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Urgent action needed now

NOT for the first time, world leaders gathered again this week to look at ways of addressing some of the challenging themes of our time.
The latest gathering was in the New York, USA, where the 74th General Assembly of the United Nations was being held under the theme ‘Galvanising Multilateral Efforts for Poverty Reduction, Quality Education, Climate Action and Inclusion’.
President Edgar Lungu, in his address, called for global efforts in mitigating the effects of climate change which are a threat to development.
The call is indeed important.
As a country, and indeed as a continent, we have witnessed first-hand the devastating effects of climate change.
We have witnessed communities losing their crops each season as a result of floods, unexpected storms and long droughts. In Zambia, this has been most evident in the southern part of the country but also in other places such as Lunga Island in Luapula Province.
We have seen communities crying out for relief food and shelter as a result of drought and floods. We have also seen the effects of poor rainfall of the generation of hydro-power which has led to massive load-shedding affecting not only households but small and big business as well.
We have also seen how our neighbours – Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe – were gravely affected by Cyclone Idai, which ripped through villages and towns as it took hundreds of lives while leaving a trail of destruction.
If there was any doubt of the effects of climate change, then Idai was a chilling reminder of what could possibly become commonplace if the world continues warming up and no action is taken.
But the effects of climate change have not been confined to developing countries like Zambia only. In recent years, we have seen heatwaves and wildfires in Europe and America as well as huge floods in Japan and India.
Experts are also warning that climate change is now a health emergency. A report released last year titled the Lancet Countdown on Health and Climate Change produced by 150 experts from 27 universities and institutions including the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the World Bank, warned that people’s health is being damaged by climate change through effects ranging from deadly heatwaves in Europe to rising dengue fever in the tropics.
The report further said billions of hours of farmwork have been lost during high temperatures with global warming damaging the ability to grow crops.
Yet, despite all this, there are some among us who still deny the existence of global warming. They argue that if there is any warming at all, then it is not definitely caused by humans. They say the planet has been through many climate cycles in its lifetime, cold and hot.
But as we continue experiencing this, we can confidently say climate change is real. And action is needed.
We agree with President Lungu that there is need to scale up efforts aimed at mitigating climate change, whose impact is frustrating efforts to raise standards of living for the world’s poor.
This call from Mr Lungu is not new and should not be dismissed simply because it is coming from a head of State from a developing country.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has equally called on developed nations to take urgent measures to help climate-vulnerable developing countries to better cope with the effects of climate change.
This is an important call especially as it relates to Africa. For instance, while Africa produces an estimated four percent of global carbon emissions compared to 80 percent by the most industrialised countries (G20), it is the continent that pays the highest price.
In its World Economic Outlook report released in 2017, the IMF warned that the economies of developing countries are facing accelerating climate threats as evidenced by hurricanes in the Caribbean and Latin America and the extreme floods in Asia and Africa.
The measures that the IMF called for include financing targeted infrastructure projects and mechanism to share risks. It said in the absence of global climate action, the resulting projected increase in temperatures would erase around one tenth of the gross domestic product (GDP) of low and mid income countries. Close to 60 percent of the world’s population currently live in countries where an increase in temperatures would likely lead to disastrous effects.
The report called on the international community to make climate action its key focus and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions before they cause more damage.
For us, though, that risk of damage is not even in the future. We are already seeing livelihoods wrecked by effects of climate change.
It is why we need action now.