We were all so eager to put 2020 behind us and embrace the new year, but as January draws to a close we’re discovering that the days ahead are going to remain very tough. Many more lives have been lost to Covid-19 and the current lockdown has no end in sight. As cases of Covid-19 soar the pandemic remains a major worry as does the uncertain roll-out of the vaccines globally.
Throughout the pandemic the climate crisis hasn’t disappeared, and remains a crisis, indeed an emergency. And for millions of people in vulnerable parts of the world, climate breakdown compounds everything. Whether it be floods in Asia, locusts in Africa or storms in Europe and the Americas, climate change continues to rage. Like the virus, climate change is a threat we cannot afford to ignore. To put it bluntly: we’ve got work to do. But amid the despair, what opportunities exist to build a better future, one that places the values of inclusion, solidarity, and justice at its heart?
At Christian Aid, we hear first-hand from those living on the frontline of the climate crisis. In Ethiopia, where 2020 saw prolonged periods of drought coupled with heavy rains, the erratic weather means life is harder for farmers like Mekonnen Sofar.
'The drought and the climate change affect me in both resources that I have. The first is farmland, it’s not productive. And second, the livestock. They die out with drought and also the remaining will go to the market to be sold to buy food. So, I’m affected in different ways.' Sometimes he has to resort to digging in the dry riverbed to find his cattle enough water to drink.
This includes being part of a weather ‘listening’ group which sends detailed short and medium term forecasts to their mobile phones so they can plan accordingly. But the forecast for the next few months isn’t promising.
The good news is that, like the vaccine for Covid-19, we do know how to fix the climate crisis. We need to keep fossil fuels in the ground, boost clean energy investment and help those who are suffering on the front line. The only way to solve the crisis is for rich countries, like Scotland, to urgently reduce their emissions and to support those communities which are living with the impacts. It’s reassuring that President Biden has already brought the US back into the Paris Agreement. Let more action for climate justice follow.
As thousands of people from across the world come together to push governments on climate ambition, we hope that the talks will offer a chance to amplify the voices of grassroots and Indigenous communities, to unlock progress and to drive levels of ambition across the world so that tangible outcomes are achieved. We also know that this moment offers an invaluable chance to energise the climate movement towards climate justice. If we act now, we can build a better world, where everyone, including Mekonnen, can flourish.
Coronavirus has disrupted our lives in an unprecedented way. Now we face a choice - we can go back to business as usual, perpetuating the climate crisis and growing inequality. Or we can become campaigners for climate justice and take positive strides towards a healthier, safer future for everybody.