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Marginalized groups deserve a place in climate action plans (I)

On Monday 19 June 2024, NatureNews Africa reported that the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu justified the inclusion of marginalised/under-represented groups in activities targeting the mitigation of climate change. The governor, who was represented by his deputy, Dr Obafemi Hamzat, at the closing ceremony of the 10th Lagos International Climate Change Summit, an event held last week at Victoria Island, Lagos, noted that the inclusion of these groups of people is vital for climate change messages to reach everyone.

I don’t want to believe someone or a group of people are raising questions about why the government made such a move to include marginalised people in its climate action plan. Whatever the case may be, I have dedicated today’s column to examine the importance and usefulness of what the Lagos State government has done.

Climate change has become a popular subject in today’s world and I find it unnecessary to define what it is in this piece. So, let’s skip definitions, terms, and descriptions that Google can solve. It is no news that the effect of climate change is holistic and far-reaching in every aspect of our lives today. However, one of the interesting things about the impacts of climate change is that it’s not evenly distributed. Marginalized groups—such as indigenous peoples, women, the elderly, people with disabilities, and economically disadvantaged communities—are often the most vulnerable to its effects.

These groups are also frequently underrepresented in the decision-making processes related to climate action. Including marginalized groups in climate change action plans is not only a matter of social justice but also a practical necessity for effective and sustainable climate solutions. That’s why I am fully in support of the move by the Lagos State Government.

Most times, marginalized groups have less capacity to cope with and adapt to the impacts of climate change due to socioeconomic factors, limited access to resources, and systemic inequalities. For instance, indigenous communities might rely heavily on natural resources for their livelihoods, making them more susceptible to changes in their environment. Similarly, women, particularly in developing countries like Nigeria, often bear the brunt of climate change due to traditional roles that include water collection and food production.

In addition, the reason to keep marginalised groups in mind when we are discussing climate change is not far fetched. Poorer communities have fewer resources to recover from climate-related disasters, such as floods or hurricanes and they often live in areas more susceptible to these events, like floodplains or coastal regions. I have experienced this first-hand during my stay around the Lagos-Ogun border communities.

Another reason to boost representation is that socially marginalized groups might not have access to the same level of infrastructure or services, such as healthcare and education, that can help them adapt to changing conditions. Just as I mentioned in a few paragraphs above, we don’t experience the effects of climate change in the same way. Across all levels, we feel the heat differently. I am tempted to expand this, but that’s not for today. Let me just mention that these are part of the conversation that African leaders and representatives are supposed to raise at climate change summits like the Conference of Parties not to receive unassessed climate change directives from countries that are not feeling the brunt like many African countries are.

The last but not the least reason I’d like to mention is that marginalized groups lack representation in political processes, making it difficult for their needs and perspectives to be included in climate action plans. Therefore, we must applaud the Lagos State Government for considering marginalised groups in the making of critical environmental decisions. I hope this kind of idea finds its way to other state houses in Nigeria. Marginalised groups deserve to be included in every major decision-making – especially when it directly affects them. They should not only be sought after for votes every election year.

Why is inclusion so important?

Inclusion is important in climate action for many reasons. First, it will ensure equity and justice. Since climate change amplifies existing inequalities, including marginalized groups in climate action plans helps ensure that the burdens and benefits of climate action are distributed more equitably. It will be a major step towards rectifying historical injustices and promoting social equity. Secondly, inclusion will help to leverage indigenous and local Knowledge. Marginalized groups, particularly indigenous communities, possess valuable knowledge about sustainable practices and local ecosystems. Their traditional knowledge can provide innovative and effective solutions for climate adaptation and mitigation. Last week I wrote about the role of indigenous knowledge in environmental conservation – I urge you to go and read it if you haven’t.

Thirdly, inclusive climate action plans make climate action robust and resilient because when all segments of society are considered, the solutions developed are comprehensive and can better withstand the multifaceted challenges posed by climate change. Finally, inclusive climate policies foster social cohesion and community solidarity. When people feel that their voices are heard and their needs are addressed, they are more likely to support and engage in climate action initiatives.

Because this column is about providing solutions, I will dedicate the next few paragraphs to writing about strategies to effectively include when considering climate action or any environmental action plan. To effectively include marginalized groups in climate change action plans, several strategies can be employed. The most important of the strategies is to engage marginalized communities in the decision-making process. If this is underestimated, whatever the climate change action plan is, it is already certain to fail. Engagement through public consultations, community meetings, and inclusion in advisory boards is important to the success of any kind of climate plan. Ensuring that these communities have a voice in the development of climate policies is crucial.

Another strategy worth mentioning is capacity building. Investment must be made towards building the capacity of marginalized groups to participate effectively in climate action. This includes education, training, and providing resources that empower these communities to engage in meaningful ways. In addition, climate action must be integrated with policies aimed at addressing social inequalities. For instance, climate adaptation programs can be linked with poverty alleviation initiatives to address the root causes of vulnerability.

Other strategies to employ include the allocation of specific funding and resources to support the participation of marginalized groups in climate action. This could involve grants for community-led initiatives or financial support for adaptation projects. While we explore all the strategies I’ve mentioned, mechanisms to monitor the inclusion of marginalized groups in climate action and to hold stakeholders accountable must be established. This can include regular reporting, impact assessments, and feedback loops to ensure continuous improvement.

Next week, I will attempt to conclude this with the challenges facing the inclusion of marginalised groups in climate action plans and the role of governments and climate organizations. In conclusion, the inclusion of marginalized groups in climate change action plans is essential for achieving equitable and effective climate solutions. By recognizing the unique vulnerabilities and valuable contributions of these groups, we can develop more comprehensive and resilient strategies to address climate change.

Olamide is a communications professional currently based in London, United Kingdom. He can be reached across social media platforms @olamidefrancis and via


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