Today’s African youth and future generations will inherit the climate system in whichever way governments decide to leave it. The older generation must take responsible action, and the younger generation must live up to the task at hand.
Rising numbers, rising threats
Recent IPPC findings show that by the year 2050, 250,000 million people in developing countries will lack water; 20 million people will be displaced (homeless) due to rising sea level; 20% – 30% of the world’s animal species will go into extinction due population explosion and desert encroachment on the forest; and the global temperature will increase by 4.5%.
In Africa, which is one of the most vulnerable continents, food security will be gravely threatened, and worsened by the high level of poverty. 40% of the African Gross National Product is obtained in agriculture and 70% of all African labor is employed in this sector. The dominant role of agriculture makes it obvious that even minor climate deterioration can cause devastating socioeconomic consequences. Adaption and mitigation require education and finance.
Injustice measured in degrees centigrade
Governments of all nations must therefore note with concern the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change presented in its 4th Assessment Report, that climate change may affect most strongly the poorest regions and people — especially women, young people and children. The rising temperatures will impact agriculture, food security and availability of water, all of which are traditionally women’s responsibility in many developing countries.
Already, young people in Africa are recognizing that climate change will undermine efforts to eradicate poverty and achieve the Millennium Development Goals. This raises serious questions about justice and equity. The present generation of African youth will spend the next 40 years of their lives de-carbonizing the environment, even though they have not been the ones responsible for climate change.
Engaging young people to address climate change is a critical element to any nation’s strategy. Young people are a key point of influence for other segments of society (e.g., families and communities). If citizens come to understand the risks of climate change and how they can play a role in reducing the impact of climate change, they can become an integral part of the solution. Youth are an important source of creativity, enthusiasm and drive for any actions to address climate change.
Since COP15, an inspired and motivated group of young people have raised their voices and actions in demanding climate justice around the world, and in demanding that Africa is not left behind. They refuse to die silently, but are instead of coming together under the umbrella of African Youth Initiative on Climate Change (AYICC) with Regional Office in Nairobi, Kenya with National Coalitions like The Nigerian Youth Climate Coalition and Ghana Youth Climate Coalitions. Young people have also gathered under the 350 Africa.
The importance of engaging the next generation of decision makers, those who will experience the negative impact of climate change, has been widely agreed upon. Although a contingent of young Africans is already taking action, youth participation has been, on the whole, insubstantial and has not received continued support.
Esther is 25 years old. She is the Founder and Coordinator of The Nigeria Youth Climate Coalition. Her advocacy work developed the Common Youth Climate Change Response Policy and Action Plan, which lays a foundation for policy and implementation processes across Nigeria. Esther was the only Nigerian Youth Delegate to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of Parties. She coordinates the African Region for the UN Commission on Sustainable Development, Youth and Children Major. She is a 2009 Dekeyser & Friends Foundation Fellow. Esther was selected to be IUCN Commission on Education and Communication National Focal Point for Nigeria. She is also an active blogger: estheragbarakwe.blogspot.com.