Advancing Climate Justice through Community Engagement and Collaboration: The Significance of Earth Day and the SDGs

Every year on April 22nd, Earth Day is observed worldwide to promote environmental awareness and inspire individuals to actively safeguard our planet. This year, we actively engaged in this global event, amplifying the message of preserving Earth and its invaluable resources. With the theme of “investing in our planet,” the focus was on acknowledging the significance of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as we near the year 2030. Understanding the criticality of achieving these goals is paramount in securing a brighter and more sustainable future for generations to come.

SDG goal 13

The SDGs were adopted by the United Nations in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. There are 17 SDGs, covering a wide range of issues, including climate change, sustainable cities, responsible consumption and production, and gender equality. 

Goal 13 of the SDGs addresses explicitly climate action and recognizes the urgent need to take action to combat climate change and its impacts. Key targets of SDG 13 include Strengthening resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters, improving education, raising awareness, human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction, and early warning; implementing the commitment undertaken by developed-country parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to a goal of mobilizing jointly $100 billion annually by 2020 from all sources to address the needs of developing countries in the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation and fully operationalize the Green Climate Fund through its capitalization as soon as possible, Promote mechanisms for raising capacity for effective climate change-related planning and management in the least developed countries and small island developing States, including focusing on women and youth. 

Despite all these strategies in place, headway towards achieving the SDGs has been slow, and the COVID-19 pandemic further complicated matters. The pandemic highlighted the importance of addressing the root causes of environmental issues, some of which are deforestation, air pollution, and climate change, to prevent future pandemics and protect human health. The climate crisis is one of the most significant threats facing our planet, and it’s critical that we take urgent action to address it. 

The impact of the 2022 flooding in Ihuike Ahoada East LGA in Rivers State 

Nigeria’s significant impact of climate change. 

Nigeria, just like most developing countries, has a relatively low carbon footprint compared to developed countries but has still been impacted significantly by climate change. This has made the country more susceptible to extreme weather events, such as droughts, floods, and storms, which have caused significant damage to infrastructure, property, and livelihoods.  The impacts of climate change on Nigeria’s agriculture sector have had a significant impact on food security and nutrition, with millions of people facing food insecurity as a result of reduced crop yields and rising food prices.

According to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), the 2012 floods in Nigeria affected over 7 million people across 30 states, resulting in the loss of over 300 lives and causing an estimated $16 billion in damages. In 2018, flooding in Nigeria affected over 2 million people across 12 states, resulting in the loss of over 200 lives and causing significant damage to infrastructure, including roads and bridges. Similarly, In September 2020, heavy rainfall led to severe flooding in several parts of Nigeria, affecting over 140,000 people and causing an estimated $200 million in damages.

The most recent flood in Nigeria occurred in September 2021. According to the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency (NIHSA), at least 70 people were killed, and over 100,000 were displaced by the flooding that affected 17 out of the country’s 36 states. The flooding was attributed to heavy rainfall, which caused the overflow of rivers and dams. Several houses, farmlands, and infrastructure, including roads and bridges, were also destroyed.

The impact of the 2022 flooding in Ihuike Ahoada East LGA in Rivers State 

How we are challenging the existing state of affairs.

Connected Development (CODE) with support from OXFAM recognizes the urgency of the climate crisis and is taking action to improve public opinion, awareness, and understanding of frontline solutions. Our campaign across Rivers and Akwa Ibom states is a significant step towards achieving the SDGs and raising awareness about environmental issues in Nigeria. The campaign aims to empower local communities to take action and make a positive impact on the environment. 

We aim to see Governments, companies, and other power brokers recognise the value of frontline narratives and implement policies and practices that respect and protect the rights of frontline communities and contribute to climate justice.

As an organization, we recognize the need to raise awareness about the devastating effects of flooding and spur reactions and urgent actions from relevant actors, especially the sub-national government. We shot a documentary that amplifies the adverse effects and impacts of flooding across our frontline communities across Rivers and Akwa Ibom State.  It was indeed a sight visiting the internally displaced camp where women, men and children were left with little or nothing from the catastrophic impacts of the flood. Pregnant women, elderly women, and sick men were all left to carter for themselves and their families in a dilapidated building with an unpleasant WASH facility.  As we interviewed these groups of people, I could barely hold a tear. I was glum and devastated.  Click here to watch the documentary.

We will continue challenging the existing state of affairs through partnerships with community-based Organizations and Media to ensure that everyone has a voice in the fight against climate change. By working together, we can make a significant impact on the environment and achieve the SDGs before 2030.

AboutHyeladzira James Mshelia

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