Ugo Aliogo reviews the progress made in tackling climate change in 2019 and the way forward for 2020
With 2019 over, experts have asserted that the challenges of tackling climate change remain a strong contending issue across countries.
While some countries are making efforts in tackling climate through policy domestication and implementation of relevant environmental laws, a report by the 2019 Climate Action Summit, said between 2015 and 2019, recorded continued increase in CO2 levels and other key greenhouse gases (GHG) in the atmosphere.
The United Nations Climate Change conference in Spain in December provided an opportunity for the next crucial steps to be taken in the UN climate change process which followed an agreement on the implementation guidelines of the Paris Agreement at COP 24 in Poland in 2018.
A key objective was to complete several matters with respect to the full operationalisation of the Paris climate change agreement.
The conference further served to build ambition ahead of 2020, the year in which countries have committed to submit new and updated national climate action plans. Crucial climate action work was taken forward in areas including finance, the transparency of climate action, forests and agriculture, technology, capacity building, loss and damage, indigenous peoples, cities, oceans and gender.
The conference also provided an opportunity for Heads of UN agencies to have high-level leadership dialogue on how to turn the tide on deforestation and commit to the common goal of helping countries reduce deforestation and improve forest management.
According to the UN, up to 23 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions derive from the agriculture, forestry and Other Land Use (AFOLU) sector.
Speaking at the United Nation Climate Change in Madrid COP25 in December, the UN Secretary General, António Guterres, expressed disappointment with the results of COP25, adding that the international community lost an important opportunity to show increased ambition on mitigation, adaptation and finance to tackle the climate crisis.
He said: “But we must not give up, and I will not give up. I am more determined than ever to work for 2020 to be the year in which all countries commit to do what science tells us is necessary to reach carbon neutrality in 2050 and a no more than 1.5 degree temperature rise.”
Global Warming of 1.5 ºC
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) report on global warming 1.5°C human activities were estimated to have caused approximately 1.0°C of global warming5 above pre-industrial levels, with a likely range of 0.8°C to 1.2°C. Global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate.
The report also noted that reflecting on the long-term warming trend since pre-industrial times, the observed global mean surface temperature (GMST) for the decade 2006–2015 was 0.87°C (likely between 0.75°C and 0.99°C)6 higher than the average over the 1850–1900 period (very high confidence).
The report further stated that estimated anthropogenic global warming matches the level of observed warming to within ±20% (likely range). Estimated anthropogenic global warming is currently increasing at 0.2°C (likely between 0.1°C and 0.3°C) per decade due to past and ongoing emissions (high confidence).
It added that warming greater than the global annual average is being experienced in many land regions and seasons, including two to three times higher in the Arctic, warming is generally higher over land than over the ocean.
According to the report, “Warming from anthropogenic emissions from the pre-industrial period to the present will persist for centuries to millennia and will continue to cause further long-term changes in the climate system, such as sea level rise, with associated impacts (high confidence), but these emissions alone are unlikely to cause global warming of 1.5°C (medium confidence).
“Reaching and sustaining net zero global anthropogenic CO2 emissions and declining net non-CO2 radiative forcing would halt anthropogenic global warming on multi-decadal time scales (high confidence).
“The maximum temperature reached is then determined by cumulative net global anthropogenic CO2 emissions up to the time of net zero CO2 emissions (high confidence) and the level of non-CO2 radiative forcing in the decades prior to the time that maximum temperatures are reached (medium confidence).
“On longer time scales, sustained net negative global anthropogenic CO2 emissions and/ or further reductions in non-CO2 radiative forcing may still be required to prevent further warming due to Earth system feedbacks and to reverse ocean acidification (medium confidence) and will be required to minimize sea level rise (high confidence).
“Climate-related risks for natural and human systems are higher for global warming of 1.5°C than at present, but lower than at 2°C (high confidence). These risks depend on the magnitude and rate of warming, geographic location, levels of development and vulnerability, and on the choices and implementation of adaptation and mitigation options (high confidence).
“Impacts on natural and human systems from global warming have already been observed (high confidence). Many land and ocean ecosystems and some of the services they provide have already changed due to global warming (high confidence).
“Future climate-related risks depend on the rate, peak and duration of warming. In the aggregate, they are larger if global warming exceeds 1.5°C before returning to that level by 2100 than if global warming gradually stabilizes at 1.5°C, especially if the peak temperature is high (for instance about 2°C) (high confidence). Some impacts may be long-lasting or irreversible, such as the loss of some ecosystems (high confidence).”
Nigeria is a signatory to many climate change treaties and policy frameworks. However, experts are of the view that the country has not done much in the areas of commitments, policy implementation and domestication of relevant laws.
In an interview with THISDAY, the founder of Lasgidis Recyclers, Idu Okwuosa, said in terms of mitigating the challenges of climate change Nigeria, there is a very long way to go, stating that the most important thing is the awareness and the impact on the environment.
She stated that government can do more and engage environmentalists on the best ways to manage climate change.
According to her, “It is commendable that Nigeria is a signatory to many climate change agreements. However, the government can do more by socialising and implementing sustainable strategies to manage impact of climate change.
“I think the government can do more by partnering with private sector environmentalists on best ways to implement and manage climate change. The first step in the process is to domesticate some of these climate change policies as applied to Nigeria.
“Then socialise and implement through private sector partnerships. In Nigeria, the private sector has an important role to play. In 2019, a lot of individuals (mostly young people) were involved promoting climate change issues. It is a collective effort and the government can engage more for better impact.
“In 2020, the best way to promote climate change is for the government to have a blueprint on the domesticated climate change policies, socialising the plan, and properly implementing plan based on the policies.
“Individuals can be deliberate in their activities and decisions to promote climate change. Individuals can be advocates of climate change. Individuals can champion implementation of the climate change policies.”
In his reaction, the Founder of Lufasi Nature Park, Mr. Desmond Majekodunmi, said Nigeria is a little bit ahead of other countries in terms of the commitment, adding that there have been commendable efforts especially from President Muhammadu Buhari, who have made some bold pledges at the UN general assembly.
He explained that Buhari has been pushing for the restoration of the Lake Chad because he recognises what has happened there which he noted is very encouraging.
“No country is recognising through their actions the severity of the problem has been explained to us very clearly by several renowned bodies such as the IPCC. The IPCC has explained very clearly the point of no return that will lead to catastrophic breakdown of the ecosystem. The World Meteorological Agency also said something similar that we are over carbonising the atmosphere by pouring millions of tons of greenhouse gas into the atmosphere.
“There are some countries showing remarkable signs in tackling by declaring a state of emergency on environment, so the question that should be asked is that why has the federal government not declared a state of emergency on environment because Nigeria is more heavily impacted than other countries.”
The 2019 Climate Action Summit has set a clear direction of travel for climate action. But it also highlighted where much more action is needed to secure our footing on a path towards 1.50 C by the end of the century. This will require renewed leadership at all levels and across all sectors of society.
According to the report, the United Nations Environment Programme’s 2019 emissions gap report showed that, “there is no sign of GHG emissions peaking in the next few years.”
“Even if all current unconditional Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement are fully implemented, the carbon budget for the 1.50C goal will be exhausted before 2030,” the report said.
The report explained that while many countries committed to more ambitious NDCs, the world’s major emitters are yet to step up their ambition with concrete commitments, adding that these main emitters are the 20 countries responsible for approximately 80 per cent of global GHG emissions.
The report further stated that the G20 countries together need to cut their GHG emissions by at least 45 per cent in 2030 (below 2010 levels) and reach net zero CO2 emissions by 2050 at the latest to be in line with the IPCC 1.50C report, “none of the G20 countries are in line with limiting warming to 1.50C.”
According to the report, “We need to decarbonise large swathes of the economy; address urgent adaptation needs and build climate resilient infrastructure; shift financial flows from brown to green; tax pollution not people and make sure that peoples’ needs are met in the transition.
“The climate action summit initiatives demonstrated that it is possible to develop sustainable transport and energy systems, shift high emitting sectors such as maritime transport, aluminum and steel towards net zero emissions, make people safer and build the resilient infrastructure and cities of tomorrow.
“Global emissions need to peak in the next few years and emissions need to be cut by at least 45 percent by 2030 to get to net zero emissions by 2050. The years ahead will be critical for our future survival, wellbeing and prosperity.”