Chibeze Ezekiel, a climate activist has been awarded a prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize for leading a grassroots campaign to stop a new coal-fired power station being built in Ghana.
Chibeze Ezekiel worked with local communities to highlight the damage the power station would have caused, and persuaded his government that renewable energy was the way forward.
“We actually ambushed the government. I think for the first time they’ve never seen such a massive advocacy against them.”
The activist has spent four years fighting plans to build a coal-fired power plant in his home country of Ghana.
“We were in the community for about three or four days engaging the people, the chiefs, the elders and the young people in the community and the women groups. In fact we were surprised to know that the people in the community had concerns about the coal plant but they had nobody to talk to,” Chibeze shared.
Plans for the power station were first revealed in 2013 and included plans for a harbour to import coal. A chinese energy firm was going to build the coal plant.
“We had the community’s support and we also engaged CSOs (Civil Society Organisations) in the environmental sector.
So we were mobilising different NGOs and different partners. Based on the support we have from them, we embarked on a massive social media campaign. Almost everyday we were hitting our government, and we were producing evidence and facts.”
For four years, Chibeze campaigned tirelessly arguing, it wasn’t only the environment that the plant could damage.
“For example, even though it’s an environmental or energy issue, it’s going to put pressure on the health ministry because there are the health consequences of consuming coal and then that’s going to affect the budget of the health ministry,” he explained.
Eventually Chibeze’s efforts paid off and the government of Ghana decided to shelf the plan and focus on renewable energy.
“The Ministry of environment held a press conference to announce why Ghana is not going to build a coal plant again. The minister said categorically that Ghana cannot go and sign the Paris Agreement and then come back and build a coal plant, so for us it was a big win.”
Now he’s been awarded Africa’s Goldman Environmental Prize.
“In running a campaign or engaging a government what is more important is that you must be prepared to provide a better alternative or argument to the advocacy work, and we did that.”