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For a green Delta: A look at climate change

By Emmanuel Uduaghan

CLIMATE change and the obligation to reduce Green House emissions have become one of the most important policy issues in the global system. For reasons which are subject to question, Nigeria is yet to take a strong posture towards influencing the climate change debate raging over the world.

We seem to be quiet, almost indifferent. Being a recent advocate, I am scarcely in a position to lecture anyone about the subject matter. But, from the much I now know, we can no longer live in blissful ignorance. What affects the world is bound to affect us. When you look at it, we do contribute some amount of pollution that depletes the ozone layer.

An interesting sidebar that I can point to as an illustration of our inaction is the global financial meltdown that began last year. In the beginning, we equivocated over what remedial action that should be taken. The initial advice was that, no, the country was insulated; we were disconnected from the rest of the financial world, the country had nothing to fear.

Some others thought we should take action, without offering what you might call a convincing proof, even if they had a plausible case to make. In the end, policy makers sided with the former’s analysis and the country did nothing. Today, we now know that we acted late and the impact has come home to our door steps.

My theory on why we lack interest in undertaking mass awareness campaigns and strong policy initiative on climate change is our central preoccupation with addressing a myriad of seeming intractable national challenges. These problems include, but not limited to Niger Delta crisis, security, power generation and distribution, energy, roads, education, a credible electoral process; all these even if you did not add more, and there are others, are capable of transfixing anyone, especially when you are under pressure of high public expectation for a quick fix. What has to be taken note of is that it does not matter what we do, the climate change issue is so big and the world is not going to wait for us to fix our infrastructure and internal domestic needs before it reaches a conclusion on this issue.

It does not matter the school of thought you belong to, whether you think the climate change debate is a political one, a moral issue as Al Gore, former US Vice President, saw it, a religious issue as some others see it or even as a security issue, when a decision has been taken, whether we like it or not we would be obligated to conform with the conventions and agreements reached.

Having shown my empathy for the activist’s school, the posture of the skeptic’s school of thought, who argues that not enough is known to determine that the climate is changing drastically and would result in earth’s doom, as strong as it is, does not impress me. I think there is some evidence that emission of carbon dioxide or Co2, the gas responsible for half of earth’s warming needs to be cut down drastically.

In fact if by some magic the world emissions of Co2 drops to zero today, scientists estimate that it will take at least a millennium for it to be absorbed by oceans, trees and algae.

Climate change had been known for about 100 years but it was not until 1997 in Kyoto, Japan, now commonly referred to as Kyoto Protocol, did the world decide it needs to make a joint effort at addressing these problems, especially carbon dioxide emissions as well as other gases like methane, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide etc. The reason cutting back gas emissions is difficult is fairly simple-as nations emerge from poverty they build their economic foundation on the energy systems like coal, oil, and natural gas, which in more ways than one contribute to Green House emissions.

The Kyoto Protocol, which set out broad outlines for nations to adopt to be able to cut its Green House emissions, had its final details hammered out in Marrakesh in Morocco before it became a treaty in 2005, meaning it took eight years of tough negotiations to have a treaty.

Even at that, countries like    Brazil, Russia, India and China(the so-called BRIC nations), the newly industrialising powers are chafing that a rigid emission caps, even that envisaged by the Kyoto Protocol is not feasible. More than that, they see Western nation’s insistence as an attempt to stall them from industrialising. After all, those asking for emissions caps also went through the industrialisation process they are going through today. The posture of these nations is that, let us finish developing, and then we can start talking of climate change. In the alternative, they are asking the rich industrialised nations to contribute one per cent of their combined GDP amounting to $300 billion  annually to assist the rest of developing nations cut its emissions and adapt to climate change.

But even as they bicker and adopt tough negotiating bluster, there is some consensus that the world should try to cut by 2050, up to half its 1990 levels of emissions.  To show seriousness Japan, EU countries and the US have pledged to cut their emissions by 15 per cent in 2020, provided the BRIC nations are able to show deep commitments. If not it will be difficult for these nations to contain the domestic pressure that would follow should they go ahead with their plans.

So the whole climate negotiation is a tough nut to crack, which is why many are placing faith on the Copenhagen summit in Denmark. Some analysts knowing what is at play are cautioning against excessive optimism of a breakthrough. Actually it is the view of a lot of people that the result of the talks in Copenhagen might begin to bear fruit after the summit itself. As I mentioned earlier, if the world wants to end dependency on fossil fuel, then new investment on alternative sources has to be done today.

But the trouble is that trillions of dollars have already been invested in finding, developing, marketing and using fossil fuel; so abandoning it is not going to be easy, and the cost in setting them up may never be recovered, despite the huge investment in alternatives like, wind, geothermal, solar etc.

So as a third world country, how do we fit into all of this? Nigeria by the way is a signatory investment in alternatives like, wind, geothermal, solar etc.

So as a Third World country, how do we fit into all of this? Nigeria by the way is a signatory to the Kyoto protocol and one of the negotiators for Africa for Kyoto. Speaking for Delta State, that I govern, I have a particular interest in charging my people to understand the challenge of climate change and to encourage them to key into a new economy that is not built on oil. I have long talked about a state that is less dependent on oil.

My position is that oil is not renewable and is subject to boom and burst, and now we have to contend with its environmental hazards. In addition we are now facing the prospect of a gradual elimination of oil as dominant global commodity. Gas flares by oil companies is our daily reality, coupled with the pollution of the water and the damage to the soil that prevents farmers from going to farm and earning a living. Everyday that the world talks about depending less on oil and finding sustainable alternatives, we are at the mercy of others.

Furthermore, I have a strong desire to work with outsiders and international agencies who are prepared to invest in helping us remediate our land and water and also partner with us to reforest our communities. The UNDP is already in talks with us to pursue this programme. At the last Governor’s Global Climate Change Summit held in California, USA, Delta State was admitted into the Territorial Area Climate Change (TACC) programme. TACC recognises the important role sub-national governments such as ours have to play in championing climate change programmes.

Through this TACC programme, our State shall have the privilege of partnering with other states in developed countries of the United States(such as California,), Europe, and Brazil, etc, in dealing with this global problem.  And so as a state, apart from keying into whatever the Federal Government is planning to do in Copenhagen, we shall be joining the over 50 sub-national governments across the globe, led by the ‘Terminator’, Gov Arnold Schwarzenegger of C
alifornia, to ‘muscle’ our way into an effective world programme that will come out of Copenhagen and ‘terminate’ the anxieties of the developed and developing countries of the world on climate change.

This is also part of my government’s post-amnesty plans. To restore to our people their lands that had been destroyed, because we noticed that without any meaningful activity they resort to pressuring oil companies to meet their every need.  Deforestation emits a lot of carbon dioxide and is therefore a major source of emissions, but it is also known that reforestation in the tropical region like ours can help greatly to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. In Delta State, this is one area we want to pursue with a lot of seriousness.  As a state we should also be scientific in the way we handle landfills with waste because it is a major source of emission. The little lessons we can teach, we would do so to the best of our ability

It is also my intention to encourage the rest of the country to take the issue of climate change more seriously than we have. Let us not be deluded: The weather patterns are changing, ocean levels are rising, many of our riverine communities are being washed away, there is intensification of desertification and we have to be careful not to be caught unprepared.

Already our emissions from wide use of generators, vehicles of whatever sizes and shapes that have exceeded their mileages, animal waste that are not handled properly, constitute a major source of global warming. Yet this nation can benefit and use the opportunity of climate change diplomacy to attract support in technology and develop the infrastructure to curb its emissions.

Send  reactions to  uduaghan@governor

Dr. Uduaghan, is Governor of Delta state.


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