Nigeria, at climate summit, makes pledge on gas flaring

NIGERIA yesterday made a strong commitment to the world on the contentious issue of gas flaring just as the rift between negotiators from the developing and developed countries has closed, with substantial progress made, leading to a possible climate change deal. In short, the leaders may sign an agreement on this today.

Nigeria’s commitment was made by President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, represented by Foreign Affairs Minister, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, at a special Climate Change Investment Forum which held yesterday in Copenhagen, Denmark

Addressing the stakeholders, including investors, Maduekwe said: “Nigeria will deliver on time concerning the issues of gas flaring. This is the commitment that I have been mandated to bring to the world here.

Fears have been raised in the country that enough funds are not being allocated to effectively tackle the implications of climate change. Besides the nation’s focal desk, the Ministry of Environment, for instance, got only N10 billion in this year’s budget. But there is currently a bill in the National Assembly for an Act to set up a National Climate Change Commission (NCCC).

The minister, who is leading Nigeria’s delegation to the talks, said the country is working synergistically with appropriate Nigerian ministries and agencies in concert with the development partners to ensure that it is now on the same page with the rest of the world.

He said: “…In the next couple of days, we will witness the triumph of green diplomacy. What the world is facing has been referred to as existential threat but I say it is an apocalypse. It is an apocalypse now and in the next few days, there is no doubt a deal would be struck… So, Nigeria is making a major commitment on the vexed issued of gas flare reduction, which has for sometime been subject of international criticism against our country.”

On the Nigerian delegation are the Petroleum Minister Rilwanu Lukman, his Environment counterpart, John Odey, as well as the Minister of State for Energy Development and Power, Nuhu Wya.

Also present at yesterday’s forum were three state governors, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan (Delta), Timipre Sylva (Bayelsa) and Liyel Imoke (Cross River) as well as the Senate Committee Chairperson on Environment and Ecology, Grace Folashade Bent and her House of Representatives counterpart, Eziuche Ubani.

Speaking on Nigeria’s current position on the negotiation table earlier, Odey, who is the chief negotiator, said: “Throughout the plenary session, we took on the Kyoto Protocol issue and later on, the issue of Long-Term Co-operative Agreement (LCA) was discussed. As far as we are concerned, the mandate of the conference is being upheld. We also considered the issue of emission reduction targets by the developed countries and Nigeria made its commitment as has been announced after turning all the sides of the knotty issues.”

Ruminating on the climate change priorities for Nigeria on the domestic front, Lukman said: “There is a move towards diversifying the Nigerian economy and making the oil sector much more supportive than other sectors of the economy. Our commitment on gas flaring is demonstrated by the West African gas line project…”

Also on the progress of the on-going negotiations in Copenhagen, Lukman remarked: “…The world has the responsibility to ensure sustainable environment not only for our survival but that of our children and up-coming generations. That is why we have called for the support of China and India for Africa’s course at this particular climate change conference… We see now that the developing countries must co-operate to push for a fair position that will cater for various interests. The developed countries must consider the challenges imposed on the developing countries by climate change and work toward assuaging these concerns…

“I want to assure all that the Federal Government is determined to deal frontally with the issue of stopping gas flaring from the oil production process. Apart from the need to comply with the international requirements, Nigeria sees the effort to cut down on gas flaring as a national obligation to check the health and economic hazards resulting from it.”

In the meantime, the 2009 Nobel Laureate, Elinor Ostrom, former United States President Bill Clinton and Wangari Mathaai have said that climate change conference gives an opportunity to global policy-makers to take action that will protect world’s forests.

According to a statement yesterday by the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), though opportunities to use forest for change adaptation and mitigation are exceptionally good, it cautioned that many challenges still lie ahead.

Ostrom, who received the Nobel Prize for Economics in Oslo last week, made a passionate call for local communities to be fully recognised as a part of the process for developing and implementing Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+).

She said: “There is a risk that the process will become far too ‘top down’. Simple formulae may sound good, but they don’t have the desired result. Such has been the case, for example, with the classical top-down approach of establishing government protected forest areas. Far more effective are approaches that gain the trust of forest communities, respect their rights, and involve them in forest use and monitoring, practices that are positively associated with maintenance of forest density.”

Participants also emphasised the role forests should play in helping communities adapt to climate change. There is a lack of awareness about how ecosystem-based adaptation can be a cost-effective solution to climate-induced environmental stress. CIFOR stressed that synergies need to be sought between the role of forests as agents of climate change mitigation and their role in adaptation. There was wide support for a “Marshall Plan” for forest-based adaptation.

Commenting via a video address, Clinton said that the global community must give more attention to helping poor communities adapt to climate change already underway. “None of this will be easy, or it would have been done before. But it can be done,” he said.

Participants also urged caution. Many challenges lie ahead if REDD+ is to be successfully implemented, according to the principles of the 3Es: Efficiency, Effectiveness and Equity. In voting sessions, delegates saw a lack of equity as a major barrier to successfully implementing REDD+.

A senior scientist at CIFOR, Markku Kanninen, noted: “The poll highlights the challenges ahead for implementing REDD+. Those include the need to protect the rights of local and indigenous communities, and ensure a fair distribution of benefits.”

Concerns were also raised about how corruption in tropical forest countries might affect the efficiency and equity of REDD+ implementation.

On his part, Director-General of CIFOR, Frances Seymour, said: “Discussions at Forest Day highlighted the need for broad-based participation in REDD+ schemes. Forestry ministries cannot achieve forest emission reductions without the cooperation of ministries covering areas such as agriculture, mining, planning and finance. Local governments and communities also have critical roles to play in the design and implementation.”

REDD+ seeks to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by directly compensating countries for cutting their deforestation rates. As currently envisioned, REDD+ could potentially see the transfer of $15 billion to $25 billion yearly from developed to forest-rich developing countries. These funds would be used to implement policies to control the drivers of deforestation and degradation and to compensate forest owners for foregoing income available from converting forests to other uses. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), land conversion and deforestation emits around 1.7 billion tonnes of carbon yearly, more than 17 per cent of all global emissions. If properly managed, tropical forests could absorb as much as one billion tonnes of carbon per year and preserve habitats for thousands of plant and animal species.

Seymour added: “It’s now clear that without action on forest-related emissions, the international community has no chance of keeping global warming below the two degree threshold. Exceeding that threshold would have catastrophic implications for hundreds of millions of people. Reaching a deal on forests could buy time for other emissions measures to come on stream.”

REDD+ is seen as a crucial part of a new global climate pact, and there is increasing convergence among decision-makers and interest groups over how the mechanism should be implemented at the national level and below. A major outcome of FD3 has been to contribute to the building of consensus among the broad range of actors in the forest sector and beyond on how REDD+ can be successfully implemented globally and nationally to ensure it contributes to climate mitigation and sustainable forest management and development.

Seymour hinted that with a potential agreement on the horizon, and a growing consensus about what needs to be done, the forestry community is now mobilising to realise the potential of REDD+ on the ground.



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