By Eric Ojo
No fewer than forty young Nigerians benefited from the capacity building programme facilitated by African Climate Reality Project (ACRP) in conjunction with Global Initiative for Food Security and Ecosystem Preservation (GIFSEP).
The training which was held in Abuja on Thursday under the auspices of ACRP’s Zero Emission/Omission Campaign, was focused on advocacy-based campaign relating to climate change and transition to renewable energy sources.
The 40 young Nigerian participants were selected from climate impacted states and communities impacted by fossil fuels across Nigeria.
ACRP is a branch of the US-based The Climate Reality Project which was established to support Africa Climate Reality Leaders in their efforts to combat climate change in Africa, a continent disproportionately affected by this global crisis.
In 2014, former US Vice President and Noble Laureate, Al Gore trained hundreds of Africans from across the continent at the ACRP’s Leadership Corps training in South Africa. To date, over 650 Africans have attended one of these trainings and now volunteers as Climate Reality Leaders in over thirty countries in Africa
Similarly, GIFSEP is a non-profit organization founded on the ideals of environment education, climate change adaptation and mitigation, renewable energy and sustainable development. Its mission is to mobilize communities to build resilience to a changing climate, as well as to conserve and protect the environment.
Climate Reality Leader and founder of GIFSEP, Mr. David Michael Terungwa said the training which is also taking place in other African countries, targets young climate activists in Nigeria.
“The ACRP’S Zero Emission/Omission campaign is aimed at the Development Finance Institutions (DFIs) who are supporting fossil fuel projects across Africa. So, the objective is to get these young activists to understand the roles of the DFIs, to understand that they are funding some of the fossil fuel projects across Africa and to demand that they divest from fossil fuel and fund rather renewable energy projects across the continent”, he said.
Mr. Terungwa noted that currently the activities of young people in demanding for climate justice around the world, is increasing while the older generation of people are more into the business-as-usual syndrome, adding that the young people have seen what the future will be like if “we continue the business as usual way”.
“So, this is the reason why we are targeting them this early, so that they can begin to engage and even that some of them who are activists now may tomorrow find themselves in position of authority in some of those DFIs. The wealth of knowledge they would have on the need to invest wisely, will deter them from focusing their attention on the ‘normal’. So they will be more inclined to proffer solution to the problem the world is facing today.
“This is aimed at equipping the young people, particularly activists with the tools through which they can carry out their advocacy, taking non-violent actions and to engage the DFIs in a very peaceful way so that they can refocus or re-channel their funding to renewable energy”, he added.
“In Africa, we know that the issues of climate change are already here, so why we demand for climate justice for the continent, we expect that as they are funding some of their projects we can begin to look at transition to renewable energy. So specifically we don’t want them to go the way of coal or new oil projects on the continent”, he further explained.
He added that the organizers will continue to engage with the participants after the training by equipping them with what it takes to do more advocacy work in their respective communities.
“They are from different communities. They are our eyes around because we may not know exactly when some of these project start, so that we can begin to raise objections against such identified projects in any part of the country proactively. So, we will keep engaging them and building their capacities to become activists not only within the context of the DFIs but also to the communities themselves.
“We are asking them to start from their families, their friends in school, places of worship and the community because the issue affects all of us. Sometimes, when we are discussing the issues and looking at DFIs or the government, we think it is us-versus-them but the reality is that, we are also guilty in some ways because of some of our actions which come back to hurt the environment and hurt us”, he stressed.
The Climate Reality Leader also harped on the need for Nigeria put all the extant international agreements it signed on issues relating to the environment into practical actions so they don’t just remain on paper.
Mr. Terungwa said the state governments in particular, need to do a little bit more on advocacy on environmental issues in their states because, according to him, as it is, apart from Lagos, most states, are sleeping on these issues.
“We can clearly see what is going on around the country and it is affecting us all. The state government can take the lead but also the business community should also take advantage of where the world is shifting to. The world is slowly shifting away from fossil fuel and there are a lot of opportunities in clean technology, clean businesses around renewable energy and all of that.
“Majority of these are not in our country, everything is sourced from abroad. Those in business need to invest in some of these clean energy technology to bring down the prices and to bridge that technological gap between us and Europe, America and Asia. The fact is that the world is moving very fast and we cannot continually depend on other countries for our sustenance and for our technological development. We have the capacity here as a country. So, all of us together, the business sector, the government, civil society and as individuals, we need to also be awake to the reality of what is happening around the world”, he added.
Oa VynEdison, one of the participants who spoke with our Correspondent, expressed his appreciation of the training, noting that it is really germane and beneficial. VynEdison said he will definitely put the knowledge gained to use in creating more awareness about the subject matter.
“I adjudge this training as a successful one given that the knowledge impacted was actually enriching and enlightening. Personally, I intend to incorporate this fresh insights and knowledge into my activities as someone working in a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) sector”, he added.
Speaking in a similar vein, another participant, Lauritta Boniface noted that she really learnt a lot from the training, adding that it was very impactful for her as an environmental activist.
“I have really learnt a lot today. This training is very impactful for me particularly. Before now, my knowledge of climate change was rudimentary. The meeting is like an eye-opener, now I have more insights on what climate change is all about and how I am personally affected by my activities and how we can channel our concerns to the government and the DFIs.
“I have been organizing Eco talks in secondary schools and I think, I will pass on this knowledge to the secondary school students. I will now teach them more, they should know the fundamental issues, they should know how to reduce their carbon footprint and how to raise their voices as well just as I have been taught today, through writing, storytelling, advocacy, everything they need to know as well”, she further stated.
Also in his remarks, Harrison Charles Ekoh, a participant from Suleja in Niger State, described the training as very revealing and insightful. In his words, “Even when we think we know about the effects of climate change, this training serves as a reminder of the things we already know and it has given us more insights.
Ekoh said his take home message from the training is that no matter how we feel about the environment, we are mandated as concerned individuals to take action because the environment is for all of us and we should always have this consciousness in us that the environment is ours and ours for the keeping and as such all hands must be on deck to protect it at all times.
“I have come to the understanding that as an individual, I don’t necessarily need to operate through an office structure or join a group, I can make my voice heard on these issues through social media platforms and I will definitely make good use of the knowledge acquired here today”, he stressed.
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