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Climate Justice: HOMEF engages Govt, Community Leaders on Renewable Energy Transition

By Obiabin Onukwugha

In its efforts to promote environmental/climate justice and food sovereignty in Nigeria, the Health of Mother Earth Foundation HOMEF has organized a one-day capacity-building workshop on Renewable Energy and Just Transition.

The event, which had representatives from the State Ministry of Environment, Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency,
NIMASA, in attendance, focused on issues of climate injustice, the need for community engagement, and sensitization of the people on the transition from fossil fuel to renewable energy.

Other participants at the event, which held at the weekend in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, were staff of the State House of Assembly, representatives from the State Ministry of Agric, civil society groups, stakeholders from various communities and opinion leaders.

Speaking at the event, HOMEF Programmes Manager, Stephen Oduware, noted that the workshop was aimed at increasing awareness on the issues of climate injustice, emphasise the need for community engagement, and to sensitize the people on the transition from fossil fuel to renewable energy.

Oduware added that it was also to enlighten government agencies on how to mainstream community concerns into government project, educate communities on ways to prevent the challenges faced in the oil and gas civilization in the Renewable Energy era.

He said; “We know that the Fossil civilization is ending and this discourse about Renewable Energy is just apt at this time but we know that when these Renewable Energy are deployed, they are going to be deployed in communities so we are having this conversation.

“It is to look at how we will not fall into the same trap, into the same issues that we had with the oil and gas civilization, where it
polluted communities, it encouraged land grabbing, sea grabbing, and all of that.

“How do we make communities central in this Renewable Energy discourse, so that is what we came here for and to also speak to the government agencies on how to mainstream community concerns into government project.”

Recalling result of a recent research carried out by HOMEF on the perception of community people about Renewable Energy and climate change, Oduware said communities are aware of the change and are willing to participate.

 “We found out that community people are very knowledgeable about some of these issues and they are also willing to participate in the Renewable Energy discourse. It’s now left for us to ensure that their concerns are mainstreamed in this discourse and to ensure that we do not use it as an avenue to dispossess them, we do not use it as an avenue to suppress them, we do not use it as an avenue to oppress them, we do not use it as an avenue to grab their land, to grab their water and make them go into hardship like the oil civilization has done. So, we are up for justice even in this Renewable Energy discourse, he said”

The HOMEF Programmes Manager further explained that though renewable energy are gotten from natural sources such as wind and sun, it has its own negative impacts.

He continued: “Renewable Energy is one that is gotten from renewable sources like the sun, the wind and all of that, but it also has its own negative impact because we have issues where communities now are crying because of the impact of lithium mining, critical mineral for the transition; lithium mining in Abuja, in Nasarawa and in other places, so, how do we ensure that these things do not become a menace to our communities.

“We know that renewable energy will ensure that there is no emission of CO2 which is one of the gases that is causing the global warming that we are experiencing now so with renewable energy we have that taken care of.”

Oduware urged the government to wear human faces in their dealings with communities, insisting that communities need to be consulted, be part of the process, own the process, recognized, supported and protected against the harms of renewable energy.

He also stated that communities have a role to play in ensuring that they look at whatever is coming and weigh it and be able to take informed decisions in this whole discussiond. “Communities should be able to own this renewable energy project but they should ensure that their right are not usurped,” he stated.

He, therefore, charged the participants to pass the message to the wider society to step down whatever the knowledge gained from the meeting and to begin to have that discussions even in their individual spaces, at work and even in their communities, and to ensure that they also join the fight against the suppression of communities and to join the fight for justice in all that is done in the communities.

“HOMEF in addition to workshops do utilize other avenues like community dialogue, trainings, conversation, policy advocacies and all of that to carry out their work. In HOMEF we will keep this fight on and we encourage the media to also help to send and spread the message across,” he added.

Speaking on the topic; “Fossil Fuel, Environmental/Climate Justice and the Needed Transition” Prof. Fidelis Allen, explained that global climate justice as a movement that acknowledges climate change can have disproportionately harmful social, economic and public health impacts on populations.

He noted that human activities have been the main cause of climate change, primarily due to the burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas, and urged communities to embrace renewable energy options that suit them with consideration on location and cost.

On why communities should embrace renewable energy as the alternative, Allen added that “a just transition from fossil fuel to renewable energy means ensuring fairness, justice and wellbeing, leaving no one behind in responding to the climate crisis.”

While Dr. Confidence Samuel spoke on Gender Mainstreaming, its principles, challenges, opportunities and what should be done to address gender energy poverty, Mr. Tijah Bolton-Akpan addressed unpacking community engagement processes for government projects, where he enlightened participants on the approaches for community engagement, its importance, strategies for effective engagement and made recommendations to federal, state, local government and communities.

Responding to the presentations, the representative of the State Ministry of Environment, Dr. Nimi Elele, assured the Rivers State government willingness to collaborate with relevant bodies in sensitising communities about the energy transition.

Also, the representative from NIMASA, Mrs. Bapakaye Young-Harry commended all the facilitators for the enlightenment. She also
appreciated HOMEF the role it is playing.

She however, expressed concern on how the communities are going to benefit from the renewable energy era. “We know that it is very expensive for them to get this, I want to appeal that the government assist the communities and make this work for them.

“Also, we know that even if they get this wind energy, solar power, can they be able to maintain it, they still need more of this
enlightenment to know how to maintain and sustain it,” Young-Harry added.

Other speakers at the event included representatives from Policy Alert and Kebetkache.

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