The issue of climate change is a major threat to the well-being of people in Africa – increased temperature resulting in deadly heatwaves, varying rainfall resulting in flooding in some areas, and droughts in others which, in turn, is leading to reduced agricultural production and increased food insecurity.
As the environmental crisis seals its place as a key issue in communities in Africa and as governments, as well as individuals, seek ways to mitigate its effects and reduce carbon emissions at the scale and speed required, one thing becomes clear — to achieve these, government policy is crucial.
Government policy is one important means of system change — including laws, rules, regulations, standards, and incentives. However, there remains a critical lack of “political will” for climate action.
Yes. Many environmental policies, from the local level to the global level, do not see the light of day due to the unwillingness or inability of government officials to enact them — and you can’t really blame them because they actually don’t give a hoot if the world crumbles.
But one thing that many people fail to understand, is the influence that engaged citizens who demand action have on government leaders. Democracy is the solution to climate change, and there are many ways to wield that essential tool for the benefit of all stakeholders.
Unfortunately, many of the people who hold the environment dear and seek to push for climate-friendly policies miss it from the point that is most important — the polls.
Environmentalists, the people most concerned about climate change, tend to be no-shows at the polls, forgetting that elections provide the opportunity to make climate change a priority.
But what if we could use the ballot box to put people in the office who are as worried about climate change as we are and who are ready to step up in support of related legislation? What if we could alter the priorities of politicians simply by getting more climate-concerned constituents to the polls? what if we could manifest African governments that are more amenable to passing climate legislation?
It would certainly make our jobs as climate advocates much easier.
Getting environmentalists to the polls is about moving climate change higher on the agenda of all tiers of government. Constituents can write and call their representatives and ask them to act on climate change, but unless those constituents consistently vote — and that information is public record — their opinions will not be taken seriously. But when lawmakers see that climate advocates are also voters, the issue becomes important to them, too.
With election season gearing up in many communities in Africa, we need to look for ways to strengthen our democracy and increase voter participation. Here are steps you can take:
- Make sure you vote and that you understand what you need to do in order to vote.
- Work locally to help the people around you vote, either personally one-on-one with people you know or by working with a local organization that helps people register and vote.
- Campaign personally for candidates of any party that align with your values.
- Open dialogue with people you disagree with.
- Consider supporting other organizations that take a bi-partisan approach to keep democratic systems strong in our country.