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Amid rhetoric, climate change bites harder

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Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres. Photo: TWITTER/ANTONIOGUTTERES

“Dear friends of planet earth, thank you for coming to the United Nations Headquarters today. I have asked you here to sound the alarm. Climate change is the defining issue of our time, and we are at a defining moment. We face a direct existential threat. Climate change is moving faster than we are, and its speed has provoked a sonic boom SOS across our world,” that was how the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres alerted world leaders to what awaits mankind if it fails to act fast at the recently ended United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

In a speech dripping with dire concerns, he added: “If we do not change course by 2020, we risk missing the point where we can avoid runaway climate change, with disastrous consequences for people and all the natural systems that sustain us. That is why, today, I am appealing for leadership – from politicians, from business and scientists, and from the public everywhere. We have the tools to make our actions effective. What we still lack – even after the Paris Agreement – is the leadership and the ambition to do what is needed.

“Let there be no doubt about the urgency of the crisis. We are experiencing record-breaking temperatures around the world. According to the World Meteorological Organisation, the past two decades included 18 of the warmest years since 1850, when records began. This year is shaping up to be the fourth hottest. Extreme heatwaves, wildfires, storms and floods are leaving a trail of death and devastation,” he added. 

He said what makes the scenario even “more disturbing is that we were warned. Scientists have been telling us for decades. Over and over again. Far too many leaders have refused to listen. Far too few have acted with the vision the science demands. We see the results. In some situations, they are approaching scientists’ worst-case scenarios. Arctic sea ice is disappearing faster than we imagined possible. This year, for the first time, thick permanent sea ice north of Greenland began to break up. This dramatic warming in the Arctic is affecting weather patterns across the northern hemisphere. Wildfires are lasting longer and spreading further. Some of these blazes are so big that they send soot and ash around the world, blackening glaciers and ice caps and making them melt even faster.”

Guterres, who accused the world’s richest nations of being the most responsible for the climate crisis, which the effects are being felt first, and worst by the poorest nations and the most vulnerable peoples and communities, advised them to, not only cut their emissions, but do more to ensure that the most vulnerable can develop the necessary resilience to survive the damage these emissions are causing. 

He urged world leaders to be conscious of the fact that the time has come for them to show that “they care about the people whose fate they hold in their hands… We need cities and states to shift from coal to solar and wind – from brown to green energy… We need clean energy from water, wind and sun. We must halt deforestation, restore degraded forests and change the way we farm. We need to embrace the circular economy and resource efficiency…”

Across the world, oceans are becoming more acidic, thereby threatening the foundation of the food chains that sustain life, just as deadly greenhouse gas emissions are on the rise. In the face of all these, the need to swiftly shift away from dependence on fossil fuels is becoming more compelling. 

Within the country, thousands are daily being sacked by floods, which have ravaged hundreds of communities, with the latest to be at the receiving end being Niger State, where the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), last Wednesday disclosed that 2, 714 houses have so far been destroyed, and 10 lives lost.

Scenarios like this, perhaps forced 16-year-old environmental and climate activist from Sweden, Greta Thunberg to shame world leaders at the recently concluded UNGA when she, in her velvety voice roared; “This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be standing here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to me for hope? How dare you!

“You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing.

“We are in the beginning of a mass extinction. And all you can talk about is money and fairytales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!

Thunberg, who kick-started an international movement of climate strikes when she solitarily skipped school to protest climate change outside the Swedish parliament added; “for more than 30 years, the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away and come here saying that you are doing enough when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight. With today’s emissions levels, our remaining CO2 budget will be gone in less than 8.5 years.

“You say you ‘hear’ us and that you understand the urgency. But no matter how sad and angry I am, I don’t want to believe that. Because if you fully understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil. And I refuse to believe that.”

In different regions and countries, efforts are being made to save the earth from the looming crisis, even though the needed result appears to still be aeons away.

On the one hand, technology is gradually being called to aid steps geared at containing climate change, while the rise of renewable energy is equally playing a vital role in this regard.

For instance, China last year invested $126b in renewable energy. This was a 30 percent increase over the previous year. 

Sweden is on the verge of hitting its 2030 target for renewable energy this year. This would be a feat achieved 12 years ahead of schedule. 

Also heartwarming is the fact that by 2030, wind and solar energy could power more than a third of Europe. 

Not long ago, Scotland opened the world’s first floating wind farm, while on the African scene, Morocco is building a solar farm, which is the size of Paris, the capital of France. When completed, this will power more than one million homes by 2020 with clean, affordable energy. 

Other signs of hope, include the fact that countries rich in fossil fuels, like the Gulf States and Norway, are exploring ways to diversify their economies, just as Saudi Arabia is investing heavily in renewables to help it move from an oil economy to an energy economy.

Norway’s $1t-dollar sovereign wealth fund – the largest in the world – has moved away from investments in coal and has done away with a number of palm and pulp-paper companies because of the forests they destroy.

On December 18, 2017, Nigeria became the first African country to issue a certified sovereign green bond, and world’s fourth sovereign issuer of green bonds. The N10.69b Sovereign Green Bond was, however, the world’s first fully-certified sovereign green bond.

Green bonds, which are also known as climate bonds, are fixed income securities issued to finance projects that have positive impacts on the environment.

While speaking at the launch of a book, “From Summits to Solutions: Innovations in Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals” at the United Nations Headquarters in New York, the UN Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, the country’s immediate past Minister of Environment, who is among the co-authors of the book’s 15 chapters, in conjunction with Simon Zadek, a former co-director of UN Environment’s Inquiry on Sustainable Finance explained that Chapter Three of the book entitled, “From Green Bonds to Sustainable Development: The Case of Nigeria,” offers a personal perspective on how Nigeria came to launch its first green bond as an innovative financing tool to tackle the country’s intersecting economic, social, environmental, and security challenges.

Last June, it emerged that the country’s second Sovereign Green Bond yielded over 220 per cent subscription rate, according to the Debt Management Office (DMO), which also informed that the results of the offer for N15b yielded a total subscription value of N32.93b.

The DMO equally said that the number of subscribers doubled when compared to the figure for the first issue, adding that the number of individual retail investors, who subscribed for the second Sovereign Green Bond also “more than doubled.”

Proceeds of the second Green Bond offer were to be used to finance some approved projects in the 2018 Appropriation Act, including those that would contribute to the realisation of the country’s commitments to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

The projects include off-grid solar and wind farms, irrigation, afforestation, and reforestation, as well as ecological restoration.

Last Tuesday, the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) listed the N15b Green Bond, which had a coupon rate of 14.50 percent on June 13, 2019 and is due to mature on June 13, 2026.

Apart from the green bonds, the Federal Government also plans to deploy indigenous technologies to tackle climate change in the country.

The Director, Department of Climate Change, Federal Ministry of Environment, Dr. Peter Tarfa, who made the disclosure at a two-day School of Ecology, organised by Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), and ETC Group in Abuja, recently said the government would undertake an assessment of technological needs of the people and utilise climate funds for its development.

At the event, which attracted civil society, scientists, legal practitioners, faith-based organisations and some African countries including Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Togo, South Africa, Cote d’Ivoire, Uganda, and Cameroon, Tarfa told The Guardian that the ministry would embark on a scooping mission to know available indigenous knowledge and technology, which can be applied, based on some traditional long-time observations.

He explained that the government has already put structures in the six geopolitical zones to involve youths in climate matters, adding that 60 youths are expected in Abuja soon as part of the programme.

“We see them as strategic stakeholders, and we would want to tap their energy, inventive and creativity to bring on a platform. Mr. President wants them to be in environmental or climate owners.”

The Director of HOMEF, Nnimmo Bassey called on the government to interrogate technologies, adding that efforts to enhance the efficiency of nature have led to the loss of species.

According to him, humans have practiced traditional biotechnology, while the commercialisation of genetically engineered organisms was barely three-decade-old.

He added that contemporary global technology fetish makes it difficult for citizens to question anything techie, and there is machinery for deep-sea mining that would have an impact on marine ecosystems.

At the end of the meeting, the participants called for the establishment of an African Technology Assessment Platform (AfriTAP), which would bring together civil society groups working together to track, understand and assess the implications of emerging technologies. They also declared that African governments should urgently diversify national economies away from dependence on fossil fuels and transit to renewable energy for all, owned and controlled by people.

“Governments should shift their focus from industrial agriculture as a solution to the world food and climate crisis, to agroecology; invest in research on agroecology and support small scale farmers with the provision of extension service along with infrastructural resources,” they added.


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