Kenyan ecologist and theologian says Copenhagen leaves poor on the brink

Kenyan ecologist and theologian says Copenhagen leaves poor on the brink

By Ecumenical News International
9 Jan 2010

Vulnerable communities have been left on their own to adapt to climate change or perish, with only God to count on, because of the failure of the United Nations conference in Copenhagen to agree legally binding commitments, a Kenyan theologian and ecologist has warned - writes Fredrick Nzwili.

"They should not expect any significant help from the nations most responsible for historical emissions," Professor Jesse Mugambi, who teaches religious studies at the University of Nairobi, told Ecumenical News International on 4 January 2009. "This became evidently clear in the political statements made by the heads of delegations at Copenhagen."

Vulnerable communities, he said, will need to develop their own adaptation mechanism to climate change, irrespective of whether or not they receive support from their governments and foreign agencies.

Mugambi was present in Copenhagen in December for the UN meeting, known as COP15, as a member of a World Council of Churches' working group on climate change.

In the Danish capital, delegations from 192 countries had sought to reach agreement on what should follow on from the first phase of the Kyoto Protocol, a UN-brokered accord aimed at limiting emissions of greenhouse gases that lead to climate change. The protocol expires at the end of 2012.

Mugambi said he regretted the talks had failed to produce legally binding commitments for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, sufficient financial resources to aid adaptation and measures to mitigate the damages already caused.

"No such binding commitments have been made," he said. "There is no mechanism to ensure any nation complies with its pledges and promises."

His comments came as floods associated with [the] climate change phenomenon known as El Nino continued to cause death and destruction in Kenya. More than 20 people have died since the end of 2009, media reports say.

The Kenyan theologian said countries had breached with impunity the Kyoto Protocol, which requires industrialised nations to reduce their per capita emissions to at least 40 per cent lower than their 1990 levels. Instead of reducing emissions, most nations had increased them.

"The exploration and extraction of oil and coal has increased rather than decreased. Many of the new extractions are in Africa, although the revenue from these extractions is not directed to the clean technologies," said Mugambi.

Data shows African nations collectively contribute less than 3 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The United States, which contributes more than 30 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions, has not ratified the Kyoto Protocol.

[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]

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