Wendy Young: Climate change legislation must commit to making a bigger difference

Sori Galgallo
Sori Galgallo
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While we have been enjoying a Mediterranean-like climate here in Scotland it is at this time of year an increasing number of migrants make precarious journeys across the Mediterranean Sea. According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) 45,808 people have made the journey across the Med so far this year.

Only a few of those failed crossings have received media attention. The blocking of a rescue ship with 266 migrants on board by Italy and Malta, finally getting permission to dock in Spain, generating the most notable attention and the occasional capsized boat getting a headline on a what is probably a quiet news day.

Wendy Young co-ordinates resources for churches for Christian Aid.

Wendy Young co-ordinates resources for churches for Christian Aid.

It takes the actions of Donald Trump and the significance of a superpower like the USA to make migration a headline grabbing story. And it is an extreme story indeed -– the separation of children from their parents at the Mexican border and put into cages or so called ‘tender age detention centres’. It has rightly evoked an international outcry at such mistreatment of little ones, it has taken the dehumanisation of those migrating to a new level.

Becoming Human Together is a recent publication from Christian Aid Scotland and Scottish Faith Action for Refugees on the need to value the humanity beyond every label and migration statistic. It calls us to lament the loss of so many lives, hopes and dreams. The paper beckons us to remember our own stories of migration, forced and chosen, to and from Scotland, historical and current. It encourages us to enter into a greater empathy with those migrating, to work to understand those who hold a different view or opinion on migration from ourselves, and to realise the opportunity of reciprocal hospitality. It is also an invitation to remember our own identity as people on the move in a world where migration is a very natural phenomenon.

Becoming Human Together may be a quiet contribution to a loud and complicated conversation however it puts the humanity of people who only want to survive and thrive at the heart of this issue, amidst all the political posturing and wrangling. It invites us to go deeper than the headlines and sensationalism that surrounds migration to consider the injustice of the root causes.

The conflict in Syria is attributed as a significant driver of forced migration, and rightly so, it has caused the displacement of half the country’s population, resulting in more than 5 million people having to leave as refugees. Less known about however, are the nearly one person displaced every second by climate and weather disasters, an average of 26 million people every year. These numbers will only increase as rural areas struggle to cope with the unpredictable weather that climate change brings, such as drought, erratic rainfall and destructive storms.

Sori Galgallo, 38, lives in Marsabit county, northern Kenya, which hasn’t seen rainfall for two years, causing a devastating drought, threatening the pastoral way of life, the pastoralists have to travel longer and longer distances to find sufficient water and grazing for their animals. The richest countries in the world, including Scotland, are most responsible for climate change – but the poorest communities are hit hardest. We have a responsibility to act.

That is why we need a stronger Scottish Climate Change Bill than is currently being offered. Scotland has nearly halved its greenhouse gas emissions since 1990; a huge achievement that positions Scotland at the forefront of tackling climate change. Yet the recently-published draft new Bill lacks the ambition to retain that position of leadership. The Scottish Government claims that these new laws will make Scotland one of the first countries in the world to achieve net zero emissions – effectively to end its contribution to climate change – but the Bill does not commit to that. Yet.

While we bask in our unusually warm summer here in Scotland, let us not forget but stand together with brothers and sisters around the world who are experiencing more extreme changes in climate and longing for a better life elsewhere. Let us work together to tackle the root causes of migration so people do not have to make precarious journeys across desert, mountain or ocean in pursuit of a better life. Somalia-British poet Warsan Shire puts it better than I when she wrote ‘no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land.’

To find out more about Christian Aid Scotland’s climate change campaign please go to: https://www.christianaid.org.uk/news/scottish-climate-bill;.

Uou can read Becoming Human Together here: https://www.christianaid.org.uk/resources/about-us/becoming-human-together

Wendy Young co-ordinates resources for churches for Christian Aid