By Eric Ojo, Abuja
Participants at the 2019 Africa Day ‘Afrika Vuka’ have reiterated the need to establish a fossil-free Africa in order to mitigate the debilitating effects of climate change in the continent.
Since its inception, Africa Day has been a symbol of aspiration for self-determination against the exploitation of natural resources that has seen the continent in perpetual conflict and on the brink of a devastating climate crisis.
In marking this year’s event, people in their thousands, from all walks of life have united and gathered in more than 20 countries on the continent to show their support in the continual fight against fossil fuels and advocate for climate justice.
Participants from oil and coal affected communities including fishing and farming communities; women and youth renewable energy clubs; civil society actors; district leaders including environmental officers, community development officers and forestry officials; local government officials; cultural and religious leaders have all taken part in various activities to lend their support.
The strong message from the participants this year, according to a statement made available to Metro Daily Nigeria, is that Africa does not have to rely on fossil fuels to satisfy its energy demand, but rather lead the world in the just energy transition powered by low-cost renewable resources.
The statement noted that mobilisation for support in this context, is not just about what is decided in the corridors of power at summits and formal negotiations, but also about the wave of actions for real change that can be made in a local town, city, university, local institutions, place of worship or community.
“It’s up to us to make this more than a political flashpoint. Mobilising across the continent will send a powerful and necessary message that communities are rising up everywhere to stop fossil fuels and demand true climate action”, the statement stressed.
The world, according to the statement, has the technical and financial means to invert the trend in rising GHG emissions and temperatures.
“It is a critical time to re-think many of our systems, see the dawn of a new way of working, travelling, growing our food and producing our energy. What’s missing is the political will, which in turn can only be activated by a momentous growth of movements for climate action and social change” it added.
Most countries in Africa do acknowledge the existential threat posed by climate change and some countries that are willing to implement programmes and policies aimed at mitigating it, however lack the financial resources to do so. Against this backdrop, such countries stand the risk of being further impoverished by climate change as it were.
Leading credence to this assertion, Regional Team Leader for 350Africa.org, Landry Ninteretse, observed that less developed African countries are a natural disaster away from sinking into a negative loop of poverty and lack of access to social and economic opportunities, exacerbated by climate change.
“In the last few months, we have seen the climate impacts of Cyclone Idai and Kenneth in Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania and Zimbabwe, droughts and floods in KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape”, he added.
He also noted that with the exception of South Africa, African countries have done relatively little to contribute to climate change yet are being severely impacted and have little to no resources to cope with the aftermath.
“The people who mobilized for Afrika Vuka today are demanding a rapid phase-out of fossil fuel energy. Fossil fuels have been identified as one of the primary drivers of climate change”, said Michael David Terungwa from GIFSEP, in Nigeria “
Terungwa noted that despite overwhelming evidence that continued fossil fuel use is killing the planet and many of the people with it, investors appear dead set on enriching themselves at the expenses of billions of people.
“Those in power are doing nothing to stop this madness, and are instead adding to it, claiming that more coal-fired power stations in Lamu, an official UNESCO Heritage site, and oil exploration in the DRC’s Virunga National Park, a biodiversity hotspot, to name a few, are going to be good for development
“We ask them ‘Whose development, exactly?’There is a path for a just development that puts people, their safety and the resilience of the environment we all rely on at the center”, he further explained.
While speaking in a telephone interview with our Correspondent in Abuja, he said GIFSEP mobilized a good number of Senior Secondary School students within Abuja to participate and spread climate change awareness in line the events scheduled to mark the Africa Day of Action for a just transitioned and fossil-free Africa.
“300 students painted climate-conscious and justice messages on parachutes and deliver them, through a march to the parliament building and displayed at the Millenium Park Abuja. They also passed a strong message to the members of parliament to pass the climate bill and lead Nigeria on the road to climate justice”
Terungwa further disclosed that the event which took place on Friday in order to enable the students participate, recorded huge success, adding that over 150 people including a representative of the Honourable Minister of Environment and the Office of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), participated in the event.