WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY 2023; TIME FOR REVIEW OF NIGERIA’S CLIMATE CREDENTIALS.
(Press statement: for immediate release)
(Being text of joint Press Statement by the Vivian Bello Foundation, V.B.F and Environmental Friendly Initiative, EFI, to mark the 2023 W.E.D).
Nigeria will today, the 5th of June 2023, be joining the rest of the World to celebrate World Environment Day, with Theme ‘Solutions to Plastic Pollution’, a very suspicious moment for the Country to pause and take an intrinsic look at its environment balance sheet/score card as a nation. With issues bothering Environment/Climate Change taking the front row of priorities for both the United Nations and virtually all countries across the globe generally, and with the increasingly huge and potent threat and disruptions climate change continues to pose to all segments of human existence and endeavors across the board, the priority and urgency are by no wise misplaced.
The Paris Agreement came into effect on November 4, 2016. Nigeria, as well as over 195 countries signed unto, an Accord that binds nations to actions that will keep global temperature within1.5`c, which is imperative to help save the planet from total destruction from climate-fueled catastrophe. On its own too and leaning largely on the Accord, Nigeria has developed and set out for itself other elaborate environmental and climate goals including the National Determined Contribution (NDC), the Climate Change Act 2021, National Council on Climate Change inaugurated in 2022, Net zero 2060 target, the National Policy on Plastic Waste Management ban on single-use plastic from 2028 amongst other national frameworks and policies. It also has a full-fledged Environment ministry, the Department of Climate Change, all seeming to show the country’s commitment to the environment.
However, commendable as these may appear, a closer examination of steps, actions, and activities in regard to the attainment of the Country’s Climate Goals shows not only a wide gap between these Goals and actual actions but to a significant extent, even outright contradictions. To all intent and purposes, the country has seemed to shun or rather chose to turn a blind eye to the unmitigated perils of Fossils and has shockingly, instead of doubling -down on these, upped the ante by committing billions of Naira to explore for fossil fuels in the shores of Chad Basin, commissioning new crude production upstarts in the inlands of States as Nassarawa, Borno, Kogi, Anambra etc in appalling walk-away from both its domestic climate policies and frameworks as well as it’s international obligations.
Nigeria has only recently commissioned a fossil refining complex (Dangote Refinery) that is famed as the biggest in Africa and among the largest in the world. Many have hailed this crude refinery complex as a great business acumen but in all of it and when the seeming euphoria around it all dies down, the reality that stares all in the face and from which no one can run is that the Climate/Environment takes the hit from it all. In both the new crude projects and the existing ones, as well as the upcoming ones combined, billions of Dollars have been invested into them, showing clearly, beyond its lip service and rhetorics of a Green Economy or fighting climate change, where its priorities lie. Nigeria’s shyness on the climate front actually illustrates the tensions between solving the climate crisis and developing countries along the “Western” model of resource-intensive economic growth.
Indeed, Nigeria is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, especially on agriculture, coastal flooding, and desertification. Yet its economy is sensitive to policies that would reduce oil demand. This might go far in helping us understand how a country that actively strives to lead West Africa and the rest of the continent in so many other areas, including trade and security, has been mostly quiet on climate actions. While other Countries around the world are tediously pushing to exit their economies from dirty fuels and climate-destroying economic, consumption, living, and business patterns, taking in many cases hard decisions and enacting and strictly enforcing non-compromising environmental and climate-conscious legal instruments, policies, and actions, Nigeria on the other hand, seems to be sleep-walking boldly into climate crisis.
To be clear, the Theme of this year’s WED; #Solutions to Plastic Pollution, is very apt to Nigeria; all plastics originate from petroleum crude. They are largely non-biodegradable and constitute about the largest source of pollution globally and compromise nature’s biodiversity, food security, sanitation, public health, fuel poverty, and conflicts among several other implications it portends. Given its root sources and origin, and beyond the efforts at tackling it with recycling and etc, which has only produced very weak results, tackling it from its root, that is, doing away with fossil fuel petroleum crude will ultimately stifle it’s supply breadth-line and steadily bring an end to the crisis of plastic pollution and a healthy planet which is a win-win for all.
Until this is done particularly by countries such as Nigeria whose government has demonstrated near-zero interest in transitioning the economy to a clean and climate-friendly one, humanity especially in this part of the world will continue to live with not just a continuation, but now amplified climate crisis of massive flooding, relentless draught, food crisis, Sea-level rise, extreme weather conditions amongst others. With the level of contribution that Nigeria is making via fossil fuels to global warming, there’s no gainsaying that Nigeria’s Climate Credentials need to be re-evaluated.
Here in Nigeria, young people’s involvement particularly on the theme is also crucial and indispensable to achieving set goals in ending plastic pollution specifically as well as on climate goals generally. To this end, we will be mobilizing the School Eco Clubs across Nigeria this Monday, 5 June 2023, and facilitating a “Community Cleanup Plastic Audit” across school communities in Nigeria. This will seek to remove the country from sitting among the top 20 countries contributing to marine plastic pollution in the world. We hope that the new administration will seek to strengthen existing frameworks with the School Eco-Club Community for fruitful engagement and real progress.
(Vivian Bello Foundation and the Environment-Friendly Initiative are Nigerian Non-governmental Organizations that work to promote environmental and climate sustainability.