Pollution: Africa losing its breath amidst Covid-19 – says Oilwatch Africa

From Blessing Ibunge, Port Harcourt

Members of Oilwatch Africa across the African countries have lamented the consequences of pollution on the health of the masses as a result of fossil flames, stressing that Africa is gradually losing its breath amidst Covid-19 effects.

The group expressed this in a communique at the end of its 2020 virtual Annual General Meeting (AGM), with the theme “We can’t breathe: Africa Choking on COVID and Fossil flames”.

The AGM witnessed the participation of Oilwatch Ghana, Friends of Lake Turkana, Justiça Ambiental, Green Alliance of Nigeria, Health of Mother Earth Foundation, and 17 others, from 12 African countries, including Nigeria, Togo, Swaziland, Mozambique, South Africa, Ghana, Kenya, DRC, Uganda, Cote d’Ivoire, Zimbabwe, Ivory Coast.

The meeting surveyed the devastating impacts of fossil fuels on the continent, both through exploitation and combustion, punctuated this week by the oil spill off the shores of Mauritius, in a Japanese ship whose main purpose is taking iron ore from Brazil to China, in a world economy which already suffers a massive steel glut.

However, at the end of the one-day virtual meeting, the group demanded that “African governments should finally recognise not the hucksters of a ‘global value chain’ in oil, but instead the global devaluation of life due to fossil fuels addictions.

“We insist they turn the continent from any ruinous pathways that lead to a global petroleum value chain, and instead work with us to hasten the demise of these firms and the replacement of leaders who are their African collaborators.

“Corporations and states should totally halt all new and existing fossil fuels exploration and extractive sites/activities across Africa and remove the knee of the extractive industries from the neck of Africa, to give her a chance to breathe.

“African governments should establish climate-resilient and just recovery models, to defend communities, stop destructive extraction and support agroecology, through their leading visionary organisations in civil society”.

They also warned that “COVID19 Pandemic should not be used as a yardstick to dispense with workers, to oppress citizens, or to victimise activists across Africa. Government should not use the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to pass developments, that will negatively affect the environment and impact upon community’s health and well-being, without proper and meaningful popular consultation.

“Government should not lower environmental standards, suspend environmental monitoring requirements or reduce environmental enforcement as part of response measures to the COVID-19 pandemic”.

The group continue that “African governments should support Annex Zero, by recognising and incentivising countries, nations, subnational spaces, localities, and territories that keep fossil fuels in the ground. We need to pressure the Global North to pay its climate debt, one aspect of this is our societies’ willingness to leave fossil fuels underground.

“A down payment on the Global North’s ecological debt to Africa is long overdue, and within this category we include the greenhouse-gas over consumers of South Africa, other the BRICS countries, and other emerging markets.

“Annex Zero communities should be supported with series of international incentives and recognitions based on solidarity, relevant technological exchanges, and the payment of an ecological debt associated with their suffering due to climate crisis.

“Africans should resist all forms of neoliberal capitalism that deepen the extractive-export model in the Global South, causing unequal ecological exchange and in the process causing the displacement of millions, destruction of the environment, new dependencies, and recolonization.

“Africans should promote accountability for the carnage, deaths and ecocide across Africa, especially that due to worsening climate chaos”.

They further stressed that the impact of COVID-19 on the health and livelihoods of countries already adversely affected by fossil fuels exploitation should be assessed.

A just transitioning away from fossil fuels and equitably phasing out coal, oil and gas extraction should be a fundamental part of the plan for African nations’ economic recovery from COVID19 Pandemic”.

The group commended activists fighting fossil fuels in all their manifestations, adding that “The protest rates in African countries have been at historic post-colonial highs since early 2011, the North African uprising. There has been no break in the action, as Africa’s popular movements have demanded more democratic leadership, accountability and transparency, less austerity, less extractivism, an end to femicide, ethnic battles, and a shift to ecological sustainability”.

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