Different Strokes of Climate Change Conundrum

2010-05-08
THISDAY Newspaper- Godwin Haruna

The world is currently under the threat of climate change. Experts contend that the various manifestations of climate change occur in many ways than one. These include average global temperatures have increased by 0.8 C since 1990, the last decade was the warmest in recorded history and 2009 was the warmest year on record in the Southern Hemisphere.

The result of all these is that apart from dangerous changes in weather patterns, flooding has become unprecedented in history, persistent rise in sea level, alarming rate of desertification, gully erosion, crop failure and a number of other negative impacts. These are the modern-day plagues threatening the very existence of humanity unless drastic and urgent measures are instituted by the government and the people to address them squarely and urgently.

Last week in Lagos, at the Lagos State Ministry of the Environment's 2nd Summit on Climate Change with a theme: Trans-boundary Effects of Climate Change: Sharing Best Practices in Mitigation and Adaptation Measures, various high government officials spoke of the manifestation and consequences of global warming on their environments. Nigeria is blessed with a variety of ecosystems, from mangroves and rainforests on the Atlantic coast in the south to the savannah in the north bordering the Sahara, the impact of climate change worsened by continued gas flaring and population growth will have severe consequences on health, food, security, agriculture and the economy at large.

Hosted by Governor Babatunde Fashola, the summit was attended by Governors Namadi Sambo of Kaduna State, Ali Modu Sheriff of Bornu State and Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State. The Delta State Deputy Governor, Prof Amos Utuama and representatives of several states and the Federal Government as well as financial and international institutions attended the 3-day confab, where issues of adaptation and mitigation of climate change was discussed.

In his address at the summit, Mr. John Odey, Minister of Environment, said the Federal Government has developed a national climate framework, adaptation and mitigation strategies, intensive research efforts, awareness creation and capacity building as measures to address the challenges of climate change. Speaking through Prof. Olorunfemi Sam, permanent secretary of the Federal Ministry of the Environment at the governors' session, Odey said the federal government has stepped up efforts to position Nigeria to face the challenges of climate change and to tap opportunities therein.

He also said Nigeria has not only evolved sound policies towards reduction of greenhouse emissions as part of the mitigation measures, but also embarked on implementation of policies. He identified gas reform policy as one of such policies, saying the federal government "is embarking on refining, piping, bottling and exporting of refined gas products, a policy, which has been adjudged a win-win strategy for the environment and the economy".

He also mentioned the sustainable use of forests, sensitisation awareness creation and adaptation strategies as key measures to address the impacts of climate change, stating that it is all about enabling people to manage climate-related risks._ He added that such states as Delta, Ondo, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa-Ibom, Lagos and Cross Rivers have invested heavily to complement the efforts of the federal government towards designing and executing projects that would control tidal waves at the beaches and prevent ocean surge and salt water intrusion.

In his keynote address to the parley, Fashola noted that if there was any doubt about the threat to our planet, recent drastic changes in weather patterns that have shown no respect for borders or boundaries, affecting rich and poor nations in equal measure from New Orleans to the Maldives, India, Philippines, Brazil, Accra and countless other places, is overwhelming evidence of the reality of the imminent danger that our planet faces. He stressed that the global economy would be adversely affected, if nothing was done to reverse or mitigate the slide towards the loss of the planet.

He gave the instance of the recent volcanic eruption in Iceland, which affected the entire universe in varied ways to buttress his point. "Depending on which side of the planet you were in, the impact varied from loss of hotel bookings to overbooked hotels, aviation industry's loss of billions of dollars, which may yet translate to company collapses and job losses. Kenyan horticulturists who depended on massive exports of roses to Europe lost perishable produce The permutation is endless across the world," the governor said.

Fashola stated that although the gathering was not a doomsday one, he reeled out the consequences of not taking action to stem the tide: "There will be threat to global food supply and even the legal order as we know it today about immigration control and border securities may give way to anxious, displaced and angry millions of refugees who will be moving in an uncontrollable race in search of safety and survival."

He noted that these considerations drove the idea of hosting the summit to bring together governors of the federation to emphasise the need for multi-party and non-partisan cooperation as heads of sub-national governments and first responders to displaced persons and municipal emergencies with a view to preparing a common front to confront imminent challenges on a collaborative basis.

The Lagos State governor expressed displeasure at the manner some states accessed ecological funds while others could not get assistance for ecological disasters. He added that the reasons for the refusal of the grant for some remained unknown even as the reality was that this is no longer an isolated problem.

"Within our federation, some states get assistance for ecological disasters while others never get. It is unknown what the criteria for grant or refusal is based upon. The reality is that this is no longer an isolated problem. The threat to the environment anywhere is a threat to the environment everywhere," he said.

He added: "Our scientists have led the way by logically identifying some of the major causes; extensive use of carbon fuel, massive logging, and such other practices that demonstrate how we have abused nature. They have proceeded to suggest simple and practical methods such as increased use of renewable energy, tree planting and many other methods based on the simple principles of conservation, prudence and respect for nature".

Fashola also noted that the involvement of the 36 governors of the federation to be drivers and agents of the change was to ensure a total participation with all hands on deck to check the effects of climate change, adding, "Everybody will be affected and everybody must sign on".

He called on the President Goodluck Jonathan to fast track the completion of power reform sector expressing optimism that it would also spearhead the environmental mitigation strategy towards saving the country from the lurking effects of climate change.

According to him, "I believe that if there is sustainable power supply, it would reduce the option of felling wood and look to the option of using electricity to cook their meals I believe that would be the most impactful blow that the federal government can strike".

He tasked the average citizen to be conscious of their actions towards the environment, adding: "How many of us do simple things like switching of electrical appliances that are not in use? How many of us drive to distances that we can walk to? How many of us turn on more than one air conditioner even when we are not in the room? These are but a few of practical conservation practices that all must embrace.

"This is the crux of this summit theme and the involvement of other governors, to be drivers and agents of the change that we desperately need, because it will not be enough if a few people try a lot and some others try a little or not at all. Everybody will be affected and everybody must sign on it."
Also speaking on the ecological funds, during the panel discussion by the three governors present at the summit, which was moderated by Brent Sadler, a CNN International Correspondent, Edo State Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomole, sought transparency in the manner the funds are disbursed, tasking the federal government to develop an effective disbursement strategy.

The comrade governor acknowledged the fact that Edo State was lagging behind in the fight against climate change and in combating the effects of gully erosion and flooding in the agrarian state. According to him, "we have begun to review our legislation on those who fell tress illegitimately and for those with licence, we planted 250,000 trees last year, and we plan to plant 400,000 trees this year as part of our mitigation strategies."

He added that the state was also reviewing laws for those who fell trees illegally and other actions that militate against the environment. He promised to liaise with his officials to increase the enlightenment of the people so that they would be conscious of their actions.

In his own speech, Governor Sambo stressed that the major climate change problem facing the state is deforestation. He noted that dating to his days as a commissioner for agriculture in the mid-80s in the state, the government has always taken measures nip the effects of deforestation by planting trees and preserving its forest reserves. He said as a semi-arid state, the problem of his state is compounded by immigration from the neighbouring states in search of fuel for cooking and other domestic chores.

Sambo said they have state policy of planting 2 million trees annually. He added that his government has also completed plans to build 11 hydro power plants out of which three have reached advanced stages of completion. He added that the state has electrified 12 villages using solar power and plans are on the way to extend the services to 50 other villages within the state because of the obvious advantages of that sort of power generation.

Also making his contribution during the governor's session, Modu Sheriff said Borno State has the biggest landmass in the country. However, he said as evidence of their vulnerability to the incidence of climate change, half of the state is desert. He said the state has international boundaries with three countries, among them Chad, Cameroun and Niger with virtually all of them relying on Bornu for their economic activities.

He noted that the state has been adversely affected by the climate change conundrum. According to the governor, the Lake Chad, which the people of his state and neighbouring countries have depended on for their livelihood for centuries has been receding during to the effects of climate change.

As mitigation measures, he said the state has a policy of planting two million trees annually to curb the advancing desert. Also, he said the state has enacted a legislation against cutting of trees and other harmful practices considered detrimental to the environment. He urged for more concerted efforts to check the effects of climate change, which he acknowledged, was worldwide.

In his own contribution, Utuama said Delta State was bearing the brunt of the extractive activities of oil companies in the state. Coupled with the green house emission, the deputy governor stated that the state was also faced with the problem of ocean surge. He added that they have a youth programme targeting their return to agriculture, away from oil exploration with all its consequences.

The discussion also featured Mr. Ladi Balogun, Managing Director, FCMB, who assured everyone that as a financial institution, they are environmentally friendly both in its corporate social responsibility and general operations. He mentioned their emphasis on internet and paperless banking as evidence of their corporate virtue. He assured the governors present of their willingness to be engaged in worthwhile partnership that would preserve the environment.

Two guest speakers, Prof. Ogunlade Davidson, Minister of Energy, Sierra Leone, who was represented and Prof. Akinyinka Omigbodun, Provost, College of Medicine, University of Ibadan spoke on Global Climate Change: Challenges and Prospects after Copenhagen and Climate Change and Public Health, respectively. Their perspectives drew the point home on the need for urgent and concerted actions to checkmate the impact of climate change on the country.

Earlier in his welcome address to the summit, Dr. Muiz Banire, Lagos State Commissioner for the Environment, stressed that the impact of the last summit on climate change raised the awareness amongst participants from 39 per cent before the summit to 87 per cent after the summit. He said the survey also showed that 93 per cent of participants feel that everybody should take action in addressing the problem of climate change.

Banire stated that the state has followed up with the implementation of the resolutions of the last summit religiously. Apart from strengthening its advocacy, the climate change clubs in schools have been phenomenal in carrying out the various activities meant to preserve the earth.

"Through the tree planting campaign, which has been institutionalized as an annual exercise, over one million trees have been planted. This is an initial dream of four years achieved in less than two years. Similarly, our open space reclamation and greenery is being pursued aggressively," Banire said.

The well-attended international summit had goodwill messages from various organisations delivered. These include the United Nations, UNDP, The World Bank, The Swedish Embassy, the British Council, HEDDA and so on.



 

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