Rio+20: Nigeria explores ‘green deal’

By Michael Simire Deputy Editor, Sunday

What does Nigeria’s future look like when the oil runs out? How can Nigeria transition from fossil fuel to clean energy? Where would green jobs be created? What will happen if the country does not squarely deal with the ravages of climate change?

These are among a number of puzzles that participants at a daylong forum last week in Abuja sought to unravel. They had gathered on Wednesday at the instance of the Heinrich Böll Foundation, which officially unveiled its study titled “Green Deal Nigeria” at an interactive workshop. The study was launched as the country prepares for the 20th anniversary of the Earth Summit (United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20) next month.

According to observers, Nigeria’s ambition to become one of the world’s top 20 economies by the year 2020 means that the country must grow its economy, create jobs and promote social cohesion without destroying its natural resources and thus harming the well-being of future generations.

However the “Green Deal Nigeria” study provides an overview and practical examples of how to green Nigeria before 2020 and explains the long-term measures that Nigeria needs to take today to make the economy grow beyond oil, which experts predict will finish for all practical purposes in 15 to 20 years’ time.

The study explains how climate change should be regarded as an underlying factor for some of the intensifying conflicts in Nigeria, and how a clean energy economy that provides growth for ordinary Nigerians, can help to reduce tension.

“Nigeria is in an unusual position compared to other sub-Saharan African countries as it contributes to global warming through massive gas flaring and bush burning, whilst enduring desertification, sea level rise and extreme weather events that contribute to land degradation and intensify conflict,” said Christine K, who heads the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Nigeria.

According to her, the dialogue engaged government decision-makers ahead of the global summit in the bid to challenge and inspire key ministries and departments with developing strategic programmes targeted at job creation, resource governance and climate change adaptation strategies, especially for youth and women.

The Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) voiced their visions of where they would like Nigeria to be, even as they formulated steps towards achieving such visions after the global summit.

As world leaders, private sector players, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), CSOs and several others gather in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil to chart a path towards reducing world poverty, advancing social equity and ensuring environmental protection, two main themes will be central to the discussion: a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication; and the institutional framework of sustainable development.

Participants at the Abuja event insisted that Nigeria, now more than ever, needs to envision a more vibrant future that is diversified and evolved beyond the limits of a one-resource oil economy. The issue of sustainable development, they noted, permeates every aspect of the Nigerian economic development as questions of food security, high youth unemployment and incessant threats to national security continue to dominate the public sphere.

“Ethno-religious tensions in the North, terrorism and on-going militancy in the Niger Delta are indicative of the extremism bred from long-standing public exclusion in national affairs,” noted Christine, adding that the January 2012 fuel subsidy strike served as a wakeup call to government proving that although fractured, Nigeria’s civil society would not stand by idle where policy decisions continue to marginalise vulnerable groups in the society.

Lead author of “Green Deal Nigeria,” Hans Verlome, said: “In our view, business-as-usual in not an option, a Green Deal Nigeria is not a luxury, but rather a necessity! Those who benefit from the current system might say let’s look at the problem in 10 years when Nigeria is richer, but will it be?

“The aspiration of the government to lift Nigeria up economically and be a member of the G20 in 2020 might be ambitious, but will be unmanageable without a transformation of social and environmental problems in 2020. Finally, it is clear values matter, so what are Nigeria’s values?”

The study also contains topics such as “The transformation from fossil fuel to green energy” (written by Lois Laraba Machunga and Zumunta Machunga-Disu), “Energy Access for all: The role of clean energy in alleviating energy poverty,” “Climate change and conflict – Green economy to promote human security” (Huzi Mshelia), and “Nigeria’s agriculture and food security challenges (Chinedum Nwajiuba).

Source: Daily Independent