At the height of the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate advocates around the world were reeling backwards from the shift to online activism. Just beforehand, CCL volunteers across Africa took a bold step forward: lobbying their governments to join the Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition (CPLC).
In early March, CCL volunteers in Burkina Faso, Burundi, the Gambia, Kenya, Liberia, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe submitted coordinated letters to their government leaders. By May, Kemo Phatty of CCL Bangul announced that Gambia had already committed to joining the CPLC. Ann Grace Akiteng of CCL Uganda reports that her volunteers met with the Assistant Commissioner in August to further discuss their letter. Cyprian Ogoti, Group Leader for CCL Nairobi, is working with the governor of his county to endorse Kenya joining the CPLC. If the governor agrees, he will work with Cyprian’s team to earn endorsements from the remaining counties in Kenya and push for federal action.
The CPLC represents a team of leaders from federal governments, the private sector, academia, and civil society that collaborate on the research and development of effective carbon pricing strategies. Each government that joins the coalition takes on the responsibility of leading the fight for global carbon pricing. They also gain invaluable institutional wisdom and funding to help them design and implement carbon pricing within their own borders.
Political will for climate action is built through incremental steps. For CCL Africa, asking their home countries to join the CPLC represented the first step towards implementing carbon pricing mechanisms across the continent. Delegations from Kenya, Nigeria, Sierra Leona, Uganda, and Zambia were gearing up to attend the United Nations’ Africa Climate Week in Kampala, Uganda but the event was soon canceled due to the raging pandemic. Undaunted by how the virus would affect their communities, families, and personal lives, they were unwilling to let their plans for climate action fall to the wayside.
These were not the only actions taken by CCL volunteers in Africa. Alhassen Sesay of CCL Freetown organized what he described as ‘shoe strikes’ across Sierra Leone. “We used hundreds of shoes to represent the presence of human beings that were passionate about climate action but unable to congregate,” he explained. The shoe strikes were live-streamed on Facebook to generate further discussion about viable climate solutions and climate activism in the midst of a global pandemic. These actions were mirrored by CCL volunteers in Liberia led by Christopher Swen.
Nouhou Zoungrana, Group Leader for CCL Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso and an Ambassador for Youth4Nature, wrote a comprehensive article on the need to prioritize forest protection in national environmental policy discussions. He describes the ecological importance of the Koa Forest, a previously protected land that now stands to be torn down for urban development purposes. Another young volunteer, Jussa Kudherezera of CCL Mutare and trustee at Manica Youth Assembly launched a website and recently took to social media to demonstrate the need for Zimbabwe to crack down on plastic pollution. Donning face masks and maintaining distances of six feet, he ventured into trash heaps with members of the Manica Youth Assembly (MAYA) to photograph the massive heaps of plastic waste destined for landfills.
History was made on August 20 when Jacques Kenjio, CCL coordinator for the French speaking chapters across Africa, led a Climate Advocate Training in French over Zoom. This event led to the official launch of chapters in Goma and Matadi in the Democratic Republic of Congo as well as Lomé, Togo.
Not only did CCL Africa volunteers achieve all of this, but many also took part in Climate Interactive’s En-ROADS Climate Workshop in April in both English and French on WhatsApp Chat and Zoom led by Drew Jones, the co-director of Climate Interactive. As well, 15 CCL Africa volunteers were trained by Al Gore in the first ever online Global Climate Reality Project Training July 18-26. While these trainings further cemented their skills in grassroots climate activism and policy advocacy, they also presented an opportunity for celebration of the work that CCL Africa volunteers have done thus far. During the Global Climate Reality Project Training, long-time CCL volunteer Gloria Bulus was awarded with the Alfredo Sirkis Memorial Green Ring. This prestigious award is a testament to the recipient’s excellence in climate leadership and activism.
CCL Africa Coordinator David Michael ‘Mike’ Terungwa said of the news, “I am so excited that people like Gloria who look up to me as a mentor are getting this recognition. We have to promote the young leaders among us.”
When he first joined CCL in 2015, Mike fell in love with CCL’s focus on helping its volunteers build respectful relationships with their policy makers. His dedication to CCL remains as strong as ever, and this recent string of victories has left him and the rest of CCL Africa refreshed, recharged, and inspired to keep moving forward.
The author, Jess Wilber, is a recent graduate of Oberlin College in Oberlin, OH. She majored in Environmental Studies & East Asian Studies and founded the CCL Oberlin College Chapter. In addition to serving as the International Outreach Intern and Great Lakes Community Representative, she is a contributor to CCL’s Youth Blog Writing Team.