“I am the voice of dying children, displaced women, and people suffering at the hands of the climate crisis created by rich countries…Voices from the global south deserve to be heard… we are humans who do not deserve to suffer a crisis that we did not create.”
-Hilda Flavia Nakabuye, Ugandan Climate Activist.
After running-over an extra 48 hours, COP25 ended with a lack of any tangible results and instead highlighted the extreme disconnect between the governments of the largest polluting nations and the scientific and activist communities. This conference was supposed to be an opportunity for governments to raise their ambitions in response to the climate emergency, but instead allowed them to continue to evade the issue and stick their heads in the sand, leaving the big issues, such as carbon markets, for COP26 in Glasgow. With the devastating climate catastrophes currently happening, such as the bushfires in Australia, this is an extremely disappointing outcome. It highlights just how far we are from making significant progress in the climate discussion, with the largest countries showing no plans to increase their ambition.
Although being the continent that contributes the least to the emissions of greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide, Africa is the first to be severely impacted by the effects of climate change. In fact, Africa is already suffering from the consequences of climate change, from the burning of the Congo rainforest to the shrinking of Lake Chad. These, and other extreme weather events such as droughts and floods, are severely impacting Africa’s chances to grow by affecting crop yields and livestock production, leading to food insecurity, further exacerbating poverty and hunger. Moreover, it increases internal migration as places become inhabitable; water scarcity, which in turn could lead to higher instances of armed conflict due to competition for resources. It also increases health risks, such as malaria due to an increase in temperature, respiratory diseases such as asthma due to an increase in air pollution, and heat stress; and so much more, all of which will have a negative impact on the chances of achieving the SDGs.
Despite these current issues, for many in the global south, climate change is often seen as a far-away problem, as western media focuses on issues that are not relatable, such as the melting of the icebergs. That is not to say these issues are not important and should not be discussed, but rather highlights the need for the amplification of localised crises caused by climate change, as only then will we be able to combat these crises effectively.
Although assistance from the global north is necessary to make tangible change, in order for these changes to be implemented, it is vital for national governments to take action and be more accountable. In Nigeria, there are no shortage of options for ways the government can respond to climate change, for example, making an investment in climate change research and supporting brilliant organisations like the National Agency for Great Green Wall (NAGGW), Establishment of the Climate Change Commission Bill (ECCC), and other initiatives and deploy new solutions to problems society is currently facing. These investments can help eliminate the use of coal as an energy source and focus on renewable energy; enforce sustainable policies, especially in the energy sector; increase financing in health and education sectors and so much more. The failure of the largest and most guilty nations during this conference should not be an excuse to focus on one of the biggest issues threatening human existence. Instead, developing countries, such as Nigeria, should use this as an opportunity to lead by example. Organisations like Connected Development (CODE) are vital in order to apply pressure to the government to ensure it is doing everything in its power to respond appropriately to the climate emergency, especially in terms of transparency and financial accountability.
Despite its shortcomings, if COP25 showed us anything, it was that the youth and grassroots activists are not going anywhere anytime soon. Fridays For Future occupied the main plenary stage on the 11th and were commended for their efforts, highlighting the impact grassroots groups have on the climate movement. However, on the same day, Indigenous activists gathered to sing and chant as another form of protest, but these activists were treated aggressively by security, thrown out of the conference, and had their badges confiscated. This difference in treatment between the two groups highlights how indegnous and marginalised voices are still silenced and forcefully pushed out of climate conversations. As the continent with the younger population, Africa has so much potential for youth-led activism. CODE, as an organisation whose main goal is to amplify these voices, must continue to use its platform to bring awareness to these issues.