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In Africa, COVID-19 disrupted climate change work but also led to new opportunities

In Africa, COVID-19 disrupted climate change work but also led to new opportunities

COVID-19 took a toll on climate change. Activists in Africa say that toll has been both negative and positive.

Oluwatosin Kolawole, a Nigerian climate change activist, normally is an active advocate who monitors events in the industry and is ready to board a flight for climate-related events around the world. But over the last year that the pandemic led to lockdowns around the world, his travel plans have been grounded

Kolawole, president of Climate Aid Initiative, describes COVID-19 as a thief in the night that struck the world by surprise.

“The moment of social isolation was unlike anything that I have ever experienced,” he said. “The storm threatened my peace, comfort and joy and brought about fear, doubt and hopelessness. It took away being in the company of family and friends, both secular and corporate. And, perhaps most alarming, it took away conferences and the ability to meet at meetings and workshops to discuss contemporary successes and challenges of work on climate change.”

Like Kolawole, Glory Oguegbu of Climate Smart Nigeria also had her work disrupted by COVID-19. She could do nothing but watch as her plans to organize a climate event called the Green Week and Climate online campaign in April fizzled out. The same fate befell a solar energy capacity program, scheduled for the city of Abuja. Suddenly, there was no “business as usual.”

Happy Khambule of Greenpeace Africa also was sidelined by the pandemic, as were initiatives he supported.

“Many activities and initiatives on the ground were halted or postponed as resources had to be reallocated to emergency COVID-19 response,” he said. “An example was the implementation of the South African carbon tax, which was not implemented for the current financial year for companies liable for the tax, meaning in effect, a suspension of the tax for the time being.”
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