A Model For the Future We Want

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Vanessa Obioha writes that as the world is grappling with the coronavirus pandemic, THISDAY and CYCDI are changing the narrative with Solution17-Climate Action for Change

Prior to the unwanted arrival of coronavirus, the world was already battling with greenhouse gas emissions, the major cause of global warming. These gases — carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide — escape into the atmosphere during the combustion of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas for electricity, heat and transportation.

However, the rapid rise of coronavirus in the world saw a decline in green gas emissions, as most countries locked down their economies to curb the spread of Covid-19.
The International Energy Agency reported in April that emissions are on track to plunge nearly 8 percent this year, the largest drop ever recorded, and predicted that global carbon dioxide emissions were projected to fall by roughly 2.6 billion tons this year, an 8 percent drop from 2019.

While the report was good news for advocates of global climate change, it was however short-lived as countries reopened their economies, resuming activities that are endangering the earth.

The call for action against climate change has amplified over the years, including the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Paris Agreement in 2015 that seeks to keep the increase in global average temperature to below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels; and to pursue efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 °C. The agreement signed by 196 countries including Nigeria recognised that a reduction in these gases emissions will substantially reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.

In Nigeria, climate change is still alien to many citizens even when the effects are seen in the fluctuating weather. For instance, in the past two years, the weather has been hotter than usual, and seasonal rainfall capricious, as predicted by the Nigeria Meteorological Agency (NiMet). It is no longer news that the changes in weather are responsible for the droughts and floods experienced in some parts of the country. Similar trends are expected to happen this year.

Even as the country is dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, it is important that climate change is also given top priority to prevent further damage to our world. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has already warned that the world must cut its carbon dioxide emissions to net zero by 2050 in order to prevent global warming of 1.5°C. Another major threat and possible cause of the strange coronavirus is the exploitation of wildlife. Scientists have raised concerns that as many as 1.7 million unidentified viruses are found in animals and could infect people which may inadvertently introduce more diseases that are deadlier than Covid-19.

It is against this backdrop that the Creative Youth Community Development Initiative (CYCDI) in partnership with Covenant University and supported by THISDAY Group launched the Solution17 for Climate Action in Covenant University (Solution17 for C.A.C.U).

The initiative seeks to groom young people who will take action on climate change and other global challenges in Nigeria and in Africa, and join the global conversations on how to build a future we want. As the name implies, the projects to be handled by the selected participants will tackle the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) proposed by the United Nations which climate change is part of.

Solutions 17 kicked off in February when the organisers called for essay submission on ‘Climate Crisis; A Race We Must Win!’ in Covenant University. The essay was opened to students and recent graduates to participate in. But with the outbreak of Covid-19, the topic was expanded to ‘Lesson Learnt from COVID19 to Fight Climate Crisis.’ Series of virtual training on ‘Design Thinking and Project Management’ were organised between the months of March and April by CYCDI-Solution17 to help participants with their submissions and project design process.

This was followed by a rigorous selection process, which involved the interviews of hundreds of Covenant University students and alumni in May 2020.

Those who were selected to take part in the project were further tasked to submit project ideas which should be practical solutions to the climate crisis with the tools of 17 SDGs.

47 teams emerged from the qualifier stage. The teams were further trimmed to 17 in June after their ideas were judged based on sustainability, innovation; adaptability to the immediate environment; and alignment with the current global threats due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

They were unveiled in a two-day virtual live event on June 2 and 3 themed ‘Global Movement Against Climate Change Crisis in Nigeria: Time For Nature, Pitch For Climate Change’. Some of the project ideas to be tackled include ‘ The Plastic Operation’, ‘The Waste Action’, ‘Solar Genesis’, ‘Carbon Credit Value Chain’, ‘ClimeAct Academy’, ‘Agro Husk Wares’ and ‘Project Terra’.

The 17 finalists with the guidance of the Refiners — a team of professional, academia, social innovators, entrepreneurs and sustainability experts from different backgrounds that will help transform participants’ passion into social impacts and profits through driving Climate Action Enterprises — will be admitted for training, project development, and sustainable business creation at the Solution17 Reality Innovation Hub later this month.

Also, the 17 finalists will be presented to world leaders in New York by September 2020. This will be followed by product development and project replication across the nations of the earth. Each participant is expected to train 17 young innovators across Nigeria under the Train-The-Trainer Entrepreneurship Network Marketing (ENM) Module.

The project outcome will be unveiled later in the year at the ‘African Youth Summit in Covenant University’, a youth dialogue for global cooperation on ‘The Future We Want’ to commemorate the United Nations 75th anniversary.

It is not the first time CYCDI is embarking on such a solutions-driven task. Founded by Foluke Michael, a Project Management expert, IBM Enterprise Design Thinking practitioner, and winner of the United Nations SDG Action Award in the Innovator category, the company is focused on engaging the youths to produce SDG based solutions that can be implemented locally and are relevant to tackling problems that will clearly accelerate the achievement of the global goals by 2030.

The organisation has successfully implemented two projects: ‘Solution17 for Good Health and Well Being’ and ‘Solution17 for United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child at 30’. The projects gained support from European Union-United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (EU-UNODC) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Nigeria respectively.

Michael’s ultimate vision is to make earth liveable. “As we are struggling to flatten the curve of Covid-19, we must promote biodiversity; the most complex feature of our planet. Life must interplay with the physical environment to make the earth liveable, this is the only solution to the climate crisis,” she said.

Executive Director of THISDAY Conferences, Ayo Arowolo expressed optimism that the finalists will “frontally confront the challenge of climate change, and incorporate lessons learnt from Covid-19 to provide solutions to the climate crisis.”

Solution 17 for Climate Action is expected to grow from 17 to a minimum of five million direct and indirect beneficiaries in different parts of Africa by September 2030.