Activists, experts call out governments over fancy speeches, empty promises

Activists from around the world protesting in Stockholm

Activists from around the world protesting in Stockholm, Sweden during the Stockholm +50 conference .

Photo credit: Leon Lidigu | Nation Media Group

Ugandan climate justice activist Vanessa Nakate has called out world leaders and governments over what she describes as fancy speeches, more promises and forgotten commitments. This is after a new global report found that oil, gas and coal production and emissions are a primary threat to water, health, biodiversity and the ability to provide economic and energy security.

The findings from the report dubbed Fuelling Failure: How coal, oil and gas sabotage all seventeen Sustainable Development Goals were released by Fossil Fuel Treaty, a global organization that calls for total phase out of fossil fuels, highlights the critical dangers that fossil fuels pose to all the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs).

“Just like fifty years ago, when the world used international treaties to defuse the threats posed by nuclear weapons, today, the world needs a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty to phase out fossil fuels, support dependent economies, workers and communities to diversify away from fossil fuels, ensure 100 percent access to renewable energy globally and promote a just transition that leaves no-one behind,” the report reads in part.

Calls by the organization for an international framework with binding commitments that constrain fossil fuel production globally comes as the world converges in Stockholm, Sweden to commemorate 50 years since the United Nation’s first international summit on the environment (Stockholm +50).

Climate activists and experts insist that despite important steps taken, the world remains dangerously off track to achieve a healthy planet.

“I am 25 years old, 50 years is twice my lifetime and for half a century we have been trying to make the environment a global pressing issue. What have we achieved?” Ms Nakate said during a pre-summit address on Wednesday.

“As leaders and governments continue to flock summits like Stockholm +50, they will make fancy speeches and more promises to take action then they will leave.

“Shortly thereafter, their commitments will be forgotten, broken or become politically impractical while back in their capitals the commitments they make will be viewed as unprofitable as and emissions will continue to go up.”

She reminded that extreme weather events will as a result become more likely and ferocious.

“Stronger and more frequent storms, droughts, landslides, wild fires and floods will devastate communities around the world especially in climate vulnerable places in the global south. People will suffer, people will die.”

Activists protesting in Stockholm

Activists from around the world protesting in Stockholm, Sweden during the Stockholm +50 conference .

Photo credit: Leon Lidigu | Nation Media Group

26-year-old Kenyan Climate activist Elizabeth Wathuti agrees with Ms Nakate.

“The situation in the horn of Africa has continued to worsen and right now, over three million of my fellow Kenyans are facing climate related starvation and also over 20 million people across the horn of Africa are dying of hunger.

“This is because of a record-breaking drought that has seen rainy seasons fail consecutively,” she said.

Ms Wathuti disclosed to the global pre-summit that she has spent the last few weeks visiting parts of northern Kenya impacted by the drought.

“What I saw in Wajir was a heart-breaking example of how the food, nature and climate crisis has continued to devastate communities. I saw hungry and desperate people who are losing hope for their future. On the road, I saw carcasses of dead livestock which belong to a community whose 80 percent source of livelihood is rearing animals,” the Kenyan climate activist narrated.

“All they are left with to lean on is their faith and hope for a miracle, they do not know that our deadly reliance on fossil fuels is costing them their lives and livelihoods and also they do not know that we have spent the last 50 years making pledges and commitments that we end up not meeting hence making their lives more unbearable as they are on the receiving end of this crisis.”

She, however, reveals that all hope is not lost: “Most importantly I saw fighters, I saw communities willing to do everything that they can to find solutions for themselves despite the fact that they still continue to be greatly impacted.”

Ms Nakate, like Ms Wathuti, wonders why the world is still in the same situation 50 years later.

“The question is why. Why 50 years on, with all of this brilliant and determined people who are doing everything they can to make the environment a pressing global issue are, we still in the same situation?”

Fossil Fuel Treaty highlights that the Paris Agreement, important as it is, does not reference fossil fuels and has failed to constrain production.

“The commitments made by states to reduce fossil fuel consumption are indispensable, but to think that they will lead to a decrease in production is false.”

According to Freddie Daley, the co-author of the study and research associate at the University of Sussex, 2030 is a line in the sand for the health of our planet and its people.

“By 2030, humanity needs to have halved global emissions, while at the same time achieving all 17 SDGs.

“This is an impossible endeavour without concerted global efforts to constrain and phase out fossil fuel production in a fast, fair and equitable manner, with the wealthy nations that continue to benefit from fossil fuelled economic growth leading the way. This research lays out the incompatibility of sustainable development and fossil fuels - and what is at stake if we fail to address unchecked fossil fuel expansion,” Mr Daley said.

Mr Mohammed Adow, director of Power Shift Africa, a climate think tank organization based in Nairobi, is of the view that the fossil fuel industry is built on servicing extractive systems and have left communities - especially those in Africa - vulnerable to socio-economic and ecological traps, shocks and under development.

“Fossil fuels are undermining sustainable development in many ways, including fuelling catastrophic extreme weather impacts on our people’s lives and livelihoods.

 To achieve sustainable development, we need to see a rapid and urgent shift away from fossil fuel investments and increased financing of people-centred, community-owned, decentralized and distributed, accessible, resilient, and affordable renewable energy systems, particularly for the vulnerable sections of the society in Africa.”

Environment and Forestry Cabinet Secretary (CS) Keriako Tobiko, who arrived in Stockholm on Wednesday, called for ‘greening of the hearts and minds in order to address the challenges of finance in protection and restoration of nature’.

“Protection of nature should not be done out of sympathy or mercy, nature should have rights which should be respected the way human rights are respected,” he said.