Youths Urge implementation of Environmental Laws, Policies at Climate Incubation Hub

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Bennett Oghifo

Participants at a Youth Climate Incubation Hub have urged the government to implement environmental laws and policies for a safe climate in the country.

They said non-implementation of extant environmental laws and policies continue to serve as a major setback in the fight for a safe climate in Nigeria.

The Hub, which was held recently in Owerri, Imo State for youths in the South-east Zone, was one of those organised in the nation’s six geo-political zones by the Federal Ministry of Environment in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

As at last weekend, Youth Climate Incubation Hubs have been concluded in all the six geo-political zones- South-south, Port Harcourt; South-West, Ibadan; North-central, Lafia; North-east, Gombe; North-west, Kano; and South-east, Owerri.

The participants in Owerri expected that at the end of the two-day event, there would be speedy improvement in climate change actions, and that innovative ideas that are attainable, specific, realistic and time bound would be harnessed and implemented after the hub in Owerri that was coordinated by Health of Mother Health Foundation (HOMEF), an ecological think tank.

The event was convened to further Nigeria’s position as a member country of the United Nations’ Youth Engagement and Public Mobilisation track at the Climate Action Summit, holding this month. The youth hub had participants drawn from the five states in the geo-political zone (Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo). This event took place in the eastern heartland, at City Global Hotel, Owerri.

Adding to their observations on non-implementation of environmental laws and policies, the youths in Owerri also noted in their communiqué that “climate and climate change calls for emergency responses in Nigeria, therefore practical measures must be put in place and all stakeholders must be involved.”

They also observed that there was a need to create more awareness among the Nigeria citizenry, in addition to financial investment and transfer of technology to build human capacity and groom basic ideas that would mitigate climate crises in the country.

The participating youths in the five states in the South East Zone came up with 20 ideas out of which three were selected for consideration at the national level, where they would join youths from other geo-political zones.

Some of the ideas recommended by the youths included: Nkuzi (Climate Change Education/ Awareness); Environmental/climate awareness (causes, impacts and actions; Story Telling: Drama, Poetry, Songs and Visuals; Raising Climate Volunteers/Champions; Reviving Eco-friendly Traditional values; Clean Air Club.

On Waste: Waste to Energy: Regenerative Circular economy; Plastic waste to bricks; Waste Management and recycling

They also recommended Restoration: Restoring our Cities’ Ecosystem; Smart Afforestation; Tree Brigade and Climate Taskforce; Technology: Waste to Wealth Technology; Biochar; Waste to gas; Degradation Mapping; Climate Smart device; Clean Energy: Clean energy for all; Eco Solar and Clean Stove; EcoNaija.

They also recommended that Climate change desk officers at both federal and state ministry in Nigeria should ensure that participants of the climate hub are further engaged on climate issues and implementation process, including persons with disabilities.

“There should be zero taxation for solar and renewable energy technology,” they said.

Out of the 54 youths (11 females and 43 males) that participated in the South-east Hub, those selected to represent the South East Zone at the forthcoming National Youth Climate Hub to be held in Abuja with youths from other Zones are: Ananioude Okafor Uju; Ololo Onyekachi; Iroh Faithful Uzochi; Onwusoro Ifeanyi Emmanuel; Odudu-Abasi Asuquo; Ukaegbu Daniel; Israel Queen; Nwachukwu Onyinyechi Eze; Nwonye Ogechi Mercy; and Ugwu Onyedikachi Daniel.

The Director of Health of Mother Earth Foundation, Nnimmo Bassey described the meeting as successful, adding that the gathering was quite unique because participation was thrown open to youths across the nation and not handpicked. It was advertised in social media and those who applied were selected based on the best ideas they indicated they had for climate mitigation.

Bassey, who addressed journalists on the sideline, explained that each part of the country had unique climate impact from the north to the south, east and west, and that there are some impacts that cut across these areas. “If government wants to tackle global warming in a that is clear to everyone, then they will have to know what people see as the greatest threat they face, and what ideas they have to address those issues.”

He said the lay man in the North would readily identify water stress, desertification, reduction of grazing grounds as major issues, stating that in the South, the whole coastline is susceptible to sea level rise, ocean acidification and that some parts of the Niger Delta are sinking, causing land loss.

The East, he said is known to have gully erosion, which is aggravated by heavy rains, and that in the South-west, a major issue is deforestation which could also be linked to the South-east. “The idea is that no part of the country should be left behind. I feel personally that this is a great opportunity to unite the youths, because the environment is not a political thing, it does not discriminate. By the time they meet in Abuja and present their ideas, they will get to see the similarities in the ecological challenges they are having, and will begin to think what they can do together as a people. There are too many things dividing Nigeria, but the environment unites us all.”

He said each geo-political zone would take three ideas to Abuja when all the selected youths convene this month. “Collectively, they will all look at the ideas and pick the best three that Mr. President can take forward to the United Nations Summit in New York” this month. He added, “beyond that, the ideas that will emanate from the regions will help the Department of Climate Change, Federal Ministry of Environment, to draw up a plan of action or possible solution, saying the exercise was about solution and not about analysing the problem.

Bassey said, “Because this is a solution-driven process from young people, the ideas they come up with will fall into one category or another of the mitigation or adaptation strategies of the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC).”

He said, “Some of the ideas they will bring will possibly in some aspects give the government clear idea of what area to seek for technology transfer, where to get technology locally and where to seek financial help for the ideas.”

Earlier, while setting the tone for discussion, Bassey noted that young people are taking the lead in the climate change discussions all over the world and are advocating for real climate action to be taken. He further emphasised that young people have the brightest ideas and are capable of ingenious climate innovations.

He therefore charged the youths to be spontaneous in their response to climate issues and bring up solutions that are sophisticated, targeted and implementable.

In a presentation by Federal Ministry of Environment through its Department of Climate, Mrs Dolapo John, who represented the ministry, stated that the department is Nigeria’s National Focal Point to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), tasked with the responsibility of coordination and implementation of the agreed Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement, among others.

She pointed out that Nigeria’s Nationally Determined Contributions implementation target five sectorial plans: Agriculture, Oil and Gas, Transportation, Power and Industry. She further stated that the Youth Regional Climate Change Innovation Hub serves as a platform for continuing interface of young people with Government and development partners for the implementation of practical climate solutions.

The Youth climate incubation hub for South East zone ended with remarks from Dr. Peter Tarfa, Director, Department of Climate Change and from the Imo State Commissioner for Environment ably represented by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry, Prince C. Obinna. They both congratulated the youths for their participation in the hub.

Dr Tarfa who joined the hub via Zoom advised the youths to keep playing their roles in providing sustainable solutions to climate change and remain engaged in taking climate actions. He assured them that, the Federal Government will consider institutionalizing the Climate Hub idea and is determined to promote ideas generation by youths and to mobilize them for climate actions that would address the challenges faced by Nigeria. He further stated that youths are central in the efforts of the global community to address the climate challenge and have critical roles to play in actions taken to facilitate the achievement of Nigeria’s NDC targets.

Chief Tony Eze Okere, the Commissioner for Environment, Imo State in his welcome address underscored the rate at which climate change is being experienced today and its negative impact on planet earth. Okere therefore tasked participants from the region to contribute novel ideas to help Nigeria solve climate change related challenges. In his words, “Youths by their nature are vibrant and therefore are pivotal in the efforts at tackling the menace of climate change. They are full of energy and adventure. That is why this Roundtable that aims at unlocking youth innovativeness in Nigeria’s climate action is fitting especially at this time when no effort should be spared at tackling this menace.”

The Imo State Commissioner for Environment noted that the youths should be resilient in their pursuit for solutions to climate change and that the state is ready to host future Climate Change Incubation Hubs.