Battling Climate Change

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The world over, global warming has become a common phenomenon. The impact of climate change on Planet Earth has devastating in recent times with series of hurricane, floods, gale force winds among others, leaving death and destruction in its wake. In Africa, the situation is worse because the continent’s governments have not been proactive and alive to their responsibilities to the people. In a bid to mitigate the impact of climate change on the continent, African Mayors, Local Government Authorities met in Lagos, southwest Nigeria, last week to find lasting solutions to the problem. Senior Staff Writer, Kazeem Ugbodaga, was at the event.

 

In the wee hours of 10 July, 2011 in Lagos State, southwest Nigeria, torrential rainfall lasting for over 15 hours descended on the metropolis. When it finally stopped, it left behind tales of anguish, pains and sorrow as several lives were lost and properties estimated at billions of naira were lost.

In August, Ibadan, Oyo State, southwest Nigeria came under a rain storm that lasted hours and wreaked havoc on the ancient town. Over 100 people were reported killed in the flood while properties worth billions of naira were also destroyed.

The rains that hit Lagos and Ibadan had never been witnessed in the two densely populated areas. Climatic experts had predicted that heavy downpour should be expected but the magnitude of the rainfall and the extent of damage to properties and lives in the two cities was never expected.

In some countries in Africa, flood, severe drought, among others are frequent occurrences. These happenings are nothing but the impact of climate change. The world is still battling to mitigate its impact. As countries in Europe, America and others adopt strategies aimed at mitigating the effects of climate change, Africa cannot afford to be left behind.

It was in a bid to tackle and mitigate the impact of climate change that the Lagos State Government in partnership with the ICLEI Africa hosted a Mayoral Climate Change Congress in Lagos last week at the Eko Hotel and Suites, Victoria Island, Lagos.

The theme of the congress was: Building Climate Change Resilient African Cities: Climate Proofing Africa on the Road to COP 17. It was a forum where Mayors and Local Council Chairmen across Sub-Saharan Africa came to share experience and best practices in responding to the challenge of climate change. This is with a view to defining an agenda for negotiations at the up-coming COP-17 Conference in Durban, South Africa.

The Congress had in attendance about 600 participants comprising Mayors from West African countries, members of the diplomatic corps, traditional rulers, senior civil servants from federal, state, and local governments, political office holders, members of the academia, people from the private sector, national and international experts in climate change, non-government organisations and environmentalists, among others.

Speaking at the congress, Mr Robin Gwynn, British Deputy High Commissioner to Nigeria said the United Kingdom, UK, had a legal binding commitment to reduce its emissions by 50% by 2025 and 80% by 2050, adding that his country would be working internationally to ensure that flows of both public and private finance for climate change activities were scaled up.

“The UK is willing to consider a Kyoto Protocol second commitment period in the context of a wider outcome involving all major economies and provided environmental integrity issues are resolved and there is an agreement to new market mechanisms and improvement to existing ones,” he said.

Mr. Patrick Kormawa, a representative of the United Nations Industrial Organization, UNIDO emphasized the need for developing countries in general and African countries in particular to take the issues of climate change and efficient management of energy seriously in the interest of the sustainable development of their economies.

He outlined the many benefits which these countries stood to gain by adopting a low carbon economy, including lower carbon emissions, job creation, and environmental sustainability, while also outlining UNIDO’s integrated energy related services, which addressed the challenge of climate change.

These, he said, included providing access to modern energy services with emphasis on renewable energy, increasing productivity and competitiveness through energy efficiency projects and capacity building projects for reducing Green House Gas emissions.

In her keynote address, Hajia Hadiza Mailafia, Nigeria’s Minister of the Environment outlined Africa’s vulnerability to climate change in the key sectors of water, energy, health, agriculture and human security, while emphasising the need for world leaders to demonstrate the political will to face the challenges of global warming and take up the responsibility of emission reduction.

Represented by Dr. Adejare Adejuwon, Head, Special Climate Change Unit of the Federal Ministry of Environment, the minister said that adaptation was a key concern for African countries and that for this, they needed both finance and technology. She urged African countries to actively participate in the international climate change negotiations.

She stated that Nigeria, along with other African countries, adhered to the Bali Plan of Action and would negotiate for a strong political commitment by key developed countries for a second period under the Kyoto Protocol.

Mailafia urged African leaders to demand for a long-term financing of adaptation and mitigation activities through the prompt operationalisation of the Green Climate Fund, while they should integrate their climate change activities.

Speaking at the congress, Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State charged leaders across all geographical locations to think of establishing resettlement centres to prepare against eventualities of dislocation by natural disasters.

The governor said Lagos State had been very pro-active in that respect by constructing a resettlement centre in Epe where it relocated victims of natural disasters just as it will commence construction an additional one in Igando in Alimosho area.

According to him “from New York to Mumbai, Lagos to Mississippi, Ibadan to Pakistan, Japan to Australia, thousands of human lives and billions of Dollars worth of property have perished with it, including farmlands which provide our major source of sustenance.

“All these have happened in peace time, without war. This is the reality that we face; an enemy whose army is not known, a force created by our own actions and inactions that is taking human lives almost at will through extreme weather conditions such as drought, flood, severe winter, tsunami, hurricanes, earthquakes and typhoons.

He explained that the evidence of the threat of climate change was real, adding that at a time when the local economy was struggling to come out of recession, the last thing that the people could afford was a continuous and unpredictable damage to life sustaining infrastructure such as roads, bridges, power supply and farmlands.

In the interactive technical training sessions, a number of papers were presented including Local Climate Change Perspectives –Building Resilience to Climate Change in a Rapidly Urbanizing World; Global Climate Perspectives; West African Regional Climate Change Perspectives-Institutional Capacity and Policy Dialogue; Adaptation and Building Resilience and Eco-Profit and Mitigation: Forum for Dialogue and Services on Efficient Use of Resources.

Others are Climate Change and Energy Efficiency; Practical Steps To Addressing Climate Change at the Municipal Level; The role of Civil Society in localizing Climate Smart Actions; Domesticating the Global Gender and Climate Change Framework: Civil Society Organizations as Key Actors; Empowering Communities Facing Climate Change: Challenges and Opportunities; Climate Change Mitigation and Energy Efficiency; Role and Commitment of Mayors on Climate Adaption and Mitigation.

The participants observed that climate change is impacting and would continue to impact virtually every aspect of human life and that ICLEI has developed the Adaptation Database and Planning Tool (ADAPT), an online interactive tool to facilitate the building of resilience to climate change at local level while the Economic Community of West African States has an environmental policy. Pillar II of this policy is Strategic Action Plan for Adaptation to Climate Change. A Climate Change Unit has been established to implement the Action Plan.

After two days of deliberation, the congress recommended that all African mayors and Local Government Chairmen should endorse the African Mayors climate change declaration drafted on the occasion of the local climate solutions for Africa 2011 congress in Cape Town, South Africa.

It encouraged African mayors who had not yet done so to sign the declaration and also encourage all African cities and Local Governments to continue to seek for new and additional knowledge, including the best available scientific, economic, and technical information on climate change and its impacts.

The participants wanted African Mayors and Local Government to emphasize the role of women youth and other vulnerable groups in the Implementation Action Plan on climate change. And that West African Countries should ensure the inclusion of mayors and Local Government Chairmen in national negotiation teams with their capacity appropriately developed for negotiations.

They further resolved that there was the need to build resilience to climate change in virtually every aspect of human life and that Local Governments should partner with Civil Society Organizations (CSO) in their climate change adaption activities, while national and sub-national governments must involve local governments in international climate change negotiations and the design of climate change adaptation strategies.

The congress urged West African governments to support adequate decentralization of climate change governance process to support local mitigation and adaptation to enhance the resilience of African cities while developing the potential of African countries to respond to the various opportunities available in climate changes.

It was also resolved that African leaders should engage a team of experts to carry out hands on training on climate change adaptation methods tailored to the needs of individual communities as well as the need for attitudinal change and leaders to have political will and formulate as well as implement policies around sustainable development in all facets of human endeavours.

The participants added that there was need to promote networking and integration of gender in climate change issues across the continent of Africa, and that civil societies, women, youths and children at local government level, as advocates of the people, should be carried along and effectively utilized in awareness creation, public education and community mobilization.