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An ecological roadmap for the Mahmoud, Ikeazor team

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Minister for Environment, Dr. Mohammad Abubakar Mahmoud


When Nigeria ratified the Paris Climate agreement, which aims to avoid the most devastating effects of climate change by cutting carbon emissions, there were so many expectations. The agreement comes with an emissions reduction proposal known as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC), which are weighty demands on each country and strategies on climate action from 2015 to 2030. With Nigeria being an oil producing country, there remain unmet targets.
  
But with the ascendance of Dr. Mohammad Mahmoud as the Minister of Environment and Sharon Ikeazor, Minister of State for Environment, a new vigour is being expected in addressing a nature protection/preservation agenda for the country’s leadership.Nigeria has over 350,000square kilometres of land mass exposed to advancing deserts. In Northern States, desertification is by far the most urgent environmental threat. Entire villages and major roads have been known to disappear under sand dunes in Katsina, Sokoto, Kano, Jigawa, Yobe and Borno States.

Priorities, in this regard, include coordinated multi-sectoral programmes involving afforestation, agroforestry, integrated natural resources management and sustainable livelihood alternatives for the rural poor in marginal areas. Similarly, flood and soil erosion are currently some of the most ubiquitous ecological problems that have direct negative impacts on natural resource base. Flood and erosion pose direct threat to lives and general safety of citizens and adversely affects nation’s economy in diverse ways.

The devastation of agriculture land and urban areas by erosion menace in Imo, Anambra, Abia, Akwa Ibom, Lagos Plateau and the unprecedented floods as recorded recently in 24 states are pointers to the magnitude of the havoc that could be wrecked by the two natural phenomena.The federal government agencies have endorsed certain principles upon which a comprehensive municipal waste management strategy has been designed for the country. These are, the full application of the polluters-pays-principle as sina qua non to a sustainable waste disposal strategy in which the disposal would be fully commercialized.

Secondly, the commercialization of waste disposal devoid of monopoly, official or non-official, based on a free-market approach where government owned waste disposal agencies and companies will complete fairly with privately-owned disposal companies.A blueprint to accelerate the adoption of this new strategy and ensure a fairly uniformed approach throughout the country need to be put in place. The blueprint is expected to be anchored on the concept of waste reduction, recycle and reuse, the guidelines for sorting, collection, treatment, transportation and disposal; penalties for contravention and incentives to local and states government for effective implementation.

Under the NDC, Nigeria outlines the country’s climate change priorities for the post-2020 period that include not only targets, but also concrete strategies for addressing the causes of climate change and responding to its effects.It includes an unconditional contribution to reduced GHG emissions by 20per cent by 2030, and a conditional contribution of 45per cent, based on international support. The five sectors targeted are agriculture and land use; energy; industry; oil and gas; and transport.
 
Key measures are: end gas flaring by 2030; off-grid solar PV of 13GW; efficient gas generators; two per cent per year energy efficiency (30per cent by 2030); transport shift car to bus; improve electricity grid; climate smart agriculture and reforestation.
     
Consequently, the government launched its first ever Green Bond in the last quarter of 2017, to fund a pipeline of projects all targeted at reducing emissions towards a greener economy. About N10.69 billion was raised in the first tranche while the second issuance is for N15 billion. The investment of the green bond on the national priorities such as providing electricity to 45 unserved communities, developing clean off grid power plant and planting seedlings in 131,000 hectares of land has not been felt and insinuations are rife on misapplication of the fund.
   
At the moment, there is a fresh controversy surrounding the implementation of the nation’s NDC as the harmony expected through the federal ministries is yet to be achieved. The commitments of the President Mohammadu Buhari in global stages notwithstanding, experts want the government to walk the talk by establishing an independent body like the National Climate Change Commission that will ensure multi-level and cross-sectoral climate change responses.

According to the environmentalists, Nigeria needs to rethink its policies by taking climate action towards sustainable development. They say, Nigeria must define policies to reduce the amount of “greenhouse” gases released into the atmosphere. The Niger Delta, for instance, contributes up to 27 per cent of global greenhouse gasses through gas flaring alone.
 
The experts stated that enforcing the reduction of gas flares is therefore a must. Where a company cannot comply with emission reduction immediately, let such offset its emissions through projects that lead to sequestration of carbon dioxide. A single tree is capable of absorbing up to 1020 kilogrammes of carbon dioxide over the course of its lifetime.

“The present ceremonial annual tree planting exercise could be converted to a systemic action to halt desert encroachment. The conservation of natural forests will aid carbon sequestration as well as provide other natural resources that support life. The production of charcoal is also taking a toll on the fragile woody plant populations and should be curtailed.”

The Communication Advisor, Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF), Paddy Ezealla, urged the government to tighten controls on fuel wood extraction from reserves and develop more efficient woodstoves and alternative energy sources. He also called for the expanding of the present network of national parks and services to cover major ecosystems.

For the immediate past Acting Director, Centre for Climate Change and Development, Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ebonyi State, Dr. Robert Onyeneke, the government should review and strengthen the enforcement aspects of the Environment Impact Assessment Act. He said, called for more concerted efforts to manage wastes, especially electronic waste. Onyeneke also made a case for livelihood support for the vulnerable people across the geo-political zones. The Executive Director, Initiatives for Nature and Human Development, Mr. Ayo Tella urged the government to establish a think thank group to advise it on major problems in the environment sector.


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