Prof Chukwumerije Okereke, an internationally recognised climate expert and an awardee of the International Visitors Leadership Programme (IVLP) impact award, has trained over 30 youths in Enugu State on urban spaces greening and climate advocacy.
The two-day event that held from August 15 to 16, 2023, focused on “Climate Change: Science and Policy” on the first day and on the second day the focus was on “Effective Climate change communication”.
The recipient of the award, Prof. Okereke, took the participants through the selection process of the IVLP participants, saying: “You cannot apply to participate in the IVLP, participants are nominated and selected annually by staff at US Embassies around the world and the participants are current and emerging foreign leaders in a variety of fields.”
He listed some notable IVLP alumni to include: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Gordon Brown of the United Kingdom.
On the topic “Understanding the links between climate change and air pollution: causes, impact, and solution”, the guest speaker, Dr. Daniel Ugwu of David Umahi University of Health Science, stated that the link between climate change and air pollution is that both are a product of greenhouse gas emission. Improper waste disposal and indiscriminate burning of refuse dump stands are the major cause of air pollution in urban areas, Dr. Ugwu maintained.
According to him, some of the solutions to air pollution in urban centres include: awareness creation, and reviving eco-friendly traditional values and practices, among others.
Prof A. Moneke Director of the Centre for Environmental Management and Control at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, while speaking on “Gas flaring and air quality issue”, stated that air pollution in Nigeria contributes to untimely death and other ailments and that it will be great if the training of young climate leaders can expand to other parts of the country especially the South-South geopolitical zone where the issue of gas flaring is almost making the area inhabitable.
“Planting trees around the environment will make Nigerians healthy by giving oxygen as against the common practice of using concrete slabs that produce heat,” Prof Moneke stated.
On effective climate change communication, Dr. Chinwe Ogunji of Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ebonyi State, and Mrs. Ogechi Nwonye, Executive Director of Eco-Cyclersboth, agreed that the greatest difference between communicating climate change and other science topics is the call to action either explicit or implicit to reduce the effects of climate change.
The action can come through climate change education to raise awareness on the impact of climate change and take the lead on how to protect the environment as climate change affect all and sundry, the duo stated.
They maintained that, to communicate climate change effectively, the following tips are helpful: having a grip of climate change, listening to open dialogue, and showing people the link between human activity and climate change.
There was a presentation on the impacts of climate change in Enugu State from the Director of Climate Change Department, Enugu State Ministry of Environment, Mr. Arum Nnamdi, who stated that Enugu State is being threatened by desert encroachment and that, if care was not taken through tree planting, the situation might get worse.
He listed some local governments currently battling erosion in the state as: Udi, Nsukka, and Igbo Etiti, among others. During the rainy season, some communities in Aninri and Oji River Local Government Areas of the state are always affected by flooding, added Arum.
The highlight of the two-day of training was the visit of the new commissioner for Environment and Climate Change in Enugu State, Prof. Sam Ugwu, who assured the young leaders that his office would be happy to partner with young climate activists on ways to better the environmental condition of the state.
“I will like to work with you the young climate leaders because your activities are part of the core values of the state Ministry of Environment so I encourage you to do proposals to the ministry on areas of collaboration,” Prof Ugwu stated.
He promised the young leaders that he would ensure that the Enugu State environmental law is passed so that the environmental protection of Enugu State will have strong legal backing.
The awardee, Prof. Okereke, stated that the next step of the project would include planting trees within Enugu by the young leaders and doing climate change education in selected secondary schools within Enugu city. He asked the participants to design any campaign on climate action that they will like to run as a way of implementing what they have learned from the training.
The project is funded by the United States Department of States with Meridian International as their implementing partner.
By Elochukwu E. Anieze