Undaunted climate activism during a pandemic – CCL Africa

By Jess Wilber

This year has been dominated by the global spread of the coronavirus. Despite the uncertainty the pandemic has brought, CCL volunteers across Africa have continued to take bold steps forward in their climate advocacy: lobbying their governments to join an international carbon pricing group, organizing “shoe strikes,” launching new chapters, and more.

Asking their governments to lead on carbon pricing

The Carbon Pricing Leadership Coalition (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.

As of 2019, the CPLC comprised 34 national governments. 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, urging them to join the CPLC.

Volunteers across Africa sent letters urging their governments to join the CPLC.

After the initial letters, volunteers continued to push leadership. By May, Kemo Phatty of CCL Bangul announced that Gambia was committed to joining the CPLC. In August, Ann Grace Akiteng of CCL Uganda and her fellow volunteers met with the Assistant Commissioner 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.

Organizing shoe strikes

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 toward implementing carbon pricing mechanisms across the continent. Delegations from Kenya, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, 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. Instead, 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.

Alhassan Sesay at “Shoe Strike for Climate” in Freetown, Sierra Leone

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.

Getting the word out in every way

Volunteers have also been busy writing, posting, and training others to take climate action.

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.

On August 20, 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.

Jaques Kenjio leads the first virtual Climate Advocate Training for CCL Africa

Attending training and receiving recognition

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-timeCCL 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 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.

Jess Wilber is an intern with CCL’s international team and has been active with CCL since her sophomore year of college.


This article first appeared on CitizensClimateLobby.org