Kenyan climate protest Credit: GIN photo

Hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets of Nairobi over the weekend to demand that wealthy countries pay more in the fight against climate change. “We need the Global North to pay for the damages they are causing,” said Duncan Omwami, an activist who joined the protest.

“Ninety-six percent of the emissions are being emitted by the Global North,” he said, “while 4% is emitted by the Global South. We are not able to make any great contribution to these emissions, so we are demanding that the Global North pay for the loss and damage.”

The march was part of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), a youth-based movement that holds street marches and protests as it highlights the need for wealthier countries to pay for the huge damage done to lands of smallholder farmers and pastoralists across Africa.

PACJA climate activists point to the ongoing drought which has been described by locals as the “worst in 40 years.”

“It is unimaginable that communities can lose livelihoods due to the climate crisis and yet governments are too incapacitated to intervene,” said Mithika Mwenda, executive director of PACJA.

Protestor Elizabeth Wathuti commented: “These disasters and these challenges are not just happening in Kenya, they are happening across the African continent. And this is a continent that has done the least to cause the climate crisis but still continues to bear the biggest brunt.

“So we are asking that countries which have contributed the most to this crisis should definitely not abandon these communities on the frontline to their fate but they should step up and fulfill the pledges they have made on climate finance,” she said in a press interview.

In September 2021 almost 3.5 million Kenyans became victims of extreme weather with the government declaring it a national disaster. In the same period, around 200,000 people were displaced by flooding.

Meanwhile, at the African Ministerial Conference on Environment (AMCEN) taking place in Dakar, Senegal, African climate activists expressed disappointment with the presentation of John Kerry, President Joe Biden’s special climate envoy, accusing him of a lack of comprehension of the magnitude of climate change.

“John Kerry came to AMCEN without coming out strongly to deliver a bold commitment that would offer hope to families in the Horn of Africa, Sahel, and the rest of Africa whose livelihoods have been turned upside down by a problem they have very little to do with,” said Mithika.

In his speech during the African Ministerial Conference, Kerry urged every country to bear the burden of its impacts. Kerry acknowledged that the 48 countries of sub-Saharan Africa emit only 0.55% of global harmful emissions but said that every nation had to pull together in the face of crisis. “And is there a disparity in that? Yes, there is. Is there an unfairness built into that? Yes, there is,” Kerry said.

“Mother Nature does not measure where the emissions come from,” he said. “They don’t have a label of one country or another on them. And it’s important for all of us to now come together to figure out how we’re going to compensate for that and deal with it.

“The challenge of the climate crisis comes from the crisis of emissions in every country.”

Mithika said African community-based organizations consider it a mockery to the people on the continent when a top U.S. diplomat spews out what Africans have heard over the years without telling them why his country continues to churn out tons of carbon emissions across the Atlantic or speaking on its failure to honor its commitments on climate finance.

“Kerry’s mere recognition of the ‘climate crisis facing the African continent’ is just a tired rhetoric which we hardly want to hear.”

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