By Nalisha Adams
BONN, Germany, Feb 24 2021 (IPS) – For Sudanese youth, climate change is synonymous with insecurity.
“We are living in a continuous insecurity due to many factors that put Sudan on top of the list when it comes to climate vulnerability,” said Nisreen Elsaim, Sudanese climate activist and chair of United Nations Secretary General’s Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change. She said this was directly linked to insecurity within Sudan. She noted that even a Security Council resolution from 2018 which acknowledged “the adverse effects of climate change, ecological changes and natural disasters, among other factors,”, including droughts, desertification, land degradation and food insecurity influenced the situation in Darfur, Sudan.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) ranks Sudan as one of the world’s most vulnerable countries when it comes to climate change. Increased frequency of droughts and high rainfall variability over decades has stressed Sudan’s rainfed agriculture and pastoralist livelihoods, which are the dominant means of living in rural areas like north Dafur.
“In a situation of resources degradation, hunger, poverty and uncontrolled climate migration will [mean] conflict is an inevitable result,” Elsaim said, adding that climate-related emergencies resulted in major disruptions to healthcare and livelihoods and that climate-related migration increased the risk of gender-based violence.
She also pointed out that women, youth and children where the groups most adversely affected by climate insecurity.
In January, inter-communal violence in Darfur displaced over 180,000 people — 60 percent of whom are under the age of 18. “Displacement has declined in recent years in Sudan, but many of its triggers remain unaddressed. Ethnic disputes between herders and farmers over scarce resources overlap with disasters such as flooding and political instability,” the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre said in a statement. There are currently 2.1 million internally displaced persons in Sudan.
Elsaim was speaking yesterday, Feb. 23, during a high-level United Nations Security Council debate focusing on international peace and security and climate change, led by United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The UK currently holds the Security Council presidency and will also be host to the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), which will take place in November in Glasgow, Scotland.
“Land and resources in Africa and in many other parts of the world, because of climate change, can no longer maintain young people,” Elsaim cautioned.
She said in the youth’s search for decent lives, jobs and proper access to services, the new challenge of COVID-19 meant the only solution for many was in the country, cross-border or international migration.
The issue is a global one.
Natural historian Sir David Attenborough addressed the council in a video message also giving a stark warning that the “stability of the entire world” could be altered by climate threats.
“Today there are threats to the security of a new and unprecedented kind,” Attenborough said.
“They are rising global temperatures, the despoiling of the ocean — that vast universal larder which people everywhere depend for their food. Change in the pattern of weather worldwide that pay no regard to national boundaries but that can turn forests into deserts, drown great cities and lead to the extermination of huge numbers of the other creatures with which we share this planet.”
He cautioned that no matter what the world did now, some of these threats could become a reality, destroying cities and societies.
“If we continue on our current path, we will face the collapse of everything that gives us our security: food production, access to fresh water, habitable ambient temperature, and ocean food chains,” Attenborough cautioned.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres said the last decade was the hottest in human history and that wildfires, cyclones and floods were the new normal which also affected political, economic and social stability.
“Climate disruption is a crisis amplifier and multiplier,” Guterres told the Security Council. “While climate change dries up rivers, reduces harvests, destroys critical infrastructure and displaces communities, it [also] exacerbates the risks of instability and conflict.”
He referred to a study by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute which noted that 8 of the 10 countries hosting the largest multilateral peace operations in 2018 were in areas highly exposed to climate change.
“The impacts of these crises are greatest where fragility and conflicts have weakened coping mechanisms,” Guterres said.
The UN has already stated that 2021 will be critical, not only for curbing the rapidly spreading COVID-19 pandemic but also for meeting the climate challenge. Guterres has already stated that he plans to focus this year on building a global coalition for carbon neutrality by 2050.
Alongside the Security Council debate, the Fifth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly wrapped up yesterday. The assembly, world’s top environmental decision-making body attended by government leaders, businesses, civil society and environmental activists, met virtually on Feb. 22 to 23 under the theme “Strengthening Actions for Nature to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals”.
The assembly concluded with member states releasing a statement acknowledging “the urgency to continue our efforts to protect our planet also in this time of crisis”, and calling for multilateral cooperation as they “remain convinced that collective action is essential to successfully address global challenges”.
Joyce Msuya, the Deputy Executive Director for the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), noted that 87 ministers and high-level representatives participated during the two days. She shared some of the points of the dialogue noting that the health of nature and human health were inextricably linked.
“For our own well-being we must make our peace with nature in a way that demonstrates solidarity,” Msuya said, making reference to a recent UNEP report.
The report serves as a blueprint on how to tackle the triple emergencies of climate, biodiversity loss and pollution and provides detailed solutions by drawing on global assessments.
Msuya added that the nature crisis was linked with the climate and pollution crisis and that the world now had the chance to put in place a green recovery “that will transform our relations with nature and heal our planet”.
She said the green recovery should put the world on a path to a low-carbon, resilient, post-pandemic world.
Meanwhile, Elsaim said that as a young person, she was “sure that young people are the solution”. She urged world leaders to engage with the youth and listen to them.
“Stop conflict by stopping climate change. Give us security and secure the future,” she said in conclusion.
By Nalisha Adams