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Nick Pyle

British High Commissioner to Botswana

Part of UK in Botswana

23rd September 2014 Gaborone, Botswana

Botswana Global Joint Action Day on Climate Change

Early this month the British High Commission went to Mogoditshane Primary School where the students had been learning about climate change thanks to a project run by WENA Environmental Education and News Trust and funded by the High Commission. The event was graced by representatives from the Department of Waste Management, the Ministry of Education as well as the French Embassy.

The theme for the day was, Climate Change is Real, Act Now!

The project was run as a 5 day practical exercise, with students being taught how to recycle, reduce and re-use materials instead of throwing them away. Interestingly enough, most elders in the villages around Botswana already re-use things like clothes and plastic bags to make colourful floor mats, bags and flower pots and in some cases even stuffed pillows.

And as always in Botswana we were made to feel extremely welcome and the kids were really enthusiastic. But it was also a good chance to reflect on the modern challenge of climate change.

If we are honest, many of us find the whole climate change issue a bit confusing. It has often been a kind of ideological battleground where only the bravest dare to speak up. And when you try to do your own research, you can quickly get lost in information. The reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are hundreds of pages long.

Faced with this reality it is tempting just to ignore the issue. And I have to say that I haven’t noticed any immediate cause for concern in my life and, in any case, if there was an urgent problem I hope that given my position, someone else would tell me what to do.

Yet, that is exactly the wrong approach and is ducking the issue. The reality is that some kind of change is happening to our environment. In the United Kingdom earlier this year, we dealt with widespread flooding in parts of our country. People were unable to live in their homes or do business.  The emotional and financial costs were high.

Here in Botswana, changes in the climate are thought to be behind longer droughts, outbreaks of crop diseases and significant water shortages.

There are even some small island countries in the Pacific Ocean where they fear that they will disappear completely if sea levels were to rise.  I have visited the Maldives in the Indian Ocean who share that fear. They are right to do so. The threat is real.

El Niño apparently has a 90% chance of striking this year which would cause severe water and food shortages. The impacts of El Niño might increase further damage to the extreme weather conditions already driven by climate change. The scientific evidence is telling us that these changes are only going to increase and that human activity in the form of manufacturing, travelling and so on, is responsible.

The reality is that we all need to play our part in dealing with this. The high level meeting that Ban Ki Moon is hosting in New York on 23 September will help to set the vision. Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey’s speech makes a compelling case for urgent action and is well worth reading in full.

But everyone needs to make that vision a reality – governments, businesses, civil society and individuals. In the United Kingdom for example we have seen investments of nearly £29bn in renewable energy since 2010 helping us to transition to a low carbon economy thanks to government legislation on Climate Change and Energy.

Here in Botswana, I was glad that the High Commission was able to support to the Botswana government’s renewable energy conference in August. There are really exciting technological advances happening in this area all the time, and Botswana is well placed to take advantage.

But at an individual level all of us can make choices to reduce our impact – simple things like re-using things like shopping bags, choosing a car that pollutes less, or taking our glass bottles to be recycled.

That is the lesson that the children at Mogoditshane Primary School took away this week. And a lesson which all of us – even if we can’t get our heads round some of the more complex science – can and should respond to.

About Nick Pyle

Nicholas John Pyle OBE, MBE was accredited as British High Commissioner to the Republic of Botswana and UK Representative to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in February 2013. Nick…

Nicholas John Pyle OBE, MBE was accredited as British High
Commissioner to the Republic of Botswana and UK Representative to the
Southern African Development Community (SADC) in February 2013.
Nick Pyle joined the FCO in 1981 and until 1996 he held various
positions, including postings to Geneva, Kabul, Jeddah, Bridgetown and
Colombo where he focussed on political and consular work.
He has spent the last eight years working on Africa and was recently
the Deputy Head of Africa Department – Central and Southern. Nick Pyle’s
last overseas posting was in Nairobi where he spent five years, the
last of which was on secondment to the United Nations Political Office
for Somalia, working on a broad range of security, conflict, governance
and development issues in Somalia.
Nick was awarded the MBE in 1999 and the OBE in 2009. He is married to Ros Day and they have two sons and one daughter.

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