With COP26 getting underway over the weekend, the need to cut our global emissions and to mitigate against climate change is at the forefront of many people’s minds.
But as we’re talking about what needs to be done to prevent the situation getting worse for us. But for many people, living in some of the world’s poorest nations, the effects of climate change are already being felt.
Ahead of this climate summit, Gef spoke to author and head of public engagement of Christian Aid Chine McDonald about the impact of climate change around the world and how climate change is highlighting already evident inequalities. She was on the island to meet politicians and talk at an evening at the Manx Museum about climate change, what the island can do to play its part in reducing global emissions and Christian Aid.
Chine said: ‘In the lead up to COP, we’ve [Christian Aid] been doing a lot of campaigning, advocacy and communicating about the impacts of climate change on the world’s poorest people. I’m talking a little bit about that but I know that for me, speaking personally, climate change talk can be quite dry and when we talk about climate, it can get quite scientific and I’m not a climate expert or scientist but I do care about justice and I care about people. So I’m highlighting the impact of climate change on predominantly black and brown bodies around the world in the Global South communities, the poorest and most marginalised communities around the world.’
For Chine this work includes outlining racial injustice, the ‘brutalization of black bodies’ throughout the centuries, George Floyd and climate change and how it is a continuation of racial injustice around the world.
Part of this is understanding that predominantly former empire nations, such as Britain and France, as well as America and China, have, through their industrialisation, done the most damage to the planet, but that they are also the ones who can best plan and afford to mitigate against the effects of climate change.
Chine said: ‘Europe and the global north countries, the richest countries in the world, need to not only protect ourselves and think of it as a future threat to our children and our wildlife, we have contributed most to it. We have caused this. And it is the countries that have contributed the least that are the most affected. It is their communities and their people that are on the front line so I know that when I think of climate change, or when we talked about global warming, I thought about it as a threat to our children or as extreme weather or having really hot summers but it is affecting people right now, causing people to lose their lives and livelihoods right now.
‘We need to see that yes, climate change affects us all and it is something that we need to think about for the future of our children and us here, but there are people already suffering right now, so how can we make things better and repair the damage that we have done, or give money to those countries that are most affected so that they can defend themselves as well, just as we are trying to do.’
The charity itself has always been about alleviating poverty everywhere it exists but it has focused more on climate for over a decade as the impact on the countries it is doing the most work became clearer. Chine explained that the impact on people is what drove Christian Aid to begin to look at climate change, continuing on work it had done around racial inequality when it worked in America with Martin Luther King and worked alongside the anti-aparthied movement in South Africa.
Chine said: ‘In the wake of Black Lives Matter and George Floyd’s murder, we are increasingly having those conversations and we want to say that black lives matter everywhere. So a black person in America is no more, or less, important than a black person in Kenya who has suffered droughts or floods and storms.’
While there is a lot of coverage about the impact of climate change on Britain, talk about its impact around the world is growing in the UK and this is also moving away from just talking about science. Chine said: ‘There is also increasing conversations about climate activists from impoverished countries such as Vanessa Nakate in Uganda or Autumn Peltier who are fighting for communities that are on the front line of climate change. I think that’s going to increase more and more and I think that’s the way to engage people’s hearts and minds, through stories of real people.’
While the pandemic has seen countries and governments turn their backs on others and adopt an insular view of the world, Chine says this is not the case when it comes to real people. She said: ‘One thing the pandemic, in a way that no other thing has done before, has showed us that we are not that dissimilar to the communities that Christian Aid works in around the world, so when we’re all going a global pandemic together, you suddenly realise that none of us are safe until all of us are safe.
‘I think it’s really increased that sense of a global family and a sense of empathy and we can understand this in a way that we couldn’t understand Ebola, that we’re all humans and we can all be affected. I think it’s actually closed the gap between “us and them” a little bit but we’re in danger of increasingly forgetting that and thinking about ourselves. If you think about vaccine inequality and the fact that some people here and in the UK are on their third booster jab while 1% of Africa has been vaccinated, so we’re in danger of exasperating or widening that gap again.
‘But I think that what we need to do is tell those stories, the empathy for a human story to make people care about climate change and climate justice now.’
While many normal people want to do their best to help reduce global emissions, Chine told Gef how important it is for the average person to show that it matters to them and to call on their representatives to resolve this. She said that COP26 is what gives not only us this chance, but also gives organisations, such as Christian Aid, the opportunity to help nations and people tell their stories.
She said: ‘We also need to remember that world leaders act on pressure from people who are going to vote for them. So that’s all of us need to care and put our pressure on them and tell them, you need to be doing this or you need to be doing that, to lobby them and advocate on behalf of people in the global south, if we do care so much, and that is the only way that change is going to happen. The alternative is the idea of moral responsibility, which is a nice idea but in respect of world leaders, I think it comes down to power and votes and pressure from their own voters and that’s why we need to keep the pressure up.’
POC Isle of Man
While on the island, Chine also met with Dominique Moran and Jordan Maguire from POC Isle of Man. She said that meeting people like Dom and Jordan gave her hope that people will support those campaigning against injustice and praised the work of POC for giving her an insight into the challenges of growing up on the island.
Chine said: ‘Talking to them I’ve learned how much the island itself has changed, even just in the past few years from when they were at school, and it always gives me hope talking to younger people because I don’t think they are going to let the world continue the way it has. They are much more passionate, much more compassionate and much more inclusive, so I always have hope when I speak to younger people like them.
‘Also the positive feedback they have had from people on the island, the number of people who went on the march last year absolutely gives me hope that even in the least diverse of places that people care enough about these issues to go out in the streets and march about it, so that yeah that has to give anyone hope.’