Maintaining planetary integrity greatly entails working towards sustainable development and being active in effective climate action. Ensuring sustainable development in Africa, particularly West Africa has necessitated the need for commitment, consistency and most importantly hard work to the cause. About two decades ago, talks about catering for the needs of the environment were often greeted with sighs, exasperation and even mockery. Nowadays, no one is throwing in the towel regarding this issue anymore, as many have realised that the change the continent (and the world) desires will be possible when we take care of the environment for ourselves and for our future generations. This change can also be fostered when we have a clear understanding of the role sustainable development activities play in advancing planetary integrity.
The current reality of sustainable development in West Africa
In West Africa, persistent climatic variability, decrease in soil fertility, soil erosion and the existence of extreme weather conditions like floods, droughts, and change in rainfall patterns have been prevalent. These occurrences have hugely been caused by tremendous human activity and natural phenomena as compared to the previous years. Countries like Nigeria, Ghana, and Cote D’Ivoire account for high emissions of Carbon dioxide as these economies tend to focus on exporting their primary commodities. In the long run it leads to severe environmental pollution and degradation of natural resources.
Seeing the threat that these economies pose to the environment, more people are active on and out of social media (celebrities, stakeholders, students, and activists) in order to ensure that the issue of sustainability is taken seriously. Youths in particular are relentless in their advocacy for the sustenance of healthy communities.
Challenges in advancing sustainable development and climate action in West Africa
Several challenges can deter the advancement of sustainable development in this region. Prevalent amongst these challenges is the very glaring gender issue. More women desire to be part of the fight for sustainable communities, but are plagued with androcentrism and unapologetic patriarchal systems, relegating women to the background. This is a huge problem as women face the brunt of climate change issues especially women in conflict stricken regions.
Another problem that poses a huge challenge for sustainability in West African is limited financing. Africa faces huge climate change issues, but receives less than 5% of the climate change funding with an even smaller amount received by West Africa. Thus, even though people are passionate about climate change, the limited financing can be quite frustrating.
Recommendations in advancing sustainable development and climate action in West Africa
In order to advance sustainable development and effective climate action in West Africa, more environmental laws and policies need to be enacted and implemented so as to remedy the already threatening situation in the region. The role that technology, social media and adequate gender and youth representation play in climate change issues, should also not be undermined. In addition to this, apart from the yearly COP conference, more climate change conferences need to be organised, with several state parties implementing the decisions taken. Furthermore, there should be adequate financing provided for environmental policies to be implemented. To foster awareness of the need for sustainable development, community mobilisation and sensitization programs should also be conducted constantly in the West African Region and beyond.
Efforts to protect the planet, especially in West Africa require a change of the mental attitudes of people and complete transformation of social structures, in order to realise the transfiguration the region hopes to achieve. This will go a long way to reduce the problem of food insecurity, malnutrition and unpredictable temperatures, drought and heavy rainfall that is already besetting several parts of the region.