Mohammed Barkindo, secretary general of OPEC, the cartel representing 14 countries with 80 percent of the world’s oil reserves says a bunch of kids protesting the effect of the oil industry on the climate, represents ‘perhaps the greatest threat to our industry going forward’ in a subtle admission that the organisation is rattled.
According to a recent United Nations report, the world has less than 12 years to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in half. While this in itself is a daunting task that will require radical transformation of the global economy, governments around the world are yet to take the fundamental steps necessary to cut down GHG emissions.
Rather governments including the United States have doubted the science behind climate change and are encouraging resurgence to coal considered a dirty fuel. But every year, the impacts of climate change in the form of floods and storms submerging coastlines, frequent wild fires and droughts drying up critical sources of water, yet the world continues to binge on fossil fuels.
So when the adults failed do something about it, the kids whose future is currently being mortgaged, have decided to fight for change. Women and girls — often hit the hardest by climate disasters — have become leading figures in this movement.
Of these protesting kids, 16-year-old, Greta Thunberg, has become one of the world’s foremost environmental activists over the past year through her weekly Friday for Future protests. She has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for her work, has spoken at the World Economic Forum and in front of the European Parliament, and sparked a protest movement involving millions of young people worldwide.
In Europe and America and even parts of African, children are boycotting schools on Friday to call attention the disastrous impact of climate. Some are even taking decisive action. Ridhima Pandey is only 9 years old but she is suing the Indian government over its failure to address climate change in 2017.Her ongoing lawsuit is part of a growing legal movement to hold governments that have failed to act on climate change accountable.
In Nigeria, Oladosu Adenike tirelessly campaigns for the planet and is active on Twitter organising young people to imbibe a culture of sustainability and educates her followers on the complexities of climate change and calls on young people to push for climate action.
But Barkindo has complained of what he called “unscientific” attacks on the oil industry by climate change campaigners, calling them “perhaps the greatest threat to our industry going forward”.
Speaking in Vienna after a meeting of the oil producers’ club and its partners, last week, Mohammed Barkindo who got the organisation’s nod to represent it for another three years, said that as extreme weather events linked to the climate crisis became more common, “there is a growing mass mobilisation of world opinion against oil”.
“Civil society is being misled to believe oil is the cause of climate change,” he said.
Barkindo said children of some colleagues at OPEC’s headquarters “are asking us about their future because.. they see their peers on the streets campaigning against this industry”.
OPEC and Barkindo have reasons to be concerned. The young people fighting for the planet want to hold his organisation accountable, but OPEC prefers to live without the scrutiny. The children see climate change threatening their ability to access their basic human rights to things like food, water, and a safe place to live. Worse still, the incessant protests is getting attention as European countries consider measures to cut down on oil.
In 2015, over 195 countries agreed to Paris Accord which compels nations to commit to limiting global temperature rises to well below two degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) and to a safer cap of 1.5C if possible. Scientists say to achieve this, the world must drastically slash its greenhouse gas emissions, a large proportion of which comes from burning fossil fuels for energy including oil.