Government should redeem its commitment towards the Paris Agreement

The Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET) in its 2020 seasonal rainfall prediction released in January warned of unprecedented flooding across the nation this year. With reports of whole communities being submerged by storm water as well as schools, hospitals and farmlands being washed off, there are ominous signs that the prediction is gradually becoming a reality. The combined impact of climate change and heavy rainfall has forced streams and rivers to overflow their banks with dire consequences for lives and livelihoods. The death toll is rising and so is the number of displaced people with the fear that outbreak of diseases like cholera and diarrhea could aid the spread of the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic.

The federal and state governments have in one way or the other responded to these disasters, but Nigerians wish for more formidable plans to mitigate flooding, in addition to strategies to prevent wanton loss of lives and property. Scientists have linked this abnormal weather to global warming, identifying human activities as cause of the earth’s rising temperature, leading to the 2015 Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. And Nigeria was among the 197 countries that agreed to the goal of “holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C.”

However, not much efforts have been made to contain the impact of climate change in our country. For instance, gas flaring in Nigeria contributes to the emission of greenhouse gases, implicated in global warming/earth’s rising temperature. In the nationally determined contribution submitted in March 2017, the government promised to foster low-carbon, high growth economic development and build a climate resilient society. This can only be achieved by not polluting the atmosphere and sucking out the carbon dioxide using tree planting, which remains the best technology provided by nature.

The avoidable deaths and devastation caused by the 2012 flooding is still fresh in the minds and hearts of those who took direct hit. To mitigate these disasters, the government should discourage bush burning, and use of fossil fuel for electricity and transportation as well as learn from the mistakes of other countries. Nigeria must copy the good strategies employed by countries that have successfully controlled the impact of climate change.

Nigeria has a massive amount of renewable energy sources it should have been tapping a long time ago. Also, government needs to rework or implement its urban planning laws to give priority to green spaces and parks so that people can live harmoniously with nature. Plans by the government to plant 25 million trees this year should be encouraged. Environmentalists find it painfully worrisome that the ecological fund has achieved too little in terms of adaptation to climatic issues and to mitigation of the problems. The huge funds do not match the scrawny drains built in communities to lead storm water to nowhere, as they are ill-conceived, poorly-designed and programmed to fail for reasons of corruption.

The failure of the ecological fund to make desired impact is also the reason communities in the nation’s coastal areas are being washed away, and it is probably a reason the government is unable to build the tree-barrier, known as the Great Green Wall, to keep the desert in check. Importantly, the government should take up the challenge by the UNDP to lead the way by implementing the seven-point plans President Muhammadu Buhari announced to the world during the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) at Climate Change Summit, which reiterates commitment to concrete actions towards the Paris Agreement goals.

It is also imperative for the government to take advantage of UNDP’s commitment to support Nigeria on this course.