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Britain, Germany, UN partner to promote NaijaClimateNow

By Gregory Austin Nwakunor
03 October 2021   |   4:05 am
Despite the campaign that has been on for several decades, evolving effective strategies to address the issue of climate change has been a challenge. There’s a little doubt that today’s children will inherit a world without environmental challenges.

Dr Bernd Von Munchow-Pohl,the Consulate General, Federal Republic of Germany;Ms Foluke Michael,CEO/Project Director, CYCDI- Solution 17 Global;British Deputy High commissioner, Ben Llewellyn-Jones and Dr. Seyi Soremekun, the UNIC Head of Communication

Despite the campaign that has been on for several decades, evolving effective strategies to address the issue of climate change has been a challenge. There’s a little doubt that today’s children will inherit a world without environmental challenges.

Many have wondered how to engage young people with a topic that is seen as abstract, distant and complex. Some climate activists have, however, adopted arts and humanities as one of the ways you can easily reach the world, though its potential remains untapped and underutilised

In the lead-up to the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) scheduled to hold in Glasgow, Scotland, from November 1 to 12, 2021, the British Deputy High Commission, the Consulate General, Federal Republic of Germany, Robert Bosch Nigeria and United Nations Information Centre for Nigeria (UNIC) have partnered with the Creative Youth Community Development Initiative (CYCDI) — Solution17 for Climate Action to promote Climate Adaptation Solutions and Climate Art Exhibition.

On Tuesday, September 21, 2021, a special pre-COP26 media briefing was hosted by UNIC Lagos to announce the partnerships. The conference had heads of the collaborating organisations – the British Deputy High commissioner, Ben Llewellyn-Jones; the German Consul-General, Dr Bernd Von Munchow-Pohl, and the Director of the United Nations Information Centre in Nigeria, Mr Ronald D. Kayanja, who was host, and represented by Dr. Seyi Soremekun, the UNIC Head of Communication, and Ms Foluke Michael, CEO/Project Director, CYCDI- Solution 17 Global.

The conference also featured the Climate Art Solutions Initiative, which presented 34 finalists who emerged from the call for solutions across Nigeria launched on June 7, 2021.

The finalists emerged from over 400 participants, who took part across the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria. In a breakdown of participants provided by the organisers, the North Central had 22per cent; North West, 6 per cent; South East, 6 per cent; South West, 62 per cent; South South, 6 per cent). The entrants went through three levels of screening and interview sessions prior to the final selection.

“They will be admitted to Naija Climate Now Innovation Hub in November to cocreate sustainable solutions for social impact and profit. Later in the year, the project will showcase Nigerian-made solutions and technologies to address climate change at a special COP26 Summit and Art exhibition,” said Ms. Michael, who is the driving force behind the initiative.

An hour before the conference, four Climate Change Artists — Anjola Olanrewaju, Victory Ashaka, Oluchi Nwaokorie and Tobi Titiloye staged live drawing and painting session on canvases mounted on easels in a section of the open courtyard of the UNIC office in Ikoyi.

The live creations by the Climate Change Now art ambassadors depicted their various interpretations of the theme, which dots on the intersection between the arts and the climate. The works reflected on how the painting and the literary arts can make interventions in finding solutions to the challenges of climate change. The artists in their drawing, painting and mixed media techniques touched on such profound concepts as: infusing renewable energy, waste to wealth, climate-smart agriculture, biodiversity protection, sustainable fashion and others.

“The intersection of arts, culture and the environment in Nigeria is undeniable; from our agricultural systems to the industries that dominate our societies,” stated Ms Michael. “It is therefore important to explore climate change through art as a means of bringing about behavioural change and fully addressing the climate emergency.”

She also disclosed that the exhibition of the works of art would be staged on October 7 at the residence of the British Deputy High Commissioner, in Lagos. It will be held under the theme, ‘Naija Climate Now – Race To Zero on 17 Canvasses,’ and will “showcase sustainable art that aim to provoke innovative responses on enhancing climate resilience, green economic recovery, and low-carbon development for Nigeria. It will also bring together key stakeholders including civil society organisations, businesses, and people on the frontline of climate change to galvanise action ahead of COP26.

“We are running out of time to protect the planet; everyone must ACT to prevent the looming climate crisis. Naija Climate Now presents an opportunity for all stakeholders within the environmental space, including government, non-governmental, private sectors, education and research institutions and international entities, to reflect on Nigeria’s issues and proposed solutions towards climate adaptation on the Race to Zero,” Ms Michael said in a passionate advocacy tone and poise.

The British Deputy High Commissioner, Llewellyn-Jones praised the Naija Climate Now project, and in particular the multi-lateral collaboration that is driving the current initiative, which formed the objective of the public briefing.

He acknowledged the objective of the Climate Naija Now project, which he said aims to work with a generation of innovators on ideas that address the climate emergency and to explore climate change through art as a means of bringing about behavioural change.

One of the Climate Changeartists, Anjola Olanrewaju

Stated Llewellyn-Jones: “The global climate crisis is arguably the greatest challenge for the 21st century. It is an issue that scientists from all over the world have been researching, discussing and urging us to mitigate. I am sure every one of us has seen that people are being displaced, and homes and businesses damaged and destroyed, due to the catastrophic effects of climate change. In whichever part of Nigeria you are joining us from today, you will have seen the impacts of flooding, heatwaves and changing weather patterns; and unless we act swiftly, the losses to our global community will be unimaginable and irreplaceable.

“If we want to halt this trajectory, we need to work together to implement our most innovative ideas and approaches to address these climate challenges; and you may be wondering what the role of art is in the global climate change movement. The answer is simple: art can communicate in a different way than science the threat that climate change poses to our planet.

“Environmental art addresses our relationship to the natural world and so when we look at art that has been stimulated by climate change, we become engaged in deep reflection and we contemplate things in a different way.”
“I have had the opportunity to engage with passionate Nigerians who create art to engage the public on the climate agenda. One thing that stands out for me is how well they can articulate the important societal issues using art – whether it is inspiring people to begin to think of waste as a resource or how the livelihoods of people in local communities are affected by the changing climate, these artists are communicating the message of pro-environmental behavioural change. Not everyone can be a politician, scientist, or an investor, what some people have is their creativity and art and if these people understand their role as cultural influencers, they have the potential to be strong collaborators and influential leaders.

“The UK’s Creative Earth Competition launched in collaboration with the WWF (World Wildlife Fund) is a part of the Together For Our Planet Initiative and it encourages young people to use the power of art to capture their hopes and dreams for the planet in the future. The best pieces that were selected will be displayed at the COP26 Summit,” he said.

The German Consular General, Munchow, also praised the initiative, especially its decisive focus on the power of the arts to influence the search for solution. He said he was delighted to learn about the ongoing collaboration of the German Consulate with Creative Youth Community Development Initiative, CYCDI, on the ‘Naija Climate Now by the Green Entrepreneurs’ Project.” He added, “Innovative initiatives of this kind are more relevant than ever now, we are happy to support it with our modest means.”

Munchow said: “The German government recognises climate change as one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century, and has committed to significant emission reduction goals in order to reach a carbon neutral economy. The fight against climate change is also a key element of German foreign policy. In this context, our mission partner with governmental institutions and particularly with civil society to promote climate resilience, mitigation and adaptation.

“As we speak, humanity as a whole appears still to be set on a path of head-on collision. The dire warnings are written on the wall, and the latest report published by the UN has drastically underlined how far we are off the mark to reach the 1,5 degree goal, and how little time we have left to mend our ways. The biggest net polluter of the atmosphere, China, is yet to commit to concrete emission reduction targets. This year in particular, has so far served as a grim reminder what our future will look like if we don’t change tack: floodings of unprecedented scale, raging wildfires, tropical storms of a destructive strength we have not witnessed before, extended droughts, food shortages and widespread hunger. Large sections of Lagos are predicted to be under water.

“In my country as elsewhere on this globe, it is the young people who have realised quicker than anybody else that nothing can stay the way it is, if humanity is to survive. They have grasped the reality that we have to change everything: the way we live, the way we work, the food we eat. And they lead in the way – both in adapting their own lifestyle, as well as in finding and creating sustainable solutions for society as a whole.

“It is in this context that CYCDI has placed its “Green entrepreneur” initiative, a contest for creative solutions in Climate Change adaptation designed by innovative young minds. The 34 finalists of this contest will be presented shortly.
I do believe this project, limited as it might appear in its scope, will have a significant impact because it focuses on realistic and sustainable solutions; solutions that cut across every aspect of the people’s daily personal and professional lives. Solutions that will inspire others to follow in these footsteps.”

Earlier in the welcome address, Dr Kajanya, director of UNIC in Nigeria, speaking through Soremekun, said that the arts remain powerful instruments through which youths and the general populace can be easily mobilised to contribute to the search for solution. He pledged the commitment of the United Nations to the project, just as he expressed satisfaction with the partnership that has been forged to drive the project in Nigeria.

To wrap up the session, the four Climate Change Now art ambassadors were given opportunity to express their thoughts on Climate Change Now objective and, especially what the arts could contribute to realise the set goals. Also, five of the 34 finalists in the contest, explained the framework of their individual projects in the context of the Naija Climate Now objectives.