ start year, are matters for deliberation and debate.

The report acknowledges “the difficulties in estimating financial loss and damage and the limited data we currently have”, but it recommends nevertheless “a minimal goal of providing at least USD$300 billion per year by 2030 of financing for loss and damage through the UNFCCC’s Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage (WIM)”. Given that this corresponds to a conservative estimate of damage costs, the report further recommends “the formalization of a global obligation to revise this figure upward as observed and forecast damages increase”.

The new finance facility should provide “public climate financing and new and innovative sources of financing, in addition to budget contributions from rich countries, that can truly generate additional resources (such as air and maritime levies, Climate Damages Tax on oil, gas and coal extraction, a Financial Transaction Tax) at a progressive scale to reach at least USD$300 billion by 2030”. This means aiming for at least USD$150 billion by 2025 and ratcheting up commitments on an annual basis. Ambition targets should be revised based on the level of quantified and quantifiable harms experienced.

Further, developing countries who face climate emergencies should benefit from immediate debt relief – in the form of an interest-free moratorium on debt payments. This would open up resources currently earmarked for debt repayments to immediate emergency relief and reconstruction.

Finally, a financial architecture needs to be set up that ensures funding reaches the
marginalised communities in developing countries, and that such communities have decision making say over reconstruction plans. Funds should reach communities in an efficient and effective manner, taking into account existing institutions as appropriate.

Currently, the Paris Rulebook allows countries to count non-grant instruments as climate finance, including commercial loans, equity, guarantees and insurance. Under these rules, the United States could give a USD$50 million commercial loan to Malawi for a climate mitigation project. This loan would have to be repaid at market interest rates – a net profit for the US – so its grant-equivalence is $0. But under the Paris Rulebook, the US could report the loan’s face value ($50 million) as climate finance. This is not acceptable. COP25 must ensure that the WIM has robust outcomes and sufficient authority to deliver a fair and ambitious outcome for the
poorest and most vulnerable in relation to loss & damage.

 

 

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Japanese Catholic youth: ‘We want to reach people’

japanese
Students and young people at Tokyo’s Sophia University discuss the Nov. 23-26 2019 visit of Pope Francis to Japan. Credit: Suzuka Oiwa/CNA

.- “Most of Japanese people don’t know we exist,” Minori Takeuchi told CNA last week.

“Or they think we are connected to cults. They think, ‘You must be dangerous! Or crazy!’ They don’t say it but –”

Minori, 22, is the college student who started Tokyo Christian Vox, a Youtube channel aimed at providing more religious content for Catholics in Japan. She translates, shares, and uploads videos on Catholicism for a Japanese speaking audience.

She’s also a student at Sophia University, Japan’s premier Catholic college, whose reputation rivals even that of National Universities, the Japanese equivalent to the Ivy League.

Minori called together a ragtag group of students and local parish members in the small library of Joseph Hall for an interview with Catholic News Agency a few days before Pope Francis arrived in the country for a visit Nov. 23-26.

Some spoke English, some spoke Japanese, and some switched rapidly between the two.

The group of about ten Catholic youth leaders talked to CNA about the state of the Church and the problems that young Catholics are facing in Japan today.

“When I was in junior high school, I was in the baseball club. I was not able to go to church except for Easter and Christmas,” said Kazuki, 20, a Sophia student.

“Japanese people don’t want to be different from others.”

Juno Matsumoto, 22, was in the basketball club around the time of her First Communion. In order to attend her own ceremony, she was required to miss an important basketball game, an uncommon and generally unaccepted experience in Japanese society, in which youth participation in clubs is heavily emphasized.

Juno’s parents forced her to skip the match and Juno became upset at how it would affect her and her team. She cried and refused several times to receive the Eucharist.

“I still have trauma,” she said about the struggle.

Juno believes that social media’s popularity in Japan can be an opportunity for young believers to feel “normal,” and develop a network of friends in a country where meeting young Catholics can be tough.

“I used to stay away from the Church when I was a junior high school and high school student,” said Yuhki Iizaka, a 26 year old Catholic in Tokyo. Yuhki had attended Mass weekly while in elementary school, but moving into junior high school culture changed him.

“What got me back to church was music. Somebody said there will be a folk Mass, so I heard that you could play the drums. I played the drums and everyone seemed happy to see me again.”

“For me, music is a bond to the church.”

Joshua Kurniawan, 24, works in Tokyo and participates in youth-oriented Catholic events.

Joshua told CNA he was looking forward to an upcoming discussion among Catholic youth on using their natural talents for the propagation of the faith. The small seminar featured a speaker from the Philippines, singing, and bonding exercises for those in attendance.

However, for every student and worker in the community forming strong bonds within the church, there are many more hovering on the outskirts and not engaged fully with the group.

Naoya Okuda, 25, is a student leader at Sophia University, and oversees several group chats on the popular messaging app Line. The chats are geared towards forming groups of support for Catholic students. But not everyone who signs up is active.

“In my [parish], half of them don’t come [to] church. They don’t comment on Line, they don’t come,” he said.

“We have 60 or 70 members, but half of them –,” Naoya cuts off. “It’s difficult to say they lost interest, but they’re busy with a job, or children.”

Naoya also manages a student group on Facebook with 165 members.

Shiori Kimura, 34, a Catholic woman who works as a nursery school teacher in Tokyo, runs a Youtube radio show called “KatoRaji.” The name is Japanese portmanteau that means “Catholic Radio.”

On the show, she regularly talks to a priest about the liturgy. They use the show as a way of educating non-Catholics on the basics of Catholic theology, but it’s also an attempt to reach out and catch those who feel for one reason or another that they can’t make it to Sunday services.

“We want to reach people who are too busy to go to church,” Shiori said with a sad, polite smile.

Shiori also spoke up about an issue she sees in the way the Japanese media has addressed Pope Francis this visit.

“The news calls him the ‘Roman Pope,’” said Shiori. “It’s weird to hear.”

Many news outlets in Japan and some social media users attach the “Roman” label to Pope Francis’s title, specifying his domain. Shiori feels that this unnecessarily limits someone who should be seen as a universal spiritual leader, the leader of a faith transcending borders.

The nomenclature used for the pope in Japanese is a frequent source of irritation for Catholics who speak the language.

This month, news outlets have been reporting heavily about the change of houou, or “Lawful King” to kyouko, roughly “Emperor of Teaching” or “Emperor of Scripture” as the official terminology for the pontiff. The latter term has been in regular use among Catholics for a long time.

Minori struggled to convey her thoughts into precise English, saying, “The pope is like the Emperor of Japan – he has such authority. But we see him like close family.”

“People think we serve him,” Minori continued, “but he’s our servant leader. He serves us.”

Despite a general lack of understanding or aversion to Christianity, Japan has had a long love affair with its superficial decorations. Japanese pop culture is overflowing with references to the religion.

Crosses and crucifixes are extremely popular among Japanese youth, usually worn as jewelry or other accessories. Shirts and sweaters also often bear crosses or depictions of the Virgin Mary, Jesus, or angels.

Anime and manga in Japan make frequent use of the Catholic Church as a convenient plot element. Popular media franchises can carve out niche stories from Catholic and general Christian lore, such as the manga Vatican Miracle Examiner, which follows two priests who aim to stop a nefarious shadow organization from overthrowing a fictionalized, magical Vatican City.

It’s safe to say that Japan loves pieces of Christian culture, but do they actually appreciate the faith?

“I don’t think it’s connected,” said Damien Adorable, 25, a Filipino who has been living and working in Tokyo for years.

“Many of them like to play games, but… this is just my opinion, but maybe they want it just because it looks cool. They have no idea that the cross is a Christian thing,” said Damien. “It’s nothing serious.”

Minori said that she had heard the visit of John Paul II more than 38 years ago gave a small boost in the numbers of Catholics around that time. She hopes Francis’ visit will make an impact on church attendance and bring back to the faith people who have strayed away.

Minori has had negative experiences with foreign Catholic reporters before. According to her, these American and European writers often assume that Japanese believers are somehow deficient or bizarre in their version of the shared religion.

“Most of the time with foreign reporters, they start [the interview with], ‘Do you pray every day?’” said Minori, annoyed. “They think ‘We are the real Catholics!’ That is so rude.”

These interview experiences have made her jaded towards Western journalists.

“That fact hurts us. It’s not just Japanese people who hurt us,” muttered Minori.

The pope concluded his tour of Japan on November 25th, the first apostolic journey to the country in close to forty years.

After speaking at Tokyo Dome and offering a mass for the thousands in attendance, Pope Francis also met with college youths at St. Mary’s Cathedral, one of the busiest churches in Japan.

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/japanese-catholic-youuth-we-want-to-reach-people-63633