African youth on the climate front

The story had started badly. Ejected from a cropped photo – out of artistic necessity, said the photographer for the Associated Press agency – of white pro-climate activists at the Davos Economic Forum in January 2020, Ugandan Vanessa Nakate could have said nothing. On the contrary, the months that followed showed that she would not allow herself to be “erased”. She, and Africa, whose voice she wants to be heard. At the end of October, she published her first book, Ecology without borders (Harper Collins, 256 pages, 18 euros), including the original title, A Bigger Picture (“A larger photo”), is a nod to his Swiss misadventure.

Its slogans, chiseled to challenge polluting countries such as the leaders of Southern countries tempted by development based on fossil fuels, are now famous, such as the famous “we don’t eat coal and we don’t drink oil”. A few weeks before the COP26 in Glasgow, she gave her support to the German militants who lay siege to the village of Lützerath (Rhineland-Palatinate), in the west of the country, to denounce the exploitation of a coal mine. open contrary to the Paris climate agreement of 2015 and its objective of containing the average rise in temperatures below 1.5 ° C.

Take part in the global conversation

The Swedish Greta Thunberg and her initiative Fridays for Future (“Fridays for the future”) are at the origin of the engagement of Vanessa Nakate like thousands of other young Africans across the continent. The movement, born in 2018 and formally present in seventeen countries, allows them to take part in the global conversation on the ecological crisis. They are calling for a just climate transition: their continent, which historically has contributed the least to the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, must not be the one paying the highest price.

Images of Friday school strikes are posted on social networks where activists – often girls – circulate scientific information that justifies their anxiety. The warnings of the sixth report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) resonated as much in Dakar and Luanda as in New York or Tokyo. On their Facebook, Twitter or Instagram threads, the dramatic floods in the Roya Valley in France last year, those in western Germany this summer, mega-fires in Australia and California, hurricanes in Florida … Offer the spectacle of rich countries caught up by the multiplication of natural disasters and echo the news of their own country. With the difference – significant – that here, the populations have no safety net when they have lost everything. In 2020, more than a quarter of Africans were affected by an episode of drought, flooding, a cyclone… according to the United Nations office for the reduction of natural risks. Millions of people have had to abandon their villages.

Read also Article reserved for our subscribers Nearly 216 million people could be forced to leave their homes by 2050 because of the climate

“I want our leaders to have a headache from hearing us cry out for action against climate change,” Bob Matovu, Fridays for Future Uganda

However, the notoriety of these committed students remains greater abroad, among this cosmopolitan and connected youth, than at home. Some governments do not appreciate these sit-ins during which their choices are contested without any precedence. In Uganda, the Vanessa Nakate phenomenon is accompanied by violent repression. Arrests, intimidation, confiscation of cell phones… If tolerance was the order of the day when it came to questioning the plastic pollution of Lake Victoria or the stale air of the capital by the thousands of cars and mototaxis driving in diesel, it disappears when the gigantic oil exploitation project carried by the French company Total is denounced.

The Stop EACOP campaign, named after the 1,400 km long pipeline that will cross Uganda and Tanzania to deliver fuel to tankers in the port of Tanga on the Indian Ocean, is considered an anti-government act. and anti-development by the Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni, thirty-five years in power. “We are not going to stop because our future is being stolen from us. I want our leaders to have a headache when they hear us cry out for them to act against climate change ”, nevertheless claims Bob Matovu, 21, one of the founders of Fridays for Future Uganda. The young man has posted himself on several occasions in front of the Parliament of Kampala with a sign summarizing his expectations in full. On Sundays, he manifests at the exit of churches with the same warning messages.

Broken promises

The arrival of this new generation on the front of the stage has given balm to the hearts of more seasoned activists and sometimes fearful of discouragement. “Faced with stalled international negotiations, passive governments, the mobilization of these young people brings hope for future struggles. We need them. They dare more creative modes of action ”, testifies Landry Ninteretse, coordinator of the 350.org movement for Africa. This world organization fighting against the continued exploitation of fossil fuels was launched in the United States about ten years ago and is gradually establishing itself on all continents. Three offices opened in Cotonou, Johannesburg and Nairobi provide the relay in Africa. The name of the NGO refers to the threshold of 350 parts per million (ppm) of CO concentration2 in the atmosphere, defined as dangerous by scientists. Concentration worldwide reached a record high of 413 ppm in 2020, according to figures released on October 25 by the World Meteorological Organization.

In the line of sight of these activists united under the banner “Keep it in the ground” (“leave them underground”), several major infrastructure programs deemed climaticides, such as the coal-fired power station of San Pedro in Côte d ‘ Ivory or that of Sengwa in Zimbabwe. Mr. Ninteretse, however, wants to believe that the statements of Chinese President Xi Jinping in September before the United Nations General Assembly herald future victories: China, the continent’s main creditor, has pledged to no longer finance new power plants. coal abroad.

“Young people express their anger radically and they are right because it is their future that they see compromised”, Aïssatou Diouf, from the NGO Enda

A seasoned marathoner in UN negotiations, Senegalese Aïssatou Diouf, head of climate-energy advocacy for the NGO Enda (Environment, Development, Action), also observes the growing commitment of this generation who, after believing in the promises of the agreement de Paris, regretfully notes that they are not kept. “Between speeches and actions, the gap is too great. Industrialized countries have a responsibility for climate change that they do not assume. Their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are insufficient and the financial solidarity promised to the countries of the South is not there. Young people express their anger radically and they are right because it is their future that they see compromised ”, she approves. While judging their approach ” additoinal “ pressures more “Diplomatic” exercised by his organization to advance the negotiations. Enda is a member of Climate Action Network, a global network of 1,500 organizations in which all African countries are represented, with the exception of a few such as Gabon or the Central African Republic.

All over the world, young people are demonstrating to demand that “a planet in good condition” be handed down to them. In Africa, this generation of under 20s represents half of the population. The conditions under which it must build a future for itself are already among the most difficult and the most unequal. Climate change is adding a burden on her shoulders that she can rightly consider “too much”. “The 1 ° C rise in global average temperatures has already had severe consequences for sub-Saharan Africa. A warming of 3 ° C to 4 ° C would be disastrous ”, warned the World Center on Adaptation to Climate Change in its 2020 report. Young Africans in Glasgow will be reminded of this – even under-represented, due to health constraints or the exorbitant cost of travel.

We would love to give thanks to the author of this short article for this amazing web content

African youth on the climate front

Bofads