Jennifer Uloma Igwe
The Nigerian Government has signed a potentially far-reaching agreement with three voluntary groups to guide the country’s response to a warming climate.
To effectively co-ordinate research and policy, the Special Climate Unit of the Federal Environment Ministry is to work with three non- governmental organizations in Nigeria and with the United Nations Development Programme.
The three NGOs are the Nigeria Environmental Study action team (NEST), Nigeria Climate Change Action Network (Nigeria-CAN) and the Heinrich Boll Foundation (HBF).
“The government has been calling on stakeholders to partner with it, by sharing their studies, findings and experiences. It is not what the government can do alone, it is a collective responsibility”says Peter Tarfa of the Special Climate Unit who represented the government at the signing at the United Nations office in Abuja.
He says checking climate change needs government and private sector partnership, and the signing shows it is working. The agreement will give birth to a National Adaptation Strategy and an Action Plan on climate change. It will also provide a mandate to integrate adaptation into key Federal and State policies and programmes. “This signing is saying to the world that we in Nigeria take this issue seriously.
The adaptation strategy is also part of our preparation for the UN’s Copenhagen climate conference in December”, says Ewah Elere of Nigeria-CAN. Professor David Okali, the former president of the Nigerian Academy of Sciences, is the chairman of NEST. “There have been so many efforts and activities to fight climate change in Nigeria, but they were not well coordinated and systematic”, he says.
“This signing signifies the first concerted approach.” The National Adaptation Strategy will develop a plan using existing and new tools that will bring about actions at the local and national levels. This will be done through stakeholder meetings and the formation of an advisory forum made up of the government, civil society, private sector and environmental groups.
They will assess the impact of climate change and adaptation to it in areas like agriculture, health, finance, energy and industrial infrastructure.
The Copenhagen climate change conference in December is the most important leaders’ gathering since the Kyoto Protocol was adopted in 1997. A new international climate deal is due to be agreed at Copenhagen that will come into force when the first phase of the Kyoto treaty expires in 2012. This could provide the international framework to combat climate change into the next decade and beyond.
It is therefore important that the world’s poorest are well represented. The 2007 Fourth Assessment Report of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change showed that Africa is more vulnerable to the impact of climate change than some parts of the develping world. A report published by NEST in 2004 said Nigeria is particularly vulnerable because its long coastline makes it prone to rises in sea level, increasing storms and floods.
There is also the possibility of increased drought and desertification in two-thirds of the country’s land mass, and a threat to food security and livelihoods because agriculture is rain-fed. Other impacts on Nigeria which could be exacerbated by changes in rain patterns and extreme weather include an increased threat from diseases such as malaria, cholera and cerebral-spinal meningitis.
Energy and industrial infrastructure are also liable to disruption by extreme weather.