OPINION: An average American generates as much CO2 as 581 Burundians

by Mohamed Adow | @mohadow | Christian Aid International
Tuesday, 6 August 2019 14:32 GMT

A man walks through a home destroyed by floods following torrential rains and landslides in the Burundian capital Bujumbura, February 12, 2014. REUTERS/Jean Pierre Aime Harerimana

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* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

While every country suffers the impacts of climate change, none better sums up the burning injustice than Burundi

Mohamed Adow, International Climate Lead at Christian Aid International

While every country in the world suffers from the impacts of climate change, none better sums up the burning injustice of a warming planet than Burundi.

new report from Christian Aid has shown the landlocked African country is the smallest contributor of carbon dioxide in the world and yet it is also the most food-insecure nation in the world – thanks in part to a distorted climate it did nothing to create. In fact, Burundi’s per capita emissions of 0.027 tonnes is so low it’s often rounded to zero.

The report shows that the top ten most food vulnerable countries combined produce just 0.08% of global CO2.

Second on the list is the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which also happens to be the second lowest CO2 emitter in the Index. Madagascar, Yemen and Sierra Leone come next, while Chad, Malawi, Haiti, Niger and Zambia round out the top ten.

This week the UN’s expert science panel will publish its latest report on climate change and how we use the earth’s land resources. Last year the IPCC’s Special Report on Climate Change of 1.5C made headlines around the world and kickstarted a wave of public protest based on the climate emergency.

But in the halls of the international climate talks, both in Katowice in Poland in December and In Bonn, Germany this June, the IPCC’s seminal study was blocked from being formerly adopted by Russia, the USA and Saudi Arabia.

The new Christian Aid report exposes the scale of the injustice that hungry low emitting countries are suffering at the hands of these IPCC science deniers.

Russia’s per capita emissions are 454 times larger than Burundi, America’s is 581 times while the average Saudi generates the equivalent CO2 as 719 Burundians.

"What is quite clear is that climate change is not only a global health crisis, it is a moral crisis," said Samuel Myers, Principal Research Scientist at Harvard University’s Department of Environmental Health, said of the index.

Countries on the frontline of climate breakdown need global action to cut emissions. To not only refuse to make those cuts but also block the adoption of the scientific escape route from the climate crisis, is an act of grave dishonesty. The IPCC process is the most far-reaching, rigorously reviewed and comprehensive scientific research project ever undertaken.

It’s vital that this week’s IPCC report is not only given the respect it deserves but is acted on with speed.

As well as slashing emissions the other side of the climate coin is helping the likes of Burundi to build resilience and adapt to climate change while at the same time developing in a sustainable way that allows them to survive and thrive.

Many of these poor countries have untapped potential. With the right financial and technological support they can be helped to strengthen their resilience to climate change and bolster their food security.

Climate change adaptation has been the orphan issue compared to mitigation on the international climate agenda and this needs to be urgently redressed so that there is balance and financing to ensure early and adequate response to climate change.

As a global community, we need to move away from firefighting – responding to climate disasters after they have happened, to forward looking planning and anticipatory actions, to enable more resilient and thriving livelihoods.

This is why it’s timely that the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, has called a special summit of world leaders this September in New York to galvanise global action on climate change.

His predecessor Ban-ki Moon held a similar gathering in 2014 which helped lay the groundwork for the Paris Agreement.

With time running out for those in most need and the warnings of the IPCC ringing in their ears, it’s vital this meeting delivers concrete actions that will bend the curve towards a safe climate.