Climate change is the result of global warming caused by excessive amount of greenhouse gases released in the atmosphere. The growing realisation that climate change constitutes a threat to humanity, has for a number of years now, pushed the global community to engage in different conventions, develop diverse protocols and agreements such as: the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the Kyoto Protocol, the Paris Agreement, with the view of finding ways and means of addressing the problem.

Climate change affects different spheres of human lives. According to studies, climate change can decrease global food production which will then severely affect the poor and vulnerable. Increase in global temperatures provides optimal conditions for the emergence of new and more resistant viruses. Consequently, countries with weak healthcare structures will more than likely bear the brunt of the problem. Without a drastic shift to accessible and cheap green energy, the current trend of rising temperature will affect economies around the world in diverse ways.

Greenhouse gas emissions due to human activities are continuing unabated; every single second mankind is injecting another million kg of heat-trapping carbon dioxide into our atmosphere. Global surface temperature has already risen by 1 °C over the last decade relative to the pre-industrial base period 1850–1900 and is likely to reach 1.5 °C between 2030 and 2052. Global mean sea level has already risen by 19 cm and is projected to rise up to 82 cm by the end of the century. According to the IPCC, sea level rose at the rate of 3.2 mm per year between the period 1993 and 2010.

In Mauritius, surface temperature during the last decade has risen by 1.2 °C compared to the mean 1961-1990 period, changing at the rate of 0.25 °C per decade. It is likely that surface air temperature in Mauritius would already have reached 1.5 °C above the mean by 2030. Tide gauge installed at Port Louis (Mauritius) indicates that the sea level is rising at the rate of 5.2 mm per year, which is higher than the global average. Mauritius is already experiencing the adverse impacts of climate change with increasing frequency and intensity of hydro meteorological hazards, such as extreme weather, tropical cyclones, heavy rainfall leading to floods and flash floods, and violent thunderstorms. According to the World Bank Report “Disaster Risk Profile of Mauritius”, the country suffers US$110 million per year due to natural disasters. It is projected that economic loss is likely to rise significantly to US$ 1.9 billion per year by the end of the century as a direct result of climate change. World Risk Report 2019 ranks Mauritius at 47 in the list of countries with the highest disaster risk and 10th most exposed to natural disasters. Coastal population as well as the infrastructure is highly at risk to coastal erosion caused by sea level rise.

We believe in effective climate policies

As the world continues to discuss climate change and attempts to find answers, through mitigation and adaptation measures, conflicts between neoliberal and ecological economics are bound to persist, and the future of the younger generations remains under threat. Needless to say, climate change can be a major factor contributing to the exacerbation of poverty and inequality.  Here in Mauritius, the long-promised Climate Change Bill will be presented in parliament very soon. The proposed bill notes that it provides a legal framework ‘towards making Mauritius a climate–change resilient and low emission country.’ How difficult or easy would the latter be in the context of the COVID 19 pandemic and the MV Wakashio ecological disaster is a question worth posing.

Without a relevant ecosystem and capacity to implement the necessary changes, including behavioural change and institutional transformation, very little improvement can take place. Laws and regulatory frameworks are certainly necessary but never sufficient to ensure that things improve. It is therefore the collective responsibility of all citizens to bring their voice to the debate, to assist in changing citizens’ everyday behaviour as well as ensuring the adoption of measures towards climate justice, and in so doing make a significant contribution towards sustainable development.

When a bill to address climate change was first announced, we, alongside many people, supported this idea as an important step in the right direction towards strengthening our fight against the impacts of climate change. As the draft bill became available, we started losing confidence that this new legislation will result in an improvement on the current situation or it will address our commitments to the UNFCCC. The multidisciplinary panel of experts constituted by PVN will, in addition to interrogating the underlying philosophy of the bill, address several dimensions of climate change as related to the bill.

Within a participatory democratic framework, panelists Ishan Rye Ramdenee, Vincent Florens, Sunil Dowarkasing, Shaama Sandooyea, Sheila Bunwaree and Sébastien Sauvage, will interact with the public on key issues regarding climate change and the forthcoming bill. The event has the following objectives:

1. To raise consciousness/awareness on the meaning and implications of climate change on the lives of citizens;

2. To examine climate change in relation to poverty and inequality in a post COVID and post Wakashio era;

3. To unpack the hurdles/obstacles for climate justice;

4. To discuss the opportunities and constraints of the forthcoming Climate Change Bill in making Mauritius a green and more inclusive society.

We agree on the need for inspirational and meaningful local actions and aligned messaging to address climate change. Climate change is “real and addressable” but we fail to recognize any such emotion coming from this Climate Change Bill. We believe in effective climate policies coherent to our national specificities which need to be more focussed on adaptation, but which will also trigger the transition to a low-carbon economy. PVN therefore invites all those who feel concerned about the issue to join the discussion on Friday 30th October at the Conference Hall, Plaza, Rose-Hill as from 17:00.

Sheila Bunwaree, Sunil Dowarkasing, Ishan Rye Ramdenee, Neena Ramdenee, Anand Gopal, Shy Askorum, Gabriella Batour, Emilie Chloé Rannoojee, Saffiyah Edoo, Jean Francois Laurette, Rajen Narsinghen

For People’s Voices Network