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Saturday, February 24, 2024

Civil groups demand end to fossil expansion at COP28

Marginalised communities in Africa bear a disproportionate burden of environmental pollution, hazardous waste, and other negative impacts of extractive and other destructive activities.

Panelists at the Oilwatch Africa – HOMEF side event at COP28 in Dubai

To address the underlying systemic issues perpetuating the expansion of sacrifice zones on the continent, it is essential to bring about regulatory changes, community involvement, grassroots advocacy, and people-centred practices toward a just and equitable society. The halting of the expansion of sacrifice zones are a key demand of the Ecosocial Energy Transition Manifesto of the People of the Global South.

At a side event at COP28 in Dubai, Oilwatch Africa and Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) looked at pathways that could be used to bring about the needed changes to reject false climate solutions and ensure an inclusive agenda. Key aspects of the manifesto that were highlighted included the call for payment of ecological debt owed the Global South, elimination of energy poverty, and a rejection of land grabbing or green colonialism.

The Executive Director of Kebetkache Women Development Centre, Emem Okon, highlighted the challenges and issues women face due to mindless extractive activities.

“Grassroots women in the Niger Delta are very vulnerable to environmental degradation. Women contribute immensely to the local economy with a heavy reliance on environmental resources. This exposes them to the disruptive impacts of land grabs, gas flaring, and oil spillages,” she said.

She also noted that women are excluded from decision-making processes thus complicating their dilemma. She stressed that, as women face violence due to fossil fuel extraction and climate change, there is a need to integrate their roles, concerns, and interests in decision-making.

The Project Officer in charge of the Youth Desk, Ukpono Bassey, called for youth involvement in the fight against environmental degradation.

In his words: “This is the time for youth to be involved in leadership. After 28 COPs, it is evident that the elders have fallen short. The baton must be passed to the youth who are ready and compelled to take charge. The time for change is now – a change that ensures a sustainable future for generations to come.”

In her contribution, Odudabasi Asuquo, Project officer, Oilwatch Africa, agreed that it was unacceptable that instead of phasing out of fossil fuels, there is a mad rush of investments in Africa, assaulting sensitive ecosystems and vulnerable communities and risk saddling them with toxic stranded assets. She cited examples of communities in Uganda, Senegal, Namibia, and Botswana that need global solidity to ensure ecological justice.

Also, Stephen Oduware, the coordinator of Fishnet Alliance, highlighted the various challenges faced by fisher folks through diverse false climate solutions including the use of water bodies as carbon sinks or for risky experimentation.

“Coastal communities across Africa are gradually disappearing due to coastal erosion. They are gravely impacted by the impacts from the mindless exploration and exploitation of crude oil and gas. These communities are predominantly fishing and farming communities whose livelihoods, including their rights to a pollution-free environment, have been taken away by powerful corporations, with the complicity of governments.”

Oduware further stated: “The COP has become a yearly ritual, and COP28 is no different. The space has largely become a space for making business deals – with no real action for the people. We need to unite to overthrow this current system of oppression, suppression, and inaction, until victory.”

The coordinator of Oilwatch International, Kentebe Ebiaridor, lamented the fact that countries at COP28 continue negotiating with no clear decision to phase out fossil fuel rapidly, firmly, and fairly. He also regretted the undue influence of the fossil fuels lobby at the COP. He noted that giving new permits for crude oil and gas violates any hope of meeting the Paris Agreement target of 1.5°C above preindustrial levels.

The side event closed with an agreement that the world cannot afford more sacrificial zones that present nothing but an unliveable future.

Extractive crimes must cease immediately, and governments must enforce and strengthen regulations to ensure proper accountability and responsibility. The transitioning to cleaner energy must ensure that frontline communities are fully integrated in decision-making and have the right to reject destructive extractive activities just as the people of Ecuador did in August 2023 when they voted to stop the extraction of crude oil in Yasuni.

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