It is the beginning of mass extinction and we have somehow decided to turn a blind eye to it, to the possible end of our own species. But 16-year-old Swedish environmental activist, Gretha Thunberg is no longer having it. Whether or not you prefer kids to stay as kids and not get involved in political discussions, one thing that cannot be denied is that the destruction of planet earth concerns everyone in it. This is why last Friday would be one for the history books as young and old alike took to the streets all over the world demanding urgent action by leaders to tackle global heating. In a united front across time zones and cultures, these passionate climate activists of all ages took part in the biggest climate protest in history.
This explosion of the youth movement started just over 12 months ago by Gretha who decided to skip school every Friday for months to demonstrate outside the Swedish parliament, holding up a sign calling for stronger climate action. Soon, other students engaged in similar protests in their own communities. For the first time since the school strikes for climate began last year, young people called on adults to join them – and they were heard across an estimated 185 countries where demonstrations took place.
The overall message was unified – a powerful demand for an urgent step-change in action to cut emissions and stabilise the climate. Here in Nigeria, my organization – Fight Against Desert Encroachment (FADE) Africa participated in the Lagos chapter of the climate strike. We joined other organizations like Urban Tree Revival, Lufasi Park, Rees Africa, Shodex Gardens, and even governmental institutions like Lagos State Park and Gardens, Lagos State Ministry of Environment to march for the government to strengthen our climate policy.
We spilled it into the next day with a climate and peace walk in collaboration with the United Nations Association of Nigeria (UNAN), Nigeria Youths SDGs and a host of other climate supporters to drive home the message that one cannot exist without the other. Peace cannot be achieved in an environment that is in turmoil. Migration will continue to rise as more people lose their livelihood to land degradation caused by desertification, desert encroachment and excessive agricultural activities. Increased flooding will continue to render many homeless as they lose their properties to rising sea levels, heavy rainfall and other extreme weather conditions. The dots all connect and this is a message I have spent the most part of the last 30 years preaching.
Watch a media report from our event below:
The signs and impacts of global heating are speeding up. Carbon emissions climbed to a record high last year, despite a warning from the UN-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that there is little more than a decade left to act to slash emissions and stabilise the climate. World Meteorological Organization data says the five-year period from 2014 to 2019 has been the warmest on record. Scientists have warned that global warming of 2 degrees Celsius will result in more frequent and dangerous heat waves, rising sea levels and declining crop yields around the world.
The demonstrations took place on the eve of a UN climate summit, called by the Secretary-General, António Guterres, to inject urgency into government action to restrict the rise in global temperatures to 1.5C, as agreed under the 2015 Paris agreement.
The Paris Agreement – an agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, dealing with greenhouse-gas-emissions mitigation, adaptation, and finance – was ratified by a record number of 195 countries. Yet progress has been limited. After initially signing the agreement, the US, the world’s second-largest emitter, quit the Paris deal when President Donald Trump took over the reins of leadership. Then the Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, has opened the way to raze vast tracts of the Amazon rainforest.
Nigeria also signed the agreement with clear goals that each country was meant to meet but we have so far fallen short of meeting any.
Just this Monday, in another clear act of protest, 16 children including Gretha Thunberg filed a complaint with the United Nations alleging that five of the world’s major economies have violated their human rights by not taking adequate action to stop the unfolding climate crisis.
The complaint singles out those countries because they are among the 44 that have accepted the convention’s jurisdiction to hear complaints against them. They are also five of the world’s biggest historical and current emitters of greenhouse gases, which are causing the planet to warm and triggering a host of other alarming impacts, from rising sea levels to producing more intense storms.
The children do not ask for any monetary compensation. Instead, they ask that the countries immediately adjust their climate goals and work with other nations to address the crisis.
The children also say that their lives have already been impacted by the climate crisis and that their future livelihoods will be endangered as the impacts worsen.
Some of the world’s other top greenhouse gas emitters are notably not named in the complaint.
The United States — which has contributed more global warming-inducing carbon dioxide to the atmosphere than any other country — cannot be held in violation because it has not ratified the part of the treaty that allows children to seek justice for potential violations.
And China, which currently emits more greenhouse gases than any other country, has also not signed onto that portion of the treaty.
I will like to conclude with these words from Al Gore, former Vice-president of the United States on the climate crisis, ‘things take longer to happen than you think they will, but then they happen much faster than you thought they could.’ The Climate is changing and the impacts are now being felt, we were warned of this a long time ago but now, it is no longer a warning but our reality. We can’t afford to still be complacent or we will be paying a price too high for us to bear.