YAOUNDÈ, Cameroon – As global leaders meet in Dubai to address climate change at the COP-28 summit, Catholic bishops in Eastern Africa have asserted that the continent is critical to the energy transition which is key to the fight against global warming.

“Africa is rich in minerals vital for technology, crucial in the fight against climate change,” said the chairman of the Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA), Bishop Charles Kasonde of Solwezi in Zambia, at a Nov. 30 news conference.

Africa contains the world’s largest deposits of several minerals, including copper, lithium, nickel, and cobalt, which the UN Environment Program says are essential components in many of today’s rapidly growing clean energy technologies, from wind turbines and electricity networks to electric vehicles.

The continent is home to 85 percent of the world’s manganese, 80 percent of its platinum and chromium, 47 percent of its cobalt, 21 percent of its graphite and 6 percent of its copper.

The International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook 2022 estimates that demand for these critical minerals could double by 2030 and increase six-fold by 2050, representing a market value of $400 billion, far exceeding the value of all the coal extracted in 2020.

Kasonde said the extraction of these minerals often comes with “environmental degradation and social injustices.”

To avoid such injustices, and to ensure that extraction doesn’t reverse the gains made in the fight against climate change, he called for “good governance in the extraction of minerals.”

“We advocate for good governance in this sector, ensuring that the benefits are equitably shared and environmental standards are upheld,” Kasonde said.

“As deliberated by Catholic bishops in Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, inequality and environmental concerns are intertwined. The plight of the poor in our region is exacerbated by environmental degradation, and any solution must address this nexus of issues,” he said.

Kasonde said the regional bishops attending the COP-28 in Dubai will be pushing for “rapid and equitable move away from fossil fuels towards sustainable energy.”

He said the transition must be inclusive ensuring no community is left behind.

“The UN’s Global Stocktake reveals our significant lag in meeting climate goals. I urge global leaders to respond with concrete commitments to accelerate our path toward limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees celsius,” he said.

One doesn’t need to go far to see what’s at stake.

The East Africa region is currently facing flooding linked to the El Niño phenomenon, which has killed at least 350 people and displaced over 1 million across Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Tanzania. Just a few months back, the same region faced its worst drought in 40 years.

Deadly Cyclone Daniel struck the Mediterranean in September, leaving over 10,000 people missing and at least 4,000 dead in Libya. Cyclone Freddy hit South Africa in February and March of this year, causing severe flooding in Malawi, Mozambique, and Madagascar that resulted in at least 1,200 fatalities. More than 500 people were reported missing and nearly 1,300 injured. The cyclone overflowed hospitals and devastated homes and farms.

Kasonde pointed out that since climate change has affected people’s health, livelihoods, and food security throughout Africa—and the AMECEA region is no exception—sustainable food and land use remains another area of concern that needs to be looked into during the ongoing COP process.

“Our agricultural systems, the backbone of many African economies, are under threat from erratic weather patterns, droughts, and floods. Ensuring food security must be a top priority at COP-28,” Bishop Kasonde emphasized.

“Transforming our food systems and land use is crucial for both climate resilience and food security. We must commit to reducing agricultural emissions, reducing food waste, and protecting our forests.”

Kasonde complained that the world was lagging behind in the effort to keep global temperatures below 1.5 degrees celsius.

He said AMECEA is “committed to playing a crucial role in this transformation and resuscitation of the environment.”

He also called for support of the new Loss and Damage Fund, as well as increased funding for adaptation.

“Adequate and fair climate financing is crucial. Developed nations, historically the largest polluters, must bear a significant share of the responsibility in supporting vulnerable countries in their transition to sustainable practices and in coping with impacts of climate change,” he said.

He called on developed nations to support vulnerable countries in adapting to climate impacts. “Operationalizing the loss and damage fund is critical in addressing irreversible damages caused by climate change.”

Adaptation seems to be a key issue for Africa. It’s an issue also articulated by Njamshi Augustin, Chair of Technical and Political Affairs at The Pan African Climate Justice Alliance and executive director of ACSEA in Dubai, said “Our position is an adaptation to the situation. We must mitigate like everyone else, but our priority is adaptation as well as loss and damages,” said Njamshi, speaking at the African Pavilion at COP-28.

“This is the voice we want Africa to hold during this COP28,” he said. “Our leaders must focus on issues specific to Africa, the need to negotiate more financing for adaptation, as well as effective mechanisms for financing loss and damage.”

Kasonde said Africa’s responsibility “is not just to seek technological solutions, but to address the root causes and ensure a just transition to clean energy, a transition that must prioritize the common good and the future of our children over short-term interests and profit.”

He said AMECEA is “committed to playing a crucial role in this transformation and resuscitation of the environment.”

“The time for action is now,” he said. “We cannot afford to be remembered for our inaction in the face of urgency.”