World’s poorest need a new deal for climate justice - Val Brown

The good old Scottish weather – a go-to topic of conversation. A little mundane, perhaps, but generally a safe topic to converse with our neighbours or the person in the supermarket queue.

Justine lives with her husband and five children near the Kalikuvu earth dam in Kitui, south Kenya, where communities vulnerable to the impact of climate change are struggling with prolonged periods of drought and erratic heavy rainfall. Picture by Adam Finch

In the classic, ‘My Fair Lady’ (based on George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion), they are topics Professor Higgins tells Eliza Doolittle to stick to on her social debut to avoid courting controversy. But let’s be honest, in 2021, climate and health are far from uncontroversial.

Weather is important to us. It dictates our moods, our ability to get out and about, our ability to take part in sport, and to grow things in our gardens.

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For many it dictates if they can farm, get to the mainland, or go and visit loved ones. For me torrential rain is but an inconvenience. It means I can’t play tennis and it gives me low level anxiety about the state of my roof. For farmers and those travelling for health care, however, the impact is severe. For farmers in Kenya, a country where climate chaos is wreaking havoc on crops, the impact of extreme weather is severe. Weather directly affects health.

This Christian Aid Week (May 10-16), we will hear about communities in Kenya vulnerable to the impact of climate change who are struggling with prolonged periods of drought and erratic heavy rainfall. Drought pushes people to the brink as animals and crops die and people are forced to walk further to collect water for their families and animals. It often falls to women to do this, many of them walking for hours a day on an empty stomach.

In Kenya, prolonged periods of drought have been followed by flash flooding that has washed away any fledging crops. Communities affected by alternating flooding and drought desperately need a reliable source of water. Without that they have little choice but to migrate and to find viable livelihoods elsewhere.

Christian Aid partners support communities to develop water dams which trap rainwater, when it comes, and then store that water deep underground. Thanks to these dams, women are freed from the daily chore of walking for hours on end to collect water. Crops and animals are able to thrive and people are well fed. Adapting to the new climate reality is essential in keeping people on the land.

Here in Scotland our ancestors have lived through many harsh realities: making a living from the land, the highland clearances, existing in tenement slums, working in dangerous coal pits to name but a few. But we also know that change happens largely because people demand that it happens. Our freedoms, rights and lifestyles were hard fought for. Christian Aid exists to create a world where everyone can live a full life, free from poverty. But we cannot end poverty without addressing the climate crisis and the injustice and inequality at its roots.

We are calling for a new deal for climate justice which calls for a limiting of emissions, a move from fossil fuels to renewable energy and financial support for the world’s poorest, so they can tackle climate change and be freed from crippling debts.

With COP26 coming to Glasgow in six months' time every moment matters and we need to make the changes that the world needs. This climate crisis hurts us all. But people living in poverty, our global neighbours, fight the worst of it every day.

To find out about Christian Aid Week and make a donation or to sign our climate justice petition please go to: https://www.christianaid.org.uk/get-involved-locally/scotland

Val Brown, Head of Community Relations and Fundraising, Christian Aid Scotland

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