'This is a matter of survival': Malawi president issues warning on deadly impact of climate crisis

President Lazarus Chakwera of Malawi spoke about the impact of climate change and fishermen tell ITV News Correspondent John Ray they are struggling to make a living.

The leader of one of Africa’s poorest nations has issued a stark warning about the deadly impact of climate change ahead of COP26, and the dangers that will follow if the summit fails.

"Already we have suffered a great deal. People dying. Crops destroyed. In some places, flooding. In other places, drought. If things cannot be mitigated, that's more death and more unpredictability."

Speaking exclusively to ITV News, President Lazarus Chakwera of Malawi, paints a bleak portrait of the future for his country.

"If you have more floods, that's more death. If we have more droughts, that's more death. If we have cyclones, it's more dead. So it's death, death, death."

President Lazarus Chakwera of Malawi speaks exclusively to ITV News Correspondent John Ray about the impact of climate change in his country and why the developed world needs to do more to avert catastrophe in smaller nations

A World Bank report identifies the former British colony in southern Africa as one of the places most vulnerable to climate change.

Average temperatures are predicted to rise by up to five degrees Celsius by the end of the century unless there is concerted international action.

Malawi’s challenges are familiar across Africa and beyond.

Fishermen on Lake Malawi, the lake is drying up and fewer fish are breeding there. Credit: ITV News

A population that has boomed to 20 million, reliant on subsistence farming and fishing that the land and the lakes can no longer sustain. 

There is a need to industrialise. Fewer than one in 10 Malawians have access to electricity.

But how to improve that without despoiling the environment?

President Chekwera says he will come to Glasgow with a tough message from Africa.

The COP26 climate conference - what you need to know

What is COP26? When and where will it be?

Each year, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meets at what is called the Conference of the Parties (abbreviated as COP) to discuss the world's progress on climate change and how to tackle it.

COP26 is the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties summit which will be held in Glasgow from 31 October to 12 November.

Who is going?

Leaders of the 197 countries that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – a treaty that came into force in 1994 - are invited to the summit.

These are some of the world leaders that will be attending COP26:

  • US President Joe Biden, climate envoy John Kerry, climate adviser and former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy, and 10 other US cabinet officials.

  • Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison. In the days leading up to COP26, Mr Morrison committed Australia to a target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Prince Charles, Prince William, the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duchess of Cambridge are also attending. The Queen has withdrawn from visiting after being advised by her doctors to rest - she will address the conference virtually instead.

China's President Xi Jinping, Russia's President Vladimir Putin, and President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil are among the leaders that have decided not to travel to Glasgow.

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What is it hoping to achieve?

1. Achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and limiting global warming to 1.5C above pre-industrial levels - Countries are being encouraged to set ambitious 2030 emissions targets. They are also encouraged to accelerate the phase-out of coal, clamp down on deforestation, speed up the switch to electric vehicles and encourage investment in renewables.

2. Protect natural habitats and communities from climate change disasters

3. Finances for a greener future - In 2009, developed countries were asked to keep to their promises to contribute at least $100 billion (£72.5 billion) per year by 2020 to protect the planet. In 2015, it was agreed that the goal would be extended to 2025.

However, new analysis shows the goal is unlikely to have been met last year and is on track to fall short in 2021 and 2022.

4. Getting all countries and organisations to work together to tackle the climate crisis

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John Ray speaks to one of the fishermen. Credit: ITV News

"Fulfil your pledge. I’m talking to those developed nations north of us.

"Ten years ago, a 100 billion dollars, was pledged. We (in the developing world) need that support in order for us to do more solar and wind and hydro power production."

But he is aware that in the run up to Glasgow the mood is downbeat.

One of the key players, China’s President Xi, may well not attend.

"If one nation thinks because of the power we have, and because of the influence we have, and because we will do what we want anyway, they're jeopardising the lives of everybody else, including their own," says President Chakwera.

"This is where we must begin to believe that this is a matter of survival."

  • To find out more about environmental projects in Malawi visit Ripple Africa