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Adenike Oladosu: ‘For climate, fine words are not enough’

By Flore Manteau

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Posted on July 3, 2023 10:57

 © Nigerian climate campaigner Adenike Oladosu (rights reserved)
Nigerian climate campaigner Adenike Oladosu (rights reserved)

The 29-year-old Nigerian activist warns against the cost of inaction. Funds have been promised, she concedes, but “the money needs to go where it’s most needed.”

Revolutionising international finance to save the planet and eradicate poverty was the ambition of the summit for a new global financial pact held in Paris on 22 and 23 June, under the aegis of Emmanuel Macron. “We do not have to choose between poverty and the climate,” declared the French President on 21 May 2022 at COP27 in Egypt.

However, according to researchers from the Loss and Damage Collaboration group, 97% of those affected by extreme climatic events live in developing countries. To meet the costs incurred, their needs are staggering: $27trn, according to Oxfam, an NGO. That’s why activists from the continent continue to raise their voices. Among them is Adenike Oladosu, a 29-year-old Nigerian who pioneered the Fridays for Future movement.

Is Africa condemned to choose between development and environmental preservation?

Adenike Oladosu: In Nigeria, for example, some of our leaders still believe we need fossil fuels to develop. I think climate action can help us develop. The fossil fuel industry might generate billions of dollars in profit, but it also negatively impacts communities and entire countries.

We often forget that innovation, environmental and energy responsibility and climate financing can also generate numerous benefits. Investing in renewable energy could triple the number of jobs and simultaneously generate positive social and gender equality benefits. In the long run, fossil fuels are not a solution.

Are African countries doing what they should? Is Nigeria, for instance, a large producer of oil, living up to the challenges?

No, African countries are not adequately addressing the climate emergency, but it’s also a question of capacity. We need to implement innovations like smart agriculture, consider our energy transition, and work on projects like refilling Lake Chad.

But how do we acquire the necessary resources? How do we develop our capacities? On paper, every country has plans, but what we need are concrete actions. The money needs to go where it is most needed.

In Nigeria, the government has decided to stop subsidising the oil sector. But where will these subsidies go? I can only hope our government will do what is necessary to redirect them towards renewable energy sources to make them more affordable.

Can the new global financial pact outlined in Paris be a solution?

All the commitments and promises that have been made are a step forward. It’s undoubtedly very positive to see that we can allocate millions to tackle the climate crisis. But it should not just be all talk, that won’t be enough. These funds need to materialise, and action is needed. We need to know how these funds will be unlocked and how they will be distributed.

I sometimes fear we’ll be doing this all our lives, and the next generation will have to continue.

We can’t be satisfied with gathering people from all over the world and merely talking without really moving things forward. We can’t forget that we sometimes have very different challenges and that Africa cannot be spoken about as a homogenous entity. We are talking about dozens of distinct countries, each requiring funding.

What are the most urgent actions to be implemented on the continent?

Everything is urgent, and all sectors need dedicated funding because climate change doesn’t just have environmental impacts, but also on agriculture or even real estate. Faced with climate challenges, we absolutely need to innovate.

One example is Lake Chad, which has significantly shrunk since the 1960s. If we do not act, if we do not find a way to replenish it with water, it will be a disaster, affecting the entire region. The drying up of the lake already poses significant food insecurity problems. If we do nothing, this situation could lead to a conflict more severe than the war in Ukraine. This isn’t just a regional problem; it’s a global one, as the resulting migrations will also affect Europe.

As a climate activist, do you feel like you’re finally being heard?

There have been changes, despite everything. In Nigeria, for example, the long-awaited law on climate change was enacted. At COP27 in Egypt, funds for loss and damage were approved. This shows that we can pressure our leaders to act, and we’re not about to stop.

What’s encouraging is that there’s a greater awareness among the population than a few years ago. In Nigeria, for example, people are much more aware of these issues than when I started my fight in 2018.

But it also means we’ve been campaigning for climate justice for years, and that shouldn’t be the case. I sometimes fear we’ll be doing this all our lives, and the next generation will have to continue.

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