By Odimegwu Onwumere
There is a battle of interest between industrialised countries and Africa on how to alleviate the effects of climate change leading to different conferences being held. The much publicised were the Conference of Parties – known as COP15 – held in 2009; the United Nations, UN, climate talks in Warsaw, Poland, tagged the COP19 – the 19thConference of Parties 2013; the pre-COP planned for Venezuela in 2014. The most recent is the 21st Conference of Parties, also – known as COP21 – held in Paris in 2015.
Lakes are still drying in Africa, unpredictable rainfalls are being experienced, there is continuous rise of temperature, brunting weather molds, water supply and quality shortages, agriculture and food decline, human health worsening, shelter and ecosystems lacerating, erosion taking over landscapes, crop and food shortages and many others characterising the environment, upon governments and groups are gathering to talk about measures to arrest the effects of climate change.
Godwin Ojo on his return to Nigeria from the 21st Conference of Parties (also known as COP21) held in Paris in 2015, which attracted roughly 50,000 participants including 25,000 official delegates from governments, intergovernmental organisations, UN agencies, NGOs, and civil society, lamented about the fight of interest. He is the Executive Director of Environmental Rights Action and was one of the representatives of 195 countries that were gathered in Paris to adopt a novel pact on how to conduct mitigation and adaptation measures concerning climate change.
His expression-of-grief after returning from the COP21 stemmed from the fact that there was a battle of interest between the industrialised rich countries and poor countries at the COP21 over economic interest they gain through industrial productions even when such activities undermine the environment. He nearly regarded the COP21 as a talking jamboree, saying that there was dearth of penalty stated in the case where any country fails the reduction of their emission targets; this suggests that the developed countries are meting out unfair treatments to developing countries, with their frail ambition in cutting climate change, and making Africa to lose billions of money to the rest of the world.
“COP21 was almost a talking jamboree, except that a historic treaty was signed. The outcome was long predicted. It was a continued fight between industrialised rich countries of the world and the poor countries of the world. Despite the energy and time put into the talks, the governments represented the voice of corporations far more than the citizens they govern,” Ojo said.
Africa is said to be at the centre stage of feeling the ruins of climate change while the rich countries are gearing towards a new global measures on emissions, due to their economic interest. Where the developed countries made the notion known is called the Kyoto Protocol – where they wanted to strike a deal on the new laws for emission. But countries that include Saudi Arabia, Bolivia, China, Venezuela called “the like-minded developing nations” kicked hard against the deal that the developed world was striking on emission.
After the Kyoto Protocol, Nnimmo Bassey, well-known environmental activist from Nigeria and founder of Home of Mother Earth Foundation, HOMEF, said that in the COP, as at others, Japan, Canada, the USA and Australia continued an alarming climate-operational quartet, locking the planet on the unpreventable path of fugitive global warming.
Bassey said, “We recall that Japan was the first country to signify that they would not go ahead with another period of the Kyoto Protocol, the only piece of global legally binding, albeit weak, agreement aimed at curtailing emissions to save the planet.
“A further downside of the COP was pointed by the chief negotiator for China who noted that a developed country delegate gave ‘multiple signs that it was utterly unwilling to take the UN climate process seriously, the integrity of the talks was further jeopardised.”
Empty talk on climate change
Without doubt, there are the ghastly effects of climate change affecting the rise of the global population without access to electricity, whereas the developed countries body language suggests that they love their industries that contribute to the menace on the environment instead of cut down their emission. But when conferences are held to cushion the effects of climate change, heavy polluters and corporations are fingered to dominate the conference, as according to Jagoda Munic, Chairperson of Friends of the Earth International, “with their empty talk”.
Munic was among the persons that walked out at the Conference of Parties – COP15 in 2009 – in Copenhagen. He lamented, “While people around the world are paying with their lives and livelihoods, and the risk of runaway climate change draws closer, we simply could not sit by this egregious inaction. Corporate profits should not come before peoples’ lives.”
What Ojo was crying about today – of the industrialised countries not interested in curbing climate change – led to activists walking out of the UN climate talks in Warsaw, Poland, tagged the COP19 – the 19thConference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change – which ended on November 23, 2013, with delegates not reaching a far compromise on how to fight global warming. Bassey said that the walk out sent a strong signal that “the days of empty talks must come to an end.”
“They sent a strong signal that the pre-COP planned for Venezuela in 2014 and COP21 planned for Paris in 2015 must be different significantly from the climate games being currently played in these events,” Bassey, said. Many rather saw the conference as a waste of energy.
Martin Kaiser of Greenpeace Germany, said, “The climate conference in Warsaw was a waste of energy. It was already clear by midweek that small steps forward would be sold as successes but would not help us to negotiate a global climate protection agreement by 2015.”
Simon Anderson, Head of climate change group at the International Institute for Environment and Development, IIED, said, “There is no sense from the outcomes of Warsaw that climate justice is any closer than before the COP was inaugurated. The delays in countries disclosing how they will address reducing greenhouse gas emissions continue. It would seem that we are moving almost inevitably to a 4C degree warmer world.”
While there was an agreement that recognised limiting temperature rise to under I.5 degrees at the COP21, as was harangued by scientists and pushed by global civil society groups, it has been assisted within a two degrees development alleyway. This was even as Ojo gave his nod that heavy polluters of the COP should be shown the exit door in order to demonstrate a point and bar shoddy energy companies that are in the business of colossal emissions not to be among the team of decision making process. Ojo frowned that the COP21 ended in talks without concrete measures put in place to the “legally binding and universal agreement on climate”, which was what the conference was meant.
The same was the fate of the Conference of Parties – COP15 in 2009 – in Copenhagen; it dashed the hopes of many. Dr. Anderson said, “The need for both finance and disbursal mechanisms that genuinely reflect and respond to the needs of countries and people that need to adapt and become more climate resilient become even more important. In the absence of agreement on a mid-term target and a clear pathway, poor and vulnerable countries are unable to understand how the developed countries are going to deliver the promised target of US$100 billion annually by 2020. Looking at decisions related to long term finance, developing countries can see a few gains, but there were reassuring words and little else.”
Effects of failed talks on Africa
Talks have been made in different quarters among stakeholders that countries in the West like the United States, China, and the European Union account for almost 50 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions around the globe, whereas Africa suffers the brunt most. While speaking in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates in February 2016 during the 2016 World Future Energy Summit, President Muhammadu Buhari lamented of how Africa was already doomed from the outcomes of climate change.
The billions of money that Africa loses to the rest of the world was captured by the Jubilee Debt Campaign, 15 July 2014, saying, “New research published today by 10 UK and African NGOs reveals Africa is losing $192 billion every year to the rest of the world – almost six and a half times the amount of ‘aid’ given back to the continent. This research is the first attempt to calculate Africa’s losses across a wide range of areas. These include: illicit financial flows; profits taken out of the continent by multinational companies; debt payments; brain drain of skilled workers; illegal logging and fishing and the costs incurred as a result of climate change.”
Ojo made a proposal for unrestrained de-carbonisation of the Nigeria’s economy and the energy sector. He wanted Nigeria to acknowledge and encourage an energy changeover from oil, gas, coal and other fossil fuels by 2030, by the governments divesting public finance, subsidies and loans for oil, gas and coal.
He believed that renewable energy development was the key to helping the environment if the governments could channel the money into this sector. Buhari’s evidence was that there are droughts and floods in Africa as a result of climate change.
The bewildered President of Nigeria showed expression in the areas of the extreme drying up of the Lake Chad to just about 10 per cent of its original size. He said that this is having depressingly crash on the livelihood of millions of people.
“With all due respect to our neighbours, Nigeria has been worst hit by the drying up of the Lake Chad and we are hoping that the global community will support the process of halting the drying up of the lake,” Buhari said. The president outlined that land erosion is threatening farming, forestry, town and village peripheries in the middle and southern part of Nigeria and in some areas, major highways.
“Desert encroachment in Niger, our northern neighbour and in far northern Nigeria, at the rate of several hundred meters per annum, has impacted on the existence of man, animal and vegetation, threatening to alter the whole ecological balance of the sub-region,” Buhari added.
As climate change goes on in Africa
About $16.9 billion, according to the Federal Government of Nigeria Report of a Post Disaster Needs Assessment conducted between November 2012 and March 2013, was lost to infrastructure, physical and strong assets and diagonally economic sectors due to the effects of a 2012 flood adversity in Nigeria.
There is apprehension that that over 180 million people in sub-Sahara Africa alone risk death by the end of the century as the climate change goes on. What this means is that they are pronto the effects of change in rainfall, lower crop yields, heat wave and so many others that are yielding to human tension, mitigation and conflict. The population of people without access to electricity is rife in Africa with the unrepentant characteristics of energy challenges.
The 2014 Africa Energy Outlook, the International Energy Association, gave a rough estimation of 620 million living in the absence of electricity and many in the number of 730 million using risky methods as means of cooking. This does not leave about 600,000 people from dying as a result of indoor pollution from over-dependence on biomass for cooking. In looking for ways to curb the menace of climate change and make provision for energy, there have been different alliances the United Nations, including Africa, had formed to develop sustainable energy.
There have been the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4ALL) Initiative; Sustainable Development Goals (particularly Goal Seven on energy); UN Climate Change Conference Paris 2015; African Energy Leaders Group (AELG) at the World Economic Forum (WEF) Davos 2015; Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Others are Friends of the Earth International; the International Trade Union Confederation; Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance, Bolivian Platform on Climate Change, Jubilee South (APMDD), 350.org; Greenpeace; WWF; Oxfam; ActionAid; and the Philippines Movement on Climate; Africa’s Renewable Energy Initiative at COP 21, the AfDB’s Sustainable Energy Fund for Africa (SEFA); global Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions; United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Yet, Africa is still grappling with energy difficulties and the effects of climate change.
The long years establishment and investment in fossil fuel energy which is led by the public sector, have not produced the desired result. For instance, there is a stance that about $16 billion was spent by Nigeria between 1999 and 2007 on energy alone. Many of such huge sums of money were expended on the National Integrated Power Project (NIPP) without it yielding the expected power supply.
Since the developed world have been said to be more interested in what becomes of their industries which contribute to climate change, Africa may be losing in the diplomatic rows for a strong international leadership and futuristic policies. This makes Africa more susceptible to the impacts of climate change.
Apart from the West that has been said that contributes 50 per cent of the emissions in the world, South-Africa with her addiction to coal and problems of debt might not be having it fair with the change. There is a herald that Eskom with the construction for Kusile, regarded as “the monstrous coal-fired power plant”, with the cost of the R60.6 billion, would have been beneficial that the country invested in renewable energy as alternative to energy.
Africa is not learning from the past mistakes in these times of climate change as many countries on the continent are gearing towards establishing nuclear energy, investing in renewable energy and not, leaving gas flaring, coal mining as means of energy utilisation, when it is clear that experts have said that the global carbon bank that should hold developed countries answerable has not been used to generate solutions.
On May 18, 2016, the Federal Government of Nigeria through the Minster of Power, Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola said at forum in Abuja, that Nigeria had secured the necessary certification from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). How to safeguard against catastrophic climate change is the bane, no matter the numerous jobs that such feat portends to create. In many of the African countries, energy security is not guaranteed.
For instance in Nigeria where the ears were deafened for liberalisation of the Nigerian power sector at the peak of the millennium, the people are still praying for power. But this is not the case with a place like England where the 1989/1990 reforms, bring to the world’s glare as the epicentre of contemporary day electricity market liberalisation, when most African countries are lagging in the development of key power generation sub-sectors.
It is observable that with all the gas flaring and coal mining in the sub-Sahara Africa, energy poverty remains rife. The developed world with its hyper-industrialised activities is not helping the continent of Africa for energy sufficiency, except “the lack of access to modern energy services”.
Conversely, while the industrialised countries and Africa are logged in the clash of interest, experts have pointed out that individuals can contribute to the fight against climate change. Elizabeth Landau of the Cable News Network, CNN, on May 6, 2014, talked about five steps individuals can take at home to take action which include: to become informed, make changes at home, be greener at the office, reduce emissions in transit and get involved and educate others about the big picture.
Onwumere, is a Rivers State-based poet, writer and consultant and winner, in the digital category, Nordica Media Merit Awards 2016