Interview - Issue #8
Where the Leaves Fall contacted global changemakers for their thoughts and responses to this year’s COP26 - the UN Climate Change Conference. Davis Reuben Sekamwa is a climate and energy advocate based in Uganda. He spreads awareness of energy poverty and energy illiteracy in rural schools and underserved communities through a gender-based approach, and distributes solar lamps to communities that lack electricity. He co-founded 1million Activist Stories, a blog highlighting different climate activists, and works as a project manager in the Rise Up Movement which advocates for climate justice. You can read the edited interview that was published in the print edition of Where the Leaves Fall here.
Where the Leaves Fall What do you feel are the most pressing issues for COP26 to address and why?
Davis Reuben Sekamwa COP26 should focus on decarbonising the energy sector. The energy sector contributes to 70% of the global greenhouses gas emissions. The end use energy sectors such as transportation and building should be aligned to renewable energy.
There must be a stop in all investments in fossil fuels across the globe. Fossil fuels have continuously increased the global temperatures, which has led to extreme weather events such as severe flooding and prolonged droughts, and wild fires in Turkey and Algeria. These fossil fuels lead to the formation of acidic rains which are harmful to the plants, animals, fresh water bodies, forests.
COP26 should promote increased access to sustainable, affordable energy, especially to energy-impoverished communities such as South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. These communities use solid fuels to meet their energy needs, such as coal, charcoal, and wood fuel, which emits carbon dioxide - a leading greenhouse gas. The use of such fuels is dangerous to the environment and leads to indoor air pollution to the end users, who are mostly women and girls, exposing them to health complications such as lung cancer and stillbirth.
Educating girls for climate change must be embedded within the policies to be discussed. Educating girls will promote equitable solutions for climate justice and provide them with resilient skills to fight climate change. Through such an approach, education will be transformed for climate justice and create a generation that can co-exist with the environment and be better environmental champions.
— Davis Reuben Sekamwa
WtLF What outcomes (and practical measures) would you like to see emerge from COP26?
Davis The current climate crisis requires global cooperation among all countries. Countries that have contributed to the largest percentage of greenhouse emissions must take up the responsibility to stop the pending catastrophe. The Nationally Determined Contributions must be fulfilled and implemented by all countries from the global north and the global south and the targets set up should be achieved in order to reverse the effects of increasing global temperatures.
There should be a setup of governing structures to encourage and support the representation of marginalised groups such as women, disabled people, Indigenous people, and people from the most affected communities. These groups of people are impacted heavily by the outcomes of climate change. Underrepresented groups should be provided with a platform and opportunities to create change and contribute to climate policies that affect their daily lives. There must be enhancement of racial justice within the climate movement to share the experiences of those people from the most affected communities to give a direct message of how the increasing global temperatures are affecting livelihoods.
WtLF How optimistic are you that COP26 will deliver positive change, and why?
Davis With all the disasters that have happened ever since COP 25, starting with the pandemic that occurred globally, the floods in East Africa, Europe, and Asia not to mention the wild fires in Algeria, Turkey, and Greece, all of which claimed lives and property. We have seen communities that entirely depend on rain-fed agriculture suffer from food scarcity as a result of prolonged droughts. I believe that the leaders will draw a lesson from these disasters that have been as a result of climate change from human activities. The Covid and post-Covid period has demonstrated the need to listen to the science and where the world is headed to if we reach the tipping point.
Science has over the years warned about the effects that we are now witnessing as a result of human activities. The leaders should know that there are many lives that are affected by whatever decisions they will conclude at COP 26.
— Davis Reuben Sekamwa
WtLF What do the world leaders, and everyone else, need to change on a personal level?
Davis The climate crisis requires cooperation from the local, regional and national levels. We all need to have and maintain a behavioural change and switch to a more sustainable lifestyle.
Leaders must stop the investment in the fossil fuel industry and lead the transition to clean affordable energy for a global green economy. Communities should embrace the use of renewable energy to meet their heating and cooling needs to reduce the amount of coal that is used to generate electricity. Renewable options such as solar energy and wind energy are able to satisfy the energy needs. Households must eliminate food waste because we know that food is disposed of into the landfills, contributing to the emissions of greenhouse gases. Individuals can consider going paperless, especially when it comes to printing out documents. We understand that paper is a product from trees and we are able to reduce the number of trees that are cut down if we reduce the demand of paper globally. Small acts when multiplied by millions of people are able to create change.
WtLF Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Davis I want to thank all the climate activists worldwide that have not given up for fighting for the planet despite challenging times and have spoken up for the communities that have suffered from the climate crisis. We must continue with the global cooperation to solve this global crisis. To the leaders, we need you to act now. The world is tired of you making empty promises and setting up agreements that amount to nothing. We are in the age where bold action is needed to create sustainable change.
COP26: The Need to Act Now