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The world made a promise to Africa: With or without the US, G20 leaders must keep their Paris climate commitments

Thursday, 6 July 2017 14:30 GMT

Julietta Chauque, 42, picks a drought resistant vegetable from her garden in Mozambique’s Boane District, October 2016. WaterAid/Sam James

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

Paris Agreement represents a pledge from developed countries to take responsibility for their actions. These promises must be kept

Scientists tell us that over the last 150 years, the world’s temperature has risen by about 1 degree, and that last year was once again the hottest year on record. We know that climate change is happening, although pinpointing on a map where it’s happening, who it’s hitting the hardest and how fast, is harder to measure.

But for me, my family, my community, and my country of Mozambique, the onset of climate change is very real.  That’s why world leaders meeting for the G20 in Hamburg this week have a responsibility to live up to the promises they made in Paris just 18 months ago, with or without the support of the United States.

Last year, during one of the strongest El Nino weather patterns on record, Mozambique suffered from an intense drought which wiped out crops across the country and killed livestock.  Almost 50 million people across Southern Africa were affected. After the drought came the floods, which killed 44 people in January; the parched, dry earth couldn’t absorb torrential rainfall. And in February, Cyclone Dineo hit Mozambique’s Inhambane Province, causing more floods and damage to livelihoods and homes.

We expect Mozambique will be a hotspot for these kinds of extreme events in the coming years. But this is not just a threat on the horizon. It is happening to my country right now, though our contributions to greenhouse gas emissions are among the lowest.

The Paris Agreement represents a pledge from developed countries to take responsibility for their actions, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and providing assistance for nations already on the frontline of climate change to adapt to irreversible damage.

Poor nations like Mozambique will be hard-hit, making our existing challenges worse. Almost 50% of the population here live without access to clean water and 80% don’t have decent toilets, contributing to diarrhoeal diseases, chronic malnutrition and general ill-health. Climate change stands to make these alarming statistics even worse.

Those affected most are the poor and marginalised who are least able to adapt to shocks, particularly women and children who bear the burden of water collection, but also those who have no savings or assets to rely on, those who are less able to migrate in search of water, food or income, and those living in slums, with deficient sanitation systems which can lead to outbreaks of disease in the event of floods.

As country director for WaterAid Mozambique I know that providing people with reliable water and sanitation cannot stop the effects of climate change. But it will help communities to adapt to the coming changes, by making water supplies more resilient, and better preparing communities to cope with disaster.

Climate change will not affect everyone equally. But this is not a cry for help. It is simply a reminder of the promises made. The global south is on the front line of climate change; the world’s wealthiest countries have promised to face these challenges head-on and to give the world’s poorest and most vulnerable the tools and financial support they need to adapt. Their promises were made to us, and these promises must be kept.

We have before us the chance to build a greener, fairer planet and I urge G20 leaders to do everything in their power to embrace that future.

Florencio Marerua is WaterAid Mozambique country director.