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Nigeria and Paris climate change summit

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PMB-in-Paris8UNHINDERED by the atrocious terrorist attack that left 130 people dead and scores more critically injured in Paris just days to the conference, heads of government and representatives of some 196 countries still gathered in Le Bourget, near Paris, France, for the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 21). Some 50, 000 people were in attendance. The conference was billed from November 30 to December 11, 2015.

It was the 21st yearly session of the Conference of Parties (COP) to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiated during the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. It was also the 11th session of the Meeting of the Parties to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol (CPM 11). The delegates slugged it out in 2-week long marathon negotiations that presented diverse and difficult positions and interests from across the world. The dramas ended in jubilation.

Like its predecessors, there were thorny issues that constituted grave obstacles. But unlike the past summits, compromises were made leading to a historic climate deal. At the root of the problem was the division between the developed industrialised countries and developing countries. Even among the developing nations, there was division between the emerging industrial powerhouses like China and India, who also contribute substantial greenhouse emission and none industrialised developing countries like Nigeria that virtually contribute nothing industrially.

While the developed countries, known for being the main culprits in the climate change saga were pre-occupied, among other things, with curbing greenhouse gas emission from the world’s industrial chimneys, the developing countries, going the whole hog of the negotiations, and signing the agreement reached largely according to the dictates of the industrialised countries, did so on compromises.

Most of the effort at negotiations was geared towards striking compromises, especially with India and China, in order to reach an agreement. The United States was particularly interested in having an agreement reached that would satisfy the Obama administration’s expectations.

The Obama administration, unlike his predecessor’s, George W. Bush, has been keen on climate change and this interest enhanced negotiations and agreement. The same was Russia that pledged not to constitute an obstacle towards reaching an agreement. It is on record that since the Kyoto Protocol (COP-3) was negotiated in December, 1997; the U.S. has consistently refused to yield ground that would make her economy and lifestyle to suffer.

President George Bush once said the American lifestyle was not negotiable, despite not being opposed to measures that would curb deleterious atmospheric emissions, so far as America was not part of it. The U.S. has been forward in demanding that emerging economies like China and India, among others, should take equal measures to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

With a new irresistible desire to save humanity from the ravages of climate disasters unfolding across the globe, even China and India showed understanding and soft-pedaled. The developing countries also yielded ground after being promised more support to cope with climate change impacts.

After two weeks of intense negotiations, an agreement was finally reached and signed in Paris. The development has been hailed by peoples around the world. World leaders called it a “major leap for mankind.”

The last time attempt was made to forge a consensus was in 2009 in Copenhagen, which collapsed without a deal. Besides, more than 23 years of efforts under the United Nations since the 1992 Earth Summit have not succeeded in forging a collective platform to tackle a common problem.

But the Paris meeting was different. Apparently, delegates came with a burning desire to strike a deal. Twenty years ago, it appeared that the climate change phenomenon was a mirage that has nothing to do with reality.

Time has proved the doubters wrong. The last 15 years have witnessed disastrous hurricanes, typhoons, floods, drought and desertification that appear unprecedented. The frequency and spread also increased, thereby, leaving no one in doubt any more. The rate of ice melt in the Polar Regions is further proof that something is actually wrong in the earth-atmosphere system. Nothing else would melt the long ice continent than a rise in temperature.

The French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, announced the historic agreement in the plenary hall that was filled to capacity. Flanked by high-ranking UN officials, Fabius announced to the charged audience that a Paris agreement had been signed.

Among the key issues both developed and developing countries alike are required to limit their emissions to relatively safe levels of 2oC, with an aspiration of 1.5oC. This is with regular reviews to ensure that the commitments can be increased based on scientific advice.

Furthermore, finance will be provided to poor nations to help them cut emissions and cope with the effects of extreme weather. Countries affected by climate-related disasters will be given urgent aid.

There was overwhelming positive reaction from governments, businesses and civil society across the world over the agreement. This, remarkably, is a positive step to save humanity from the blind devastating climate-induced natural disasters.

Though not entirely perfect, as some of the provisions are not legally binding, it represents a clear departure from more than two decades of climate negotiations that yielded no clear-cut deal, apart from providing the stepping stones that culminated in the Paris agreement. As a matter of fact, it could be said that it took 23 years of painstaking negotiations to reach the Paris deal in 2015.

Nigeria is duty-bound to comply with the agreement. Nigeria may have to refocus her developmental strategies, particularly, in the energy sector. Among the issues are: Green energy – a focus on hydro, wind, solar and other renewable energy sources apart from fossil fuel.

Associated with oil is gas flaring, which constitutes Nigeria’s principal source of greenhouse gases. Nigeria should now work faster to harness the wasting gas to not only boost her economy but curb carbon emission. The country should evaluate the impact on agriculture of a drier or wetter climate to ensure food security.

Finally, the global action on climate change has been tackled through research and emergency management. Research should equally be stepped up.


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