Young environmentalists seek a seat at the table as decisions are made about their future as climate impacts worsen across the continent
LONDON, May 8 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Young African environmental activists said on Saturday that it was crucial that those most affected by climate change have a say in decision-making to find solutions, including at the upcoming UN COP26 climate negotiations scheduled for November in Glasgow.
In an online discussion joined by Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, Nigerian environmentalist Olumide Idowu said African youth could “no longer afford to be spectators of our future”.
“Most of these negotiators are negotiating on our behalf, without us…we should see how we can be part of these negotiations,” Idowu said.
From heat waves and stronger storms to droughts and floods, climate impacts are hitting Africa harder and harder, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
Droughts have killed crops, worsening existing food insecurity on the continent, while excessive rains and floods have contributed to unprecedented locust swarms and the spread of disease.
Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate said that despite growing threats, “we are not seeing the action we hope to see. We are not seeing leaders doing what we are asking them to do.”
A small portion of the limited funds available to combat these threats are channeled to frontline communities, as funders have often tended to focus on larger, more established organizations instead.
When Amazon founder Jeff Bezos last year donated an initial round of pledged billions to fight climate change, for example, most of the money went to big environmental groups instead. only to affected countries and communities.
And with the main interim UN climate negotiations ahead of the November talks now due to take place online, low-income countries, including those in Africa, could be disadvantaged by poor internet access.
The young environmentalists said African grassroots activists can be particularly effective in adapting climate messages to local populations to reduce climate risks and build support for climate action.
This includes engaging communities on social media or translating climate science into usable information about risks to food production and food security, they said.
But while young Africans had found local solutions to problems, educated their peers about climate change and worked to build more resilient communities, those solutions were not being heard at higher levels, they said.
Thunberg urged world leaders to place greater emphasis on expertise on the ground as they try to accelerate action on climate change and reduce risk.
“I cannot stress how important it is that we listen to African voices and tell African stories,” she said.
“It’s time we passed the mic.”