Thursday, December 9

UK accused of ignoring plight of environmental activists in Afghanistan | Office of Foreign, Commonwealth and Development

The UK government has been accused of ignoring the plight of three Afghan environmental activists who worked with British officials to mitigate the damaging impact of climate change on their country before the Taliban took office.

The activists, who have received credible death threats, do not know the fate of one of their colleagues who was detained by the Taliban.

All three were employed through Oxford Policy Management, an international development consulting firm, to do work for the Office of Foreign, Commonwealth and Development on climate change. Now they are hidden.

Repeated letters and emails to the FCDO have gone unanswered along with requests to the Afghan Assistance and Relocation Policy Plan (Arap).

One of the climate activists, Mohammed, who spoke to The Guardian from his hideout in Kabul, said he feared the Taliban were closing in.

“Sometimes I think I’ll just go and surrender to the Taliban so they can kill me and it will all be over,” he said. “It’s hard to explain to my young son why I can’t take him to the park. We have begged the UK government to rescue us, but so far our pleas have been ignored. “

Greta thunberg tweeted an appeal to help Fridays for Future environmental activists get out of Afghanistan.

Abdul Qahar Balkhi of the Taliban cultural commission pledged to work with the global community to fight issues such as climate change in a interview with Newsweek. However, Mohammed said he did not believe the Taliban were committed to addressing the climate emergency.

“So far, the Taliban have not appointed an environment minister. They believe that the climate crisis is arranged by Allah and that humans should not intervene, ”he said.

While the Taliban have made pro-environmental statements, such as one in 2017, urging people to go out and plant trees to beautify the planet, the group has also been implicated in illegal logging, planting land mines in the pomegranate orchards and taxes on poppy farmers.

While Afghanistan is responsible only for 0.03% of global emissions, the country is severely affected by climate change.

The economy is highly dependent on agriculture and up to 85% of Afghans are engaged in agriculture, growing crops such as wheat, potatoes and various fruits. The country has been severely affected by drought, flash floods and deforestation. Some farmers prefer opium poppies because they are resistant to drought and generate reliable income.

Afghanistan has many minerals that could help combat climate change. Along with copper, iron, gold, and cobalt, it has lithium that is needed to make batteries for use in electric cars and other technologies that use renewable energy. However, mining these minerals is challenging and unlikely to happen imminently.

Environmental activists say that as each hour passes, the risk of the Taliban finding where they are hiding increases.

“The Taliban are too brutal,” Mohammed said. “They lie to the media when they say they have changed for the better. They are even more brutal than before. The Taliban contacted one of our colleagues before they took over Kabul. They said, ‘We have a list of all your colleagues who worked with the infidels. We will look for you and we will find you. Then he began to name our colleagues. “

In a letter dated September 1 to Dominic Raab, who was then foreign secretary, Oxford Policy Management wrote that the three climate change activists who had worked with the FCDO “are in imminent threat because they have already received several threats against their lives ”. To date, no response has been received.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The UK evacuation operation helped more than 15,000 people to safety, including British citizens, Afghan interpreters and other vulnerable people. The Afghan Citizen Resettlement Plan will provide protection to those at risk and who identify themselves as in need. It is one of the most ambitious resettlement plans in the UK and will host 5,000 Afghans in the first year and 20,000 in the next few years. “

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