Today’s youth and future generations will inherit the climate system in whichever way governments decide to leave it.
Climate change refers to a change in climate that is attributable directly or indirectly to human activities, that affects the atmospheric conditions of the earth leading to global warming. And it gets worse: Climate change has the potential to affect all natural systems thereby becoming a threat to human development and survival socially, politically and economically. Climate change will have a negative impact on poor countries who, ironically, have contributed least to the problem. Climate change presents significant threats to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals especially those related to eliminating poverty and hunger and promoting environmental sustainability.
The Question now is: what does the Nigerian 2011 Elections got to do with Young People and Climate Change?
According to a report published by the Federal Ministry of Environment, in the last 15 years the population of Nigeria grew from 89 Million to 140 million people, with an area of 923.000 square kilometers. 33.6% of the total population of Nigeria are young people between the ages of 10-24 years. Estimates show that by 2025, the number of Nigerian young people would have exceeded 57 million..
Jennifer Ehidiamen, a young journalist from Lagos reported that young people played active role in the just conculded elections accross Nigeria stating that " Nigeria re-elected its president this month, and young people – who make up 70 percent of the population here – played an important role. Thanks to online platforms and social media, young people became “informal election observers” to ensure a free and fair process. Jennifer reported that Esther Eshiet, 24, a social worker in southern Nigeria, used social media programs such as Facebook and Twitter to report on what transpired at during election in her polling units and learned about what happened at polling units across the country during the presidential and parliamentary elections this month. She also said that the new information and communication technologies, ICTs, not only encouraged young people to participate but also helped to preserve the integrity of the elections.
This very opportunity can also be use to get more young people in Nigeria actively involved in environmental governance . Young people in Nigeria should be supported to use these ICT tools to inform and educate their peers on climate change and other evironmental issues happening in their local communities and arround the world. for instance on January 4th 2011, Young people used Twitter to e-organised a Live Tweet-Chat that attracted over 70 participants from 11 countries to discuss on the theme "Youth and Climate Change in Nigeria" #ccnigeria. first of it kind in Nigeria.
The elections activities itself had great impact on the enivironment. It has been reported that Two hundred million ballot papers and result sheets were ordered from abroad for each of the Nigerian elections. These actions has resulted to deep carbon footprint of massive proportions. Carbon footprint is the totality of greenhouse gas emissions caused by anorganization, event, product or person. Imagine the how much trees were cut to produce wood pulp, how much chemicals like chlorine were used. Has INEC disposed its waste products in an environmentally friendly manner? Will it by burining/incineration? which will result in carbon emissions,
The best alternative is recycling. In the absense of a recycling culture withnin the Nigerian society, young people can be encouraged to engage in low carbon paper recycling of these used ballot papers to produce finished product like greeting cards and picture frame thereby providing entrepreneurship opportunity for young people and creating employment. For Instance, in September of 2010, a Low carbon Paper Recycling Workshop was organised for 30 Youths in Abuja funded by Dekeyser&Friends Foundation and organised by EarthRISE Foundation and Nigerian Youth Climate Coalition under the "Awareness to Action project" .Recycling means processing used materials (waste) into new products to prevent waste of potentially useful materials, reduce the consumption of fresh raw materials, reduce energy usage, reduce air pollution (from incineration) and water pollution (from landfilling) by reducing the need for "conventional" waste disposal, and lower greenhouse gas emissions as compared to virgin production
Nigeria is yet to sign the Climate Change Bill passed in the National Assembly even though it is a signatory to three related multilateral environmental agreements: the Kyoto Protocol and United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCCC; the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, POPs; and the Convention on Biological Diversity, CBD and many young people are not still fully aware climate change issues or not interested to dicusses biodiversity conservation issues in Nigeria.
It is time that young people in Nigeria recognize that climate change will undermine current efforts to poverty eradication and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, so that it raises serious questions of climate justice and equity. We must recognise that a gender sensitve strategy is a precondition to the rising challenges of sustainable development coupled with an agrresive implementation strategy that proirities the role of young people as stakeholders in the process.
Young people must 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 through impacts on agriculture, food security and availability of water, which are traditionally women’s tasks in many developing countries like Nigeria.
As the world will gather in Duban, South African come December for the UN Climate Change Conference, the newly elected president, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has a number of important tasks to fulfill: The signing of the Climate Chnage Bill, The diversification of the economy, the independence of fossil fuels (in this case independence of selling fuels), Clean Enegry for Power supply ,revitalization of the stagnant agriculture, The participation of young people in Governance and National Security.
Engaging young people in actions to address climate change is a critical element to any nation’s strategy. Young people are also a key point of influence for other segments of society (e.g., families and communities). If citizens come to understand what the risks of climate change are 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.
Written by Esther Agbarakwe, Esther Eshiet and Taiwo Oyelakin.