The Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD) joins the world to commemorate this year’s World Earth Day tagged Climate Action. This year’s commemoration is remarkable for two main reasons. First, this is the 50th year since the marking of the World Earth Day. Second, the coincidence with the Covid-19 pandemic that has brought almost every country to her knees and affected virtually every sector of human endeavour.
Climate change presents the biggest challenge to human existence on the planet earth. This is because it is threatening every life-supporting system, and would make the earth unlivable for humanity in the nearest future –if drastic mitigating steps are taken. We cannot over emphasize the need for increased global commitment to the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change. To achieve this, countries must develop achievable steps, though ambitious, towards maintaining the global average temperature rise by less than 2 degree Celsius pre-industrial levels. As ambitious as this seems, every country has a role to play in ensuring the goal of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change is achieved.
At the national level, Nigeria has demonstrated commitment to mitigate and adapt climate change impacts by ratifying the Paris Agreement. This has been followed by a National Climate Change Policy framework with lofty objectives such as ensuring effective national response to climate change impacts, low carbon economy, implementation of mitigation measures and enhancing increased knowledge towards building a climate resilient society. However, there is more to be done. First, climate action would imply that adequate actions towards climate change mitigation and adaptation are outlined in policy documents and that such actions are understood and demonstrated via citizens’ attitude. Second, climate action would also imply that the state and all levels of governance including traditional governance structures understand the impacts of climate change and appreciates measures to mitigate and adapt them. Third, beyond the proposal outlined in policy documents, clear actions in practical terms should demonstrated at individual and communal levels to show climate change and its impacts are real and that we have got to the point where we cannot wish the climate scourge away.
As a country, despite our commitment to climate action, we are primarily dependent on fossil fuels –a major climate change driver. Nigeria is one of the countries with notable increase in gas flaring as at 2017. Nothing drastic has changed since then, rather activities contributing to gas flaring has quadrupled. In fact, Nigeria jettisoned its policy to end gas flaring by 2020 –a major source of carbon dioxide, which drives global warming. In spite of the shift in dates to end gas flaring, there is no blue-print towards developing the needed infrastructure for gas harmonization and commercialization. Oil industry operators still prefer to flare gas, as penalties are peanuts. At the
State level, climate action is not on the policy radar as indicated in the ‘zero policy’ towards achieving the aim of the National Climate Change Policy Framework. At the community level, artisanal refining, which contributes substantial amount of carbon dioxide in the Niger Delta is increasing alarmingly. Every state suffers hotter weather conditions, in addition to desertification in the north, gully erosion in the east, ocean upsurge in the west and south, and poor agricultural yield and destruction of expanse of mangrove forest in the south.
At the (Niger Delta) regional level, artisanal crude oil refining has become a lucrative business for unemployed youths in spite of its grave environmental consequences. This singular activity emits unquantifiable levels of carbon dioxide on daily basis with attendant public health implications. Similarly, simple waste segregation and recycling are not practiced in the region, making methane (a global warming driver) emission a daily occurrence in the region.
Residents of Rivers State, for example, suffer the double impacts of climate change and oil spills, as a consequence of open waste dumping, unprofessional use of fertilizers, burning of fossil fuels, individual power generation, artisanal oil refining (kpofire), deforestation, mangrove degradation and oil spills amongst others. As a result, locals are sandwiched between two extremes. This has been demonstrated in the consistent flooding experienced consecutively since 2012 in parts of the State, reduced farm yield due to drier soils, communal crisis, insecurity, flooding, and unexplainable diseases. There is no better time to take reactive but sustainable actions than now.
CEHRD and other civil society organizations has been at the forefront sensitizing the local population and building capacity of community members on climate change mitigation and adaptation. Part of CEHRD’s climate action campaign is the establishment of school clubs in secondary schools in the Niger Delta, where students are trained as environmental vanguards for climate action. In addition, CEHRD has undertaken tree planting exercise in many communities across the delta. On this note, CEHRD admonishes the Local, State and Federal Governments to immediately initiate steps towards:
i. To entrench tree planting as a life style in local communities across the country
ii. Develop and implement a blue-print for infrastructural development towards ending gas flaring in Nigeria
iii. Provide alternate livelihood packages for youths involved in artisanal refining
iv. Provide effective town planning services
v. Develop capacity in climate change action
vi. Develop sustainable waste management mechanisms
vii. Provide avenues for waste recycling
viii. Provide stringent penalty for gas flaring
ix. Pay adequate attention to climate change by means of developing a focal agency to address climate change issues
x. Develop adequate policies and bye-laws where applicable to ensure attitudinal change towards the environment.
Above all, CEHRD believes that a pragmatic framework towards energy transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy as globally practiced would benefit the country. This implies appropriate policies, economic diversification, changing oil money mentality, and a deliberate actionable policy towards creating a knowledge-based economy.
Kabari Sam (PhD)
Head, Environment and Conservation
Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD)
For interview requests:
Please contact Michael Chidozie, Senior Communications and Advocacy Officer of CEHRD to speak to Kabari Sam (PhD), Head, Environment and Conservation or any officials of the organization to speak on the above or any other issue.
Address: CEHRD, Legacy Centre, 6 Abuja Lane, Off Worgu Street, D/Line, Port Harcourt, Rivers State