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What climate change and slave trade in Africa have in common

The Island of Gorée, according to UNESCO, is an exceptional testimony to one of the greatest tragedies in the history of human societies – the slave trade. 


The Island, which lies off the coast of Senegal, opposite Dakar, was the largest slave-trading centre on the African coast, from the 15th to the 19th century. Today it continues to serve as a reminder of human exploitation and as a sanctuary for reconciliation.


It was on this Island that climate justice actors drawn from over 40 countries in Africa met to draft a declaration – dubbed the Gorée Declaration, after a strategic review of the outcomes of the Climate Talks in Warsaw, Poland.


The choice of the Island has two purposes, says Augustine Njamnshi, the Technical and Political Affairs Chairperson of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA).


First is to appreciate the experience “our forefathers went through and have that feeling of fighting because at the time that they were fighting against slavery, they were meeting concrete walls and mountings but today slavery is over; in honour of their fighting spirit, we need to fight for climate justice”.


He added secondly that what happened on the Island is a shame to the world, emphasizing “that was injustice at that time, it remains injustice today in many other forms, including climate injustice”.


“If people are suffering and dying in Africa because of a problem that they did not cause and the world is behaving as if there is nothing wrong, then it’s injustice; Africans must come together, Africans must to motivated and ignited by the fact of what happened on this Island as an epitaph of shame to the world to fight this injustice,” Mr. Njamnshi stated.


According to him, climate change injustices have continued to be perpetuated by polluter countries through non-committal and non-compliance with obligation of the climate treaties.


Indeed climate change is a global phenomenon – floods, draughts and wild fires are being recorded in the North and South.


The situation in Africa must however be prioritized, says Mithika Mwenda, PACJA Secretary General.


Scientific reports indicate Africa is the most impacted region in the globe, yet contributes the least to the greenhouse gases which cause climate change.


“The problem of climate change is really affecting Africa’s development and because this is not the problem we have caused, we have to focus and put pressure on the countries which have cause the problem so that they compensate African countries so as not to stop, affect or retard our development,” noted Mithika.


The Gorée Declaration and Plan of Action will catalyze civil society to action at the national levels in the next two years ahead of the international climate conference in Paris in 2015.


Among other things, they are demanding that Annex 1 Parties (industrialized countries) urgently close the emission gap, to keep temperature rise to below 1.5ºC consistent with science and African position as well as capitalize the Green Climate Fund in a way which is equitable, and at scale that is sufficient to deliver adaptation, and mitigation actions.


African countries are also to mobilize local financial resources that improve budget allocation of 5% to support local climate change adaptation and mitigation actions.


Story by Kofi Adu Domfeh

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