Alessandra Avram is a ONE Youth Ambassador from Italy.
It has been known for decades that we are experiencing the consequences of climate change and this emergency is hitting everyone. Rising temperatures, persistent droughts, historic floods, and crop failures are occurring with increasing frequency, and more than 3.3 billion people are vulnerable to these consequences.
This crisis is a crisis of injustices. While the entire African continent is responsible for only less than 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions, it is the one hit the hardest by extreme weather events – the 10 countries which are expected to suffer the worst consequences of this crisis are all situated in Africa. Nigerian climate activist Adenike Oladosu reminds us that Lake Chad has shrunk by 90% in the past 60 years due to drought, leaving more than 10 million people – roughly equal to the Belgian population – without drinking water or irrigation for farming and livestock activities.
The climate crisis is not poverty-neutral
Further, the inequality of this crisis is not only seen in the differing responsibilities communities have in causing it, but also in the different capacities they must respond to and adjust. In other words, the climate crisis is not poverty neutral.
Climate change and poverty form a vicious cycle. Unchecked climate change could push up to 130 million more people into poverty over the next 10 years, the World Bank estimates. Many people living in extreme poverty rely on the land for their livelihoods, whether it’s through agriculture or pastoralism.
Such climate injustices combined further the cycle of poverty. With little to no margin of error or safety net, the losses sustained by these people following a climate-related disaster will be that much more devastating.
This is why the biggest emitters, including my country, Italy, have the responsibility to use all resources and tools at their disposal to fulfill the Paris Agreement to not exceed 1.5° C. And if we consider that a state’s duty is to protect its citizens and their wellbeing, there is no justification for inaction.
It’s a matter of justice
We have passed 6 of the 9 tipping points leading to an irreversible change in our ecosystem and a delay in its urgent answer is likely to determine a bleak future for most. Yet, as of today, we have a window of opportunity: climate justice is achievable.
As a young activist, I am inspired by young people that, in the face of the inaction of global leaders, do everything in their power to bring meaningful change in this man-made crisis.
I look up to a group of South Pacific law students who wrote a letter to their leaders to demand they make climate change illegal, literally. Being citizens of one of the regions most affected by the climate catastrophe, they have demanded that their governments inquire on the scale of the obligation of states to protect citizens from man-made harm. This action has received the backing of 139 CSOs and the Pacific States and has now inspired youth worldwide to join efforts and push for global cooperation to seek climate justice for current and future generations.
The result has been groundbreaking: on 29 March 2023, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the resolution to request an advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice on climate change and human rights. Under the leadership of Vanuatu, the resolution was co-sponsored by over 130 countries.
Let’s re-write the present and future for the planet and its people
This is precisely why I, as a young activist, call for action that puts climate justice at the center of its approach. This means not just reducing emissions, but promoting actions that have the goal of creating a more equitable, fair, and sustainable world for all. If injustice is the root cause of the climate crisis, the fight for justice must be at the heart of its solution.
Being an activist means embracing a cause for the good of the community and rewriting its future. That’s why as a ONE activist, I commit to putting pressure on my representatives to act for me and the communities around me. Because climate action is the only option we have, the time of short-sighted interests is over, we need long-term plans for the preservation of the planet and its people.
All of our futures, as a collective, depend on it: we can talk about a better planet and a more just world, or we can start building it.
Blog photo credit: Andrea Brandino