A panel of experts, including the Special Advisor on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Investment to the Governor of Lagos State, Nigeria met on the 28th October. Discussions centred on practical actions and strategies Africa religious communities and people can do and are doing to combat climate crisis and achieve the UN Sustainable development goals.
At an online event under the theme “Africa, Religion and Climate Change”, hosted by Africa Centre for Religion and Society, a UK based think tank, the experts emphasised that we need a multisectoral, multi-disciplinary and a multi-faith approach to achieving climate justice. The economic costs to African nations vulnerable to extreme climate patterns is projected to grow from $895 billion in 2018 to about $1.4 trillion in 2023.
A great number of Africans still have little or no knowledge of climate change and the ecological crisis that affect us. A 2019 survey by Afrobarometer found that four in 10 Africans are unfamiliar with the concept of climate change. Only about 3 in 10 are fully “climate-change literate,” combining awareness of climate change with basic knowledge about its causes and negative effects.
Meryne Warah, Co-facilitator and coordinator of Green Faith International Network, said that faith communities are front and centre of the work against climate change and the issue cannot be left to just politicians or academicians. She urged faith leaders in Africa to take climate justice as seriously as the activists.
“It is the sole responsibility of people of faith to speak about the climate change agenda. We need to build the capacities of our religious leaders so that they can talk competitively and confidently talk about these discussions. Religious leaders are our wildcards in this issue.”
The Ven. DrStanley Nweze of the University of Nigeria, Nsukka encouraged priests and religious leaders to use their privileged access to politicians and traditional leaders to enlighten them about the effects of climate change on local communities.
The impact of climate change is being experienced in deforestation, rising sea levels, more floods, droughts and severe weather patterns that is felt most strongly in rural communities in Africa. The panel stressed the importance of harnessing indigenous knowledge to the scientific knowledge so these rural communities can be in a position to adapt and mitigate on their own. However, Dr Joram Tarusarira, Assistant Professor at the University of Groningen says, “the average African might not explain climate change but they have their own knowledge systems.”
Mrs Solape Hammond, Special Advisor to the Governor of Lagos on SDGs and Investment, highlighted the work of Lagos State in helping the people live sustainably. She called for more support and partnership with our brothers and sisters of faith and the Lagos state volunteer corps.
Dr Joram Tarusarira, Assistant Professor at the University of Groningen says, “we need to go beyond the technical, scientific and economic approaches. Climate change is also a moral issue. We need to go into the moral motivation of people and this is where religion comes in to play”.
The Africa Centre for Religion and Society believes that faith can impact nations and society for the better. We believe that a contextual African Christian voice can contribute to and influence the ongoing debate on national ethical, social, and political issues across the African continent. The purpose is to empower individuals with informed knowledge to make a difference in their communities.
– Godwin Adinoyi Jimoh