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‘Countries should pay equal attention to COVID-19, Climate Change’

To avert environmental calamity in the magnitude of Coronavirus pandemic, the Partner, Chijiokeifediora & Co, Chijioke Ifediora has called on countries not to wait for rise in sea level, increase in acidic rain, death of sea plants and cancerous effects of environmental pollution before taking swift action in response to climate change.

In a statement, Ifediora said governments and stakeholders must pay equal attention to COVID-19 and climate change.

He, therefore, called for investment in alternative energy sources for households, cars and industries such as solar energy, hydro and windmill as a means to help tackle healthcare challenges.

He asked that legislations on the use of electrical cars, trains and other means of transportation be reintroduced.

Ifediora explained that before Coronavirus outbreak, climate change has been a major issue on the global scene, with less action taken since the landmark Paris Agreement.

“The agreement was executed to combat climate change and to accelerate and intensify the actions and investments needed for a sustainable low carbon future. The Paris Agreement in its Article 2 states that “the agreement seeks to strengthen the global response to climate change, reaffirm the goal of limiting global temperature increase to well below 2 degrees Celsius, while pursing efforts to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees,” he said.

Ifediora, however, noted that the carbon emissions from cities, which are harmful to the environment and humans who directly or indirectly orchestrate has, to a notable extent been curbed due to the pandemic.

To him, the COVID-19 pandemic has elicited a distinct global response. “From governments and businesses taking on new roles, responding to the crisis, to the complete change in how we work, travel and socialise.

“There is undeniable change. It slowed the world down, if not on partial static state. With fewer cars on the roads, closure of businesses, lockdown of seaports and closure of airports, hence there proportionally became less carbon emission or green house gases around the world,” he noted.

Federal Government calls for more efforts to restore ecosystems, curb climate change

In the wake of the 2020 World Earth Day, the Federal Government has called for scaling up all efforts to preserve and restore natural ecosystems, enhance waste management systems and mitigate climate change.

The Minister of State for Environment, Sharon Ikeazor who made the call to mark the World Earth Day, also wants a renewed and concerted global action to end the COVID-19 pandemic.

The World Earth Day is celebrated every April 22, annually, and this year’s commemoration marks 50 years of the modern environmental movement started in 1970 that gave a voice to an emerging public consciousness about the state of our planet.

Ikeazor noted that “it is a day that stimulates worldwide awareness of climate change and the environment and should therefore enhance stronger government political commitment and massive public action to address all environmental issues, including Covid-19 deadly pandemic.”

According to her, climate change represents the biggest challenge to the future of humanity and the life-support systems that make the world habitable.
The Minister disclosed that to mark the event here in Nigeria, “we will focus on inspiring, sensitizing and enlightening Nigerians to take action to mitigate on climate change in line with this year’s Earth Day theme – Climate Action, and see the opportunities it presents.

“This year will be the first Digital Earth Day largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in light of this, the Federal Ministry of Environment in collaboration with the British High Commission in Nigeria will be organizing a webinar to present National climate action, discuss the relationship between climate change and health, as well as sustainable recovery from COVID-19. It is the first of its kind and we are taking advantage of technology to reach people in Nigeria and beyond with our message.”

She continued: “Climate change is a reality that is having disproportionate negative impacts on especially the poor in developing countries mostly felt in our local communities here in Nigeria.”

She expressed optimism that there is however, a growing recognition that affordable, scalable solutions are available now to enable us all to advance to cleaner, more resilient societies and economies, turning the challenges of climate action into opportunities.

Against the backdrop that COVID-19 has been reported to be a zoonotic disease that passed from animal to human, the Minister believes that Nigeria is on the right track in addressing coronavirus disease as well as other life threatening diseases such as Lassa fever and the likes.

She said the Federal Government has scaled up its commitment to taking action to mitigate, adapt and promote the capacity for resilience to the impacts of climate change in the country, through the ratification of the Paris Agreement, strengthening existing institutional framework to ensure effective coordination of climate change activities and other actions.

The minister stated that the Environment Ministry, through the Department of Climate Change, in fulfillment of the Paris Agreement has developed a draft Sectoral Action Plan (SAP) for the implementation of the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC).

She said: “We are currently reviewing the National Policy on Climate Change for more effectiveness with readiness for Nigeria’s National Adaptation Plan Framework for Climate Change (NAPs – Framework).

“Also, there is a sustained effort to sensitize the citizenry to adopt clean technologies to meet Nigeria’s emission reduction target; even as we have developed the National Forest Reference Emission Factor Level (FREL) and submitted it to the UNFCCC.

“We are thinking ahead because we want the environment to be a priority as we recover from COVID-19 to enable us build a healthier and more sustainable future,” she said.

Ikeazor further revealed that the Ministry also developed a Climate Change Resilience Action Plan for the Lake Chad Basin, and then incorporated climate change components into the Disaster Risk Reduction Policy for Nigeria, in conjunction with the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), among other actions taken.

Challenges of building an environment- friendly nation

Nigeria is currently faced with many environmental problems such as climate change, deforestation, urbanisation, desertification, erosion, overpopulation and all kinds of pollution. While some of the growing crisis of development are being tackled through policies, others have overwhelmed the authorities. The Property & Environment Editor, CHINEDUM UWAEGBULAM appraises the highs and lows of the Buhari administration in the environment sector.

BOTH from the pre-and post-inauguration statements, President Muhammed Buhari appears to have sufficiently warmed his heart among Nigerians and the global community about the direction of his government on the environment: transiting to a low-carbon climate-resilient economy.

The icing on the cake is the signing of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change during the 71st Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA71), which demonstrated Nigeria’s commitment to a global effort to reverse the effects of the negative trend.

Climate Change
Furthermore, the President articulated the country’s commitment through its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) that strive to build a climate-resilient society across the diverse terrain of Nigeria. He instituted an Inter-Ministerial Committee on Climate Change to govern the implementation of the country’s NDCs, thereby ensuring a strong cross-sectoral approach, coherence and synergy for climate action.

While admitting that implementing the roadmap will not be easy in the face of dwindling national revenues, President Buhari however, indicated that both internal and external resources would be mobilized to meet Nigeria’s targets.

And so when the President announced that the Nigerian government will develop a more robust sectorial action plan, and expand the scope of the Sovereign Green Bonds in line with the intended upward review of the NDC’s towards the inclusion of the water and waste sectors by 2020. It was reassuring.

To some extent, President Buhari is acclaimed to have delivered two sovereign Green Bonds resulting in realisation of Nigeria’s commitment to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change is certainly commendable within the year in view.

In fact, Nigeria’s first sovereign green bond was oversubscribed by about N100 million as investors staked N10.791 billion on the N10.69 billion ($30 million) bond. Another Series II Green Bond issuance was also launched to further demonstrate a commitment to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent (unconditionally) by 2030, as outlined under the Paris Agreement.

The question that naturally arose was: can the government muster so much courage to implement the green bond, and account publicly for its proceeds? Which inter-ministerial agency will monitor the projects? Who will provide the leadership and ensure coherent implementation?

The Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, however, provided the answers. He said the green bond is part of the government’s recovery growth plan initiative, and a vehicle to drive the economy in terms of environmental projects funding that would be managed by Debt Management Office (DMO).

UN seeks new contract for nature to tackle hunger, climate change

United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, has called for a “new contract for nature” to address global challenges connected to land degradation, such as forced migration, hunger and climate change.

Guterres made the appeal in a message yesterday to mark the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought.

“Through international action and solidarity, we can scale up land restoration and nature-based solutions for climate action and the benefit of future generations. By doing so, we can deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and leave no one behind,” he said.

Desertification is caused primarily by human activities and climatic variations, with more than three billion people routinely affected.

Dry lands, which cover more than a third of the planet’s land surface, are extremely prone to over-exploitation and inappropriate land use, such as overgrazing and bad irrigation practices.

This year’s observation puts the spotlight on sustainable production and consumption. With ‘Food. Feed. Fibre’ as the slogan, the aim is to get people everywhere to reduce food waste, shop at local markets and swap clothes instead of always buying new ones.

The head of the UN office, which oversees a global treaty on preventing land degradation, said although the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) might have temporarily curtailed some freedoms, such as travelling at will, people still have freedom of choice.

“In our globalised world, the food we eat, the feed for our livestock and the fibre for clothes impact land thousands of miles away,” said Executive Secretary at the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, Ibrahim Thiaw. “Each of us holds the power to protect the land for each choice we make in our daily lives. We can still choose to protect nature. By doing so, we, in fact, protect our future.”

The UN scribe pointed noted to reverse land degradation, such as the Great Green Wall in Africa’s Sahel region, launched by the African Union (AU) in 2007.

Through the initiative, trees are planted from Senegal to Djibouti, to restore land and boost food security, transforming lives and livelihoods along the way.

“Such efforts bring back bio-diversity, reduce the effect of climate change and make communities more resilient,” the UN chief said. “All told, the benefits outweigh the costs 10-fold.”

Globally, 75 per cent of land is degraded, according to the President of the UN General Assembly, Tijjani Muhammad-Bande.

“As land degrades, resources deplete. Thus, the most vulnerable people are further exposed to poverty and hunger; with women, smallholder farmers, indigenous communities and children disproportionately affected,” he said.

Muhammad-Bande believes that an “urgent paradigm shift” is needed, focusing on protection, sustainability and restoration; hence he called for renewed commitment to safeguard the planet.

Nigeria backs hosting of COP26 in 2021, pledges to raise climate ambition

As the world grapples with coronavirus, the Federal Government has reiterated its commitment to the 26th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP26) and decision to shift the UN Climate Change Conference to November 2021.

Italy is assuming the COP26 Presidency in partnership with the United Kingdom.

The Minister of State for the Environment, Sharon Ikeazor, in a tweet following the announcement of a new date, said the Nigerian government supports the development by the COP Bureau after its meeting on 28 May this year.

Ikeazor also explained, “with the effects of COVID-19 pandemic on the environment and livelihood, the annual summit on Climate Change was originally slated to take place in Glasgow, United Kingdom by November this year.

“With the pre-COP events to be held by co-host Italy in September and October, which was postponed due to the crisis, the new date will give Nigeria time to prepare and deliver on negotiations mandates on Climate Action.”

The minister further stressed that Nigeria will keep the momentum of mitigating climate change in gear while maintaining the World Health Organisation Safety Protocols on Covid-19 pandemic.

“We are working on National Determined Contributions and raising the ambition for climate action, aim at rebuilding post-Covid-19 recovery for a greener, resilient and sustainable environment in line with the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement.

Similarly, the Regional Ambassador for Sub-Saharan Africa on COP26, Paul Arkwright in his tweet described the new dates as good news, ‘‘looking forward to working with Africa to maintain momentum on climate change.”

He also said the primary considerations for the new date was brought about by the COVID-19 crisis, which were to safeguard the health and safety of participants, and to ensure inclusiveness and maximise the potential to build climate ambition.

“This would enable the host country to ensure a focus on finance, energy transition and adaptation as partners for African to host COP27. COP26 Envoy, John Murton and COP26 Lead Negotiator Archie Young jointly signed the rescheduling of the global annual event.

‘‘Our priorities when considering the new date were: the health of participants, the representation of Parties and Non-Party stakeholders, allowing time for preparation of work to deliver on negotiations mandates and the ambitious and inclusive event.”