Hopes for the Paris Climate Conference: Reflections from AJWS Grantees

From November 30th through December 11th, world leaders are convening at the 2015 Paris Climate Conference to take action against the dangerous consequences of climate change. Their goal? To reach a global consensus on what’s needed to stem the tide of climate change and pledge concrete action to achieve it.

Climate change disproportionately affects the poorest and most vulnerable people in developing countries. We believe that world leaders must make the most vulnerable countries a top priority at the Conference and create a vision that will incorporate a human rights framework to protect the world’s poorest communities.

AJWS grantees in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are documenting how their organizations and communities have been affected by climate change and identifying what they hope will be achieved at the Summit.

According to a recent Huffington Post article, the DRC is one of countries most vulnerable to climate change—and it has the most to lose if the Paris Climate Talks fail:

“In a country where nearly 90 percent of the people rely on agriculture for their livelihood, climate change will likely wreak havoc on crops with more intense rainfall and floods, landslides and soil erosion in the central Congo basin, according to a BBC report. The country can expect the opposite in the south, where the Katanga region will likely see its rainy season shorten by at least two months by 2020.”

Over the next several days, we’ll be sharing reflections from AJWS grantees about how climate change affects their work. Read the first piece below from our grantee Groupe d’Appui à la Traçabilité et la Transparence dans la Gestion des Ressources Naturelles (GATT-RN) in the DRC, and read our blog post from last year’s climate talks to see how other AJWS grantees from around the world are affected by climate change.

The Consequences of Climate Change in Goma

Reflections from Groupe d’Appui à la Traçabilité et la Transparence dans la Gestion des Ressources Naturelles (The Support Platform for Traceability, and Transparency in the Management of Natural Resources)

The city of Goma and its surroundings have felt the consequences of climate change for more than 10 years; we now experience the effects in our lives daily.

Sweltering heat, erosion and floods have destroyed homes and infrastructure. Lightning has struck and killed schoolchildren and others in broad daylight. The dry season has extended. These new climate changes have surprised generations of people throughout the city.

The emission of greenhouse gases, industrial pollution, the deforestation of the Park of Virunga, and the disappearance of green space in and around the city of Goma have all contributed to the incalculable climate consequences and disasters in our region.

The city of Goma lies at the foot of Virunga National Park, which plays a vital role in regulating the climate for the surrounding population. Unfortunately, FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda) combatants and other armed groups have transformed Virunga Park into a sanctuary of coal and wood exploitation. FDLR has contributed significantly to the destruction of the southern sector of Virunga Park.

GATT-RN is calling for the demilitarization of Virunga Park, with the following statement:

“GATT-RN invites all participants to the COP21 requirement to the Security Council of the United Nations to give the order to the United Nations Mission for the stabilization of Congo (MONUSCO) as well as to his brigade, to implement the mandate of resolution 2098 to demilitarize without delay the southern sector of the Park of Virunga.”

GATT-RN has been combatting harsh climate effects by creating a tree nursery and a campaign “a family, a tree” that freely distributes trees in the town of Goma and surrounding territories. GATT-RN is also part of other local NGOs who are fighting together against the exploitation of oil in Virunga Park.

GATT-RN hopes to see leaders of the industrialized countries (USA, China, Canada, and others) engage sincerely to reduce pollution immediately and substantially, and significantly increase support for the reforestation of areas and forests including the Congo basin, which is the second world forest reserve behind the Amazon.