The Catholic Youth Network for Environmental Sustainability in Africa (CYNESA) participated at the post UNEA 2 workshop for Major Groups and Stakeholders held on 20th-21st September 2016 at the UN complex in Nairobi, Kenya and hosted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).
The meeting ended on a high, further underscoring that the human race will not win the war in mitigating the effects of climate change if every individual on earth does not understand that destroying the environment is a sin against themselves and against their Creator.
Climate change is a reality and is already manifesting itself in all fashions. The fact that the earth is still going to suffer the consequences of climate change even after implementing the Paris resolutions that were unanimously agreed upon in 2015 is very worrying. The earth is still going to feel a 3 – 3.5 0C rise in temperature by the year 2100 even if we decided to cut all our emissions to zero now. Poor and agriculture-dependent countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and South America, as well as small island nations are going to be the hardest hit.
Usually, during UNEP meetings and workshops, the jargon that accompanies the discussions is too technical for the layman. Lawyers and justices are not spared either, yet we depend on them to help in the interpretation. Thus, it was interesting to watch young university students among those following the proceedings, representing their institutions and still participating with zeal and eagerness. All in all, one simple question from one workshop participant shifted the dimension of thinking for the rest of the workshop. “For whom are these environmental legislations for?”
Prof. Rev. Msafiri, a Catholic priest and climate change ambassador from Tanzania, passionately reiterated that man’s selfishness and moral decadence were the main propellers of climate change. For me this was true. It left me feeling guilty about why I had not brought along a refillable water bottle to use during the workshop, as the organizers had suggested to all participants, instead of being among those offended by the lack of disposable cups at the water dispenser points in the UN conference rooms. I also felt sorry for opting to ride a matatu many-a-time when I could have simply saved that money and fuel by strutting the short distance home from church. I also thought of the many times that I left my phone charger on after fully charging my phone battery and the countless times that I threw my airtime scratch card up in the air after happily reloading airtime on my 7th phone now. I even wonder where I disposed the other six since I don’t remember where I trashed them after they got broken.
This event was truly a confirmation of the truth and honesty of Pope Francis’ Laudato Si. It was CYNESA’s moment to observe that the role we are to play is in advocating for moral change and perception towards our common home. CYNESA’s goal of advocacy through educating young people on climate issues could never have received a grander calling than this. The environmental legislations we are fighting to formulate and enforce should first be written in our hearts. It is that simple. In the words of Dr. Richard Munang, UNEP’s climate change coordinator at the Regional Office of Africa and one of the keynote speakers during the workshop, “Let’s get to work!”
Core Team Member, CYNESA Kenya.