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Stop stalling on climate action!


Drought, temperature rises and increased desertification: climate change is hitting hardest in Africa, according to the United Nations.

The continent is home to 22 of the world’s 28 most vulnerable countries. If Africa is to halt the threat of hunger, water shortages and displacement brought by a changing climate then the world must urgently shift to a green economy. This is precisely what many civil society groups are demanding through the Moving Planet campaign. On 24 September, mass actions, bike rides, marches, tree plantings and protests will take place around the world that will call for a move beyond fossil fuels. Citizens are demanding that governments stop stalling on climate action and address environmental ills, and Africa is no exception.

Take The Gambia. An economic upturn here has exacerbated rubbish disposal problems. A chronic lack of recycling facilities and inadequate waste collection means most refuse is burned, releasing toxic gas into the atmosphere. Trash the Trash Foundation will be organizing a five-kilometre march to warn of the environmental dangers posed by rubbish and encourage Gambians to change consumer habits.

Nigeria is Africa’s largest oil producer. This fact has, according to one Nigerian Moving Planet organizer, ‘paralysed the country’s interest in developing alternative sources of energy’. Ironically enough, earlier this year Nigeria was hit by a shortage of kerosene, a fuel used by many households for cooking. As a result, people are resorting to felling trees to make charcoal and firewood, aggravating an already acute deforestation problem. Moving Planet’s Nigerian campaigners will be pushing for an alternative to logging and fossil fuels. They are preparing a solar panel demonstration in Lagos and a petition to government calling for a carbon tax on heavy polluters and an ‘incentives fund’ for renewable energy.

Meanwhile, on the continent’s southern tip, South Africa is busy generating 93 per cent of its electricity from coal, making it the 14th highest emitter of greenhouse gases on the planet. Last May, Johannesburg hosted the Green Economy Summit, which hailed a new, more ecologically sound direction for South Africa – at least on paper. Development Minister Ebrahim Patel believes the resulting economy plan will create 300,000 new green jobs by 2020. But South Africa is also constructing the fourth most polluting coal power station in the world, somewhat undermining the promise of a green future. So in Johannesburg, youth organizations and trade unions will be marching to demand that the government make good on its promise of a greener economy.

Moving Planet say the message of the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia is the inspiration for their day of action: people power is an incredible force for change.

New Internationalist issue 445 magazine cover This article is from the September 2011 issue of New Internationalist.
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