By way of introducing this piece, please allow me to borrow former US President Barack Obama’s words: “Climate change is a potential existential threat to the entire world if we don’t do something about it.”
The history of the climate change conferences, COPs, dates back to 1992 when the first conference was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil aimed at uniting all the country signatories to UN Climate Change Conference, UNFCCC. In the early 1990s, debates about how to limit emissions of gases that cause the greenhouse effect of which CO2 is the most, resulting in a clear-cut distinction between industrialised countries, responsible for most emissions over the years and developing countries who suffer the worst consequences of global warming.
Organised by World Health Organisation, WHO, and Global Climate and Health Alliance, GCHA, in collaboration with Glasgow Caledonian University and its Centre for Climate Justice, UK Health Alliance on Climate Change and other partners, COP 26 of 2021, brought together key actors in public health and climate change policy in order to incorporate public health and climate justice considerations into the UN climate negotiations.
The conference included sessions on health co benefits of a broad range of climate policies including clean energy policies; air quality measures; subsidy reform; smart agriculture and sustainable food systems; educational and civil society involvement and nature-based solutions among others.
In his address at this year’s conference held virtually, President Muhammadu Buhari assured the global community of Nigeria’s readiness to support global multilateral processes for the attainment of the objectives of the Paris Agreement on climate change. He stated that the fight to redress the impact is the responsibility of all countries and stakeholders.
President Buhari said, “The issue of climate change has taken the front burner globally, as its effects can be seen and felt all around us ranging from increased atmospheric temperature to irregular rainfall patterns as well as sea level rise owing to the melting of glacial ice”.
He said the summit would prove instrumental in galvanising high-level political support for the implementation of the Paris Agreement and its Katowice Rulebook as well as inviting more countries and stakeholders to take more climate-oriented responsibilities.
It is heart-warming to note that President Buhari does not shy in showcasing in real terms to world leaders that Nigeria was one of the most vulnerable nations, and it had started undertaking major environmentally sound and climate-friendly programmes, while treading the path of sustainability.
However, questions Nigerians keep asking include how the country can adapt to the effects of climate change, among others.
According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation, FAO, consecutive climate shocks have resulted in droughts across Africa. As at the end of 2018, the number of internally displaced people in Nigeria was over 2 million. While Boko Haram was responsible for an additional 541,000 in 2018, extreme weather conditions displaced 613,000 individuals.
Presently, the number of displaced persons in the country has increased many folds due to banditry, kidnappings, etc, resulting in displacement of communities since 2018. Worst hit states are Niger, Zamfara, Sokoto and Kaduna. In the south, rising sea levels have pushed back the shoreline forcing thousands of people to move inland, looking for new places to call home.
In the north, hundreds of thousands of people have abandoned their hometowns due to inconsistent rainfall, food insecurity, and climate-related conflict between herders and farmers. As global climate conditions worsen, the geographical landscape of the country is changing. It is becoming increasingly difficult for the environment to provide sustenance and for individuals and communities to protect themselves and adapt to the realities of climate change.
While climate change affects everybody, the poor in Nigeria are most vulnerable as 70% of its population depends on agriculture for their basic needs and income. This is one of the areas that climate change impacts the most.
It is therefore not disputable that our generation’s capacity to adapt depends on economic wealth, technology, information and skills, infrastructure, state institutions and equity. Consequently, adaptation is therefore about resilience.
On the other hand, climate change adaptation is an urgent issue we can address. Even if global warming and greenhouse emissions stop today, the world has and will continue changing. The extent to which these changes will affect lives will depend on how well people and systems are able to adapt.
Against this background, it is therefore necessary to start articulating roles that individuals and communities can play towards improving Nigeria’s capacity to reduce the impact of climate change.
The Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project launched with the help of the World Bank has come in handy and is focusing attention on erosion, capacity building and alternative energy in rural areas.
The creation of the Green Climate Fund, whose aim is to support developing countries in adapting to climate change through projects and national planning in the medium-term has the potential of addressing issues of climate change adaptation in the world. The fund was supposed to provide 100 billion dollars a year in funding up to 2020.
As a foot soldier in Disaster management with more than 10 years experience, one can confidently say that there is so much to do in Nigeria in terms of our capacity of both human and material resources to deal with the complexities of climate change mitigation and adaptation.
Chief Executive Officer, Ecologistics Integrated Services Ltd. and African Climate Clock Initiative, ACCI Dr. Paul Abolo at the presentation of climate clock to the Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen, noted that the presentation is a strategic approach to creating awareness for climate action.
It is therefore not in doubt that PMB and his administration are doing their best to squarely, tactically and with a fashion continue to strategise to deal with issues of climate change mitigation and adaptation. Corporate organisations and individuals must support the president to avert further consequences of climate change in the country.
Ilallah writes via [email protected]