Ghana’s fight against coal inspired the rest of Africa

Ezekiel Chibeze, 350 Ghana Reduce Our Carbon (GROC) co-founder and leader of Strategic Youth Network for Development is among the six grassroots environmental activists that were announced on Monday as winners of the 2020 Goldman Environmental Prize for leading a vibrant grassroots campaign aimed at cancelling the construction of the first coal-fired power plant in Ghana and to accelerate the country energy transition to renewables.

This prestigious award comes as a recognition of tireless efforts and intense campaigning work that Chibeze and his colleagues have made since we first met in 2013. Back then, the team of seven young environmental activists were trained at Global Power Shift Summit by 350.org along with 500 young activists from all over in creative and ambitious climate campaigning.

Back home, 350 GROC along with other civil society groups embarked on a struggle against the proposed 700 MW coal plant in the region of Ekumfi, warning about the dangers of coal plants, stressing its very serious health and environmental impacts and exposing the lies and contradictions spread by the proponents. The project was then proposed as a response to the power outages that had become so frequent, paralyzing businesses and affecting people's well-being across Ghana. 

Between 2014 and 2015, 350 GROC and allies went on the ground mobilising and raising awareness of youths in schools, students, community and religious leaders on the dangerous impacts of coal on human life, natural habitats and ecosystems at large. The campaigners led by Chibeze also sent many letters to banks and government institutions. The lack of response from those institutions was already an eloquent sign that the arguments put forward by civil society groups were extremely solid, unbeatable. 

In October 2015, I visited GROC for a strategy workshop aimed at reviewing and consolidating the anti-coal struggle. During the discussion, Farid  Shamsu Deen, one of the GROC members asked “Why should we accept Shenzhen Energy Group, a company that has been chased out in its own country (China) to flourish in Ghana while impacting negatively on our communities, our health, our water and air?” That comment showed the team’s resolution to spare no effort until this coal dream is abandoned.

In late 2016,  Ghana's environment minister said the coal plant would not move forward, and a few months later, the new president announced that all new power projects would be renewable energy-based. 

The cancellation of what would have been Ghana's first coal-fired power plant has sparked a wave of anti-coal struggles across the continent - from Senegal to Kenya, from Zimbabwe, to Cote d'Ivoire and  South Africa where activists are fighting alongside the affected communities to stop the construction of new plants and the phasing out of existing ones. 

The Ghanaian campaigning model is an excellent combination of ‘classic’ tactics of mobilising and engaging grassroots communities with ‘modern’ ones related to lobbying, advocacy and communication through social media platforms. It confirmed once again the immense power of united forces and voices and the effectiveness of grassroots advocacy to achieve systemic change.

Ezekiel’s recognition with the Goldman Environmental Prize 2020 shows that collective efforts through community organizing and campaigning can empower ordinary people to demand their rights and overcome social injustices and achieve inspiring wins for thousands of grassroots activists, frontline communities, and local groups of Africa and beyond working for real climate justice. If a group of seven volunteers compelled their government to cancel what would have been the country's first coal-fired power plant, what couldn’t we achieve as national coalitions, regional and global movements working hand-in-hand for a fossil-free planet?


 

 


Ghanaian environmentalist wins the 2020 Goldman Environmental Prize

Press Release:

Ezekiel Chibeze

Global -- Ezekiel Chibeze, a Ghanaian environmental champion has been announced as the recipient of the Goldman Environmental Prize 2020, citing his commitment to pushing for good governance in Ghana’s environmental sector and for his climate leadership in Ghana, across Africa and globally. The Goldman Environmental Prize is the world’s foremost award honoring grassroots environmental activists.

Chibeze joins an illustrious list of past Goldman Environmental Prize winners from the African continent including Wangari Maathai, renowned Kenyan social, environmental and political activist; Ken Saro-Wiwa, Nigerian writer who fought for environmental justice and human rights; and recently South African activists Makoma Lekalakala and Liz McDaid.

Through the 350 Ghana Reducing our Carbon (G-ROC), the leading environmental grassroots organization in Ghana affiliated to 350.org, Chibeze champions for climate justice, fighting tirelessly to stop the Ekumfi proposed coal plant while raising awareness about the possibility of a carbon-free future and the potential of renewable energy in Ghana. Chibeze’s work demonstrates the power of grassroots movements in ending the era of fossil fuels.

Quotes from key spokespeople

“We at 350 are in awe of Chibeze’s achievements. His work pushing for a sustainable, resilient, and coal-free Ghana is admirable, more than deserves the global recognition it has just received. The climate crisis requires us to interrogate the key drivers of climate change, especially the negative effects of the fossil fuels industry. People like Chibeze, who organise and motivate grassroots movements seeking to bring lasting solutions to the climate crisis, are our true climate leaders, and are instrumental to this fight. We honor their dedication and commitment to the planet.” - May Boeve, Executive Director, 350.org

“Africa's youth have been calling for climate justice that would see a transition from fossil fuels and building climate resilient economies powered by renewables. This is exactly what Chibeze and the G-ROC team have been fighting for. As a climate leader, Chibeze has shone a spotlight on the climate crisis while helping his country, Ghana to think of a socially and environmentally just, zero carbon future. Chibeze has been a strong voice of the youth and grassroots groups. The recognition of his and other allies' work shows that collective efforts through community organising and campaigning can empower ordinary people to demand their rights and overcome social injustices and achieve inspiring wins for thousands of grassroots activists, frontline communities and local groups of Africa and beyond working for real climate justice.” - Landry Ninteretse, Africa Team Leader, 350.org


For additional information and interviews, contact: Robert Magori robert.magori@350.org, +254 721 525344 or Chibeze Ezekiel chibeze@gmail.com,+233 244967931 or Portia Adu Mensah 350groc@gmail.com, +233 262685618

About the Goldman Environmental Prize

The Goldman Environmental Prize honors grassroots environmental heroes from roughly the world’s six inhabited continental regions: Africa, Asia, Europe, Islands & Island Nations, North America, and South & Central America. The Prize recognizes individuals for sustained and significant efforts to protect and enhance the natural environment, often at great personal risk. The Goldman Prize views “grassroots” leaders as those involved in local efforts, where positive change is created through community or citizen participation. Through recognizing these individual leaders, the Prize seeks to inspire other ordinary people to take extraordinary actions to protect the natural world. For more information visit: https://www.goldmanprize.org/

About Ezekiel Chibeze 

Chibeze is an avid environmentalist who serves on a number of platforms providing support in promoting good governance in Ghana’s environmental sector – specifically on climate change, biological diversity, forestry, and renewable energy. He is currently the Executive Coordinator of the Strategic Youth Network for Development (SYND), a youth-oriented organization which promotes youth inclusion in the governance of natural resources and the environment. He is a certified Youth Master Trainer on Climate Change and a National SDGs Champion. He is a co-founder of 350 Ghana Reducing our Carbon (G-ROC), a convener of the Youth in Natural Resources and Environmental Governance (Youth-NREG) Platform, a member of the national technical committee of Ghana’s SDGs Governance Framework, and a board member of 350.org.

 


Integrating renewable energy agenda into Accra’s districts development plans

In 2020, 350 Ghana Reducing Our Carbon’s work (GROC) is focused on creating awareness on renewable energy and will be working closely with 5 districts of the Greater Accra to develop local renewable energy plans in their efforts to activate Renewable Energy programming contributing to a substantial impact to Ghana’s Energy Policy by 2030.

This week, GROC hosted a workshop in Ayawaso West Municipal Assembly, which is one of the 260 Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) and forms part of the 29 MMDAs in the Greater Accra Region. 

The workshop’s goal was to identify and build partnerships with key stakeholders within that municipality who are working towards the renewable energy agenda and to get insights that would inform the integration of renewable energy section into the Medium Term Development Plan (MTDP) and Action Plan for 2020.

 

This workshop is the launch of a campaign to get the Renewable Energy agenda integrated into local development plans that will take place throughout the year in four other districts like Ga West Municipal Assembly, Ashaiman district, Accra Metropolitan District and Adentan Municipality.


Author: Rukiya Khamis, 350Africa.org Anglophone Field Organizer