GreenFaith launches Ghana Chapter, and joins hands with youth to hasten climate action and end fossil fuel extraction
As GreenFaith continues to expand its tentacles globally, the African continent begins to appreciate the clamor for climate justice, with more partnerships emerging and many vowing to actively get involved.
In October, GreenFaith and the Strategic Network for Youth Development (SNYD) signed a Memorandum of Understanding and launched the “Keep Oil in The Ground” campaign after a one-day workshop to build capacity on effects of oil drilling and champion renewable energy use and investment.
Prior to the signing of the agreement, hundreds of youth, women, men, and faith leaders had formed Circles in the country’s grassroots and vowed to enhance calls for keeping all fossil fuels in the ground to tame climate and other disasters associated with such projects.
GreenFaith cemented its relationship with the youth to tap into their rich networks, energy, agility and ability to use technology and communicate in ways that will achieve better goals in climate action.
The collaboration will ensure increased awareness creation through campaigns targeting oil projects, and promoting renewable energy solutions. The partnership also aims to galvanize multi-religious, multi-stakeholder participation within Ghana’s civil society movement for climate justice and increase awareness within religious communities across Ghana, including those with limited prior exposure to critical environmental issues.
Speaking after they signed the MoU in Accra, Ghana, GreenFaith’s Global Director of Organizing Meryne Warah encouraged faith leaders to practice good stewardship as commanded by their respective deities in their holy books. She highlighted existing and upcoming fossil fuel projects in Africa and their impacts on the people, biodiversity, sources of livelihood, peace and harmony, among other issues, saying silence would not help improve the situation.
“Faith leaders play a pivotal role in policy and advocacy as they can effectively disseminate information to their followers,” said Ms Warah.
She emphasized the role of faith leaders in boosting climate action and preventing destructive use of land. “Development is good, but we must question when it hurts people,” she told the participants in Accra.
Several speakers at the event castigated African leaders still open to the idea of new fossil fuel projects, and asked them to prioritize their people, biodiversity, and natural resources such as rivers and forests that sustain lives.
“The energy sector and oil and gas companies stand out as the leading carbon emitters. Our belief systems compel us to protect and preserve the environment, making us key actors in the fight against climate change,” said Ezekiel Chibeze, the SNYD Executive Director.
Mr Chibeze, a recipient of the 2020 Goldman Environmental Prize for Africa and renewable energy advocate, added thus: “As mandated in Genesis 2:15, we are charged with the responsibility to care for and protect the Earth”.
Coordinator of Oil Watch Africa’s chapter in Ghana, and a KAIROS Global Solidarity partner Noble Wadzah, discouraged overreliance on fossil fuels, saying over time, there had been proof that it was dangerous for human survival. “As early as 1975, it was clear that excessive reliance on fossil fuels would not lead us to a sustainable future, but one where poverty, food insecurity, poor health and many other problems reigned,” said Mr Wadzah.
The energy expert urged faith leaders to amplify their voices in calls for a transition to renewable energy. “Communities worldwide have voiced their concerns about mining and oil production, but the calls have often been overshadowed by political and media influences, with little emphasis from religious leaders,” said Mr Wadzah.
He condemned misuse of the term “community” by state machinery and urged mainstream media to aggressively and professionally report on issues affecting the downtrodden. “The gap in media coverage and reporting is sporadic. Often times there is little follow-up and understanding of behavioral trends. Oil companies are well aware of the adverse effects of their activities,” he said.
The workshop was a follow-up to a series of previous capacity building meetings with youth and faith communities in Ghana, aimed at boosting energy access without causing more losses to the people and environment.
Ghana, climate-vulnerable country, confronts many climate-related challenges, including rising sea levels, drought, heat waves, and unpredictable rain patterns, which also affect power supply and agriculture. These have hampered infrastructure, and food security, and denied many coastal communities their sources of livelihoods.
Compounding these challenges, the Ghanaian government’s aggressive pursuit of fossil fuel development, including gas and pipeline expansion, has led to mounting debt and environmental degradation.
The new formation will also empower faith leaders to promote climate action on pulpits and use their influence to speak to the powers that be on the need for more focus on renewable energy rather than fossil fuels.
“Faith leaders are the first respondents when calamities hit. Churches, mosques, and other religious facilities, together with schools, offer safe havens for people displaced by conflict and climate disasters such as floods. But they lack the knowledge to focus on sustainable solutions and be involved,” said Ms Warah.
“We need to ensure Ghana keeps oil in the ground because such projects are largely to blame for the people’s suffering elsewhere. If we want development, then oil is not an option now,” she said, elaborating on the campaign and choice of name.
She reiterated that African nations still borrow to have the fossil fuel projects in their countries, and burden their citizens with taxes, yet the returns are negligible.
“Four of the poorest countries in Africa are actively engaged in oil production. Although many of our daily products are derived from fossil fuels, it’s time to transition due to their adverse impacts on communities,” said Mr Wadzah.
Participants at the workshop and launch of the campaign vowed to engage in capacity building for their peers and religious groups.