A message to Scotland from Malawi ahead of COP26

I’m told that in Scotland it rains a lot. Here in Malawi, where I’m from, we can spend long, hard months praying for rain that never comes. When it does, the consequences can be devastating, as we discovered to our peril 18 months ago when Malawi was devastated by flooding associated with Cyclone Idai.

A lady crosses land flooded by the rain waters caused by Cyclone Idai, which washed away part of the road, near a village in Phalombe district, southern Malawi. Picture Philip Hatcher-Moore/Oxfam
A lady crosses land flooded by the rain waters caused by Cyclone Idai, which washed away part of the road, near a village in Phalombe district, southern Malawi. Picture Philip Hatcher-Moore/Oxfam

Our climate is unquestionably changing.

As Oxfam’s Country Director in Malawi, I see the evidence every day.

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Malawi may feel very far away from Scotland but we’re not so different, you and I. We may well have similar hopes, dreams and fears. I suspect that we all want to earn a decent living, to live a happy life, and want our children to have a safe future.

Except in Malawi, those hopes are starting to feel out of reach; climate change is threatening our homes, our futures, even our lives.

While made headlines around the globe, it was just one in a cycle of increasingly frequent and severe weather events to have hit the region in recent years. And, with every new shock, people’s capacity to recover diminishes.

Floods, storms, devastating droughts – every day, the impacts of climate breakdown are being felt; but they’re not being felt equally. The richest people plunder the planet while people living in poverty, who did the least to cause the crisis, suffer the most.

This can and must change and Scotland has a chance to be at the forefront of this change.

In exactly a year’s time, landmark global climate talks – called COP26 – will be happening in Glasgow. We know what action is needed: faster, fairer emissions cuts now, not vague vows for the future; proper support for the people hit hardest by climate breakdown and a radically different economic system that protects people and planet.

As President of COP26, the UK Government has a major role but, as home to the host city of COP26, Scotland has a unique chance to show global leadership.

Right now, poor communities simply aren’t getting enough help to adapt, and there is no dedicated fund to help countries like Malawi to recover from the loss and damage caused by climate-fuelled disasters. It’s thought that Cyclone Idai alone caused an estimated $220.2 million of loss and damage in Malawi. Without help; how are we ever expected to recover?

The Scottish Government must redouble its efforts; firstly, by boosting its own Climate Justice Fund to £10 million per year and secondly, by encouraging other nations to increase their financial commitments.

I hope First Minister Nicola Sturgeon reads this, because she – and the Scottish Government – have a responsibility to use the approaching global talks to show the world that climate change is not just a matter of science, technology or economics. It is a matter of justice. We need her to be heard.

Change is possible. Movements of ordinary people can and do change history. The abolishment of slavery. Women’s right to vote. Liberation from apartheid. Now people are uniting to rise again, to tackle the biggest challenge humanity has ever faced; the global climate crisis. Every one of us has a part to play, from Malawi to Scotland, and we must act now.

Linga Mihowa is Oxfam's Country Director in Malawi

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