Written by Henry Neondo
The African Regional Director of the United Nation’s Environment Programme’s Office for Africa Mr Mounkaila Goumandakoye confessed in Nairobi Tuesday that the global community has not succeeded in reversing some of the trends of the environmental degradation because the world has failed to look at the issues through the lenses of spirituality, morality and faith.
Addressing participants at the ongoing Alliance of Religions and Conservation conference in Nairobi, Mr Goumandakoye said “the responsibility taken by the faith groups and their long-term commitments for a living planet will help shape the beliefs, behavior and actions for a greener and better Africa and the world”.
He said this commitment by the faith groups in environment conservation for human well-being are among the driving forces for positive change as humanity is grappling with challenges of colossal consequences.
Mr Goumandakoye disclosed that many scientists now agree that the world has entered a new geologic time, the anthropocene era that is characterized by human deep alteration of earth, by massive impact on the planet.
“What science is telling us is that collectively, we have crossed several of the most prominent bio-physical tripping points at the planetary level,” he said.
He added that resources exploitation already exceeds the earth biological capacity by 25 per cent and that humanity increased its global ecological footprint from 0.5 earth planet in 1950 to 1.25 now. “If the trends continue, very soon we will need two planet earths to satisfy our needs,” he added.
For example, he said, the challenge of climate change alone continues to grow with an increase of carbon dioxide of about 40 per cent above pre-industrial levels.
At a recent African Ministers of Environment meeting in Arusha, Tanzania noted with concern that developed countries continue to increase their emissions.
The ministers expressed concern that the current inadequate mitigation pledges by developed countries are likely to lead to an increase of the global average temperature of greater than 2 degrees celsius and possibly 5. This, said Mr Goumandakoye will have a global impact and more so Africa due to its high vulnerability to the impacts of climate change and low adaptive capacity.
Kenya’s Permanent Secretary in the ministry of Environment and Mineral Resources, Mr Ali Mohamed said in a speech read on his behalf by Richard Mwendandu that environmental conservation is usually about moral values.
He said understanding the inter-dependence of the planetary systems, inter-dependence between living organisms and between living and no-living organisms are essential in maintaining the natural balances.
Mr Mohamed however said that this balance has over the years been affected through human action with the resultant effects manifesting in diverse ways that are yet to be fully understood.
“While governments around the world continue to respond to these challenges through policy, law and regulatory measures, the size and the complexity of the challenges continue to grow,” he noted.
He cited the destabilizing climatic systems, the loss of biological diversity, depletion of oceanic stocks and pollution of water systems as challenges that continue to baffle the global community.
“The problem, says Martin Palmer, Secretary General, Alliance for Religion Conservation, the UN and global governments’ approach to these problems is way out of touch. He adds that despite the many Conferences of Parties by the UN and many resolutions by governments, “no agreement is on sight”.
“Yet the religious groups have the answer,” he said adding that the religious groups have practical steps that can be emulated across many villages, regions and countries with action-oriented grassroots projects and programmes whose impacts are seen. “They are also more trusted by their local communities in ways that governments are not,” he added.
“With 90 per cent of Africa’s population being either Christian or Muslim, the way to the heart of Africa is through faith. And faith is at the heart of these plans,” said Mr Palmer.
He said faith groups all around Africa are rediscovering how the mandate to protect the richness of God’s Creation is clearly set out in their holy texts and this is leading to profound practical action – everything from restoring habitats and planting trees to reducing energy use and training young people in environmental care and protection.
He said many COPs are attended by people who do not believe in the processes they are involved in. “many of those delegations are either attending these COPs to help save their governments from paying money or make sure that their governments do nothing about climate change and conservation.