Climate change: Facing the future together
The agreement which we hope to reach should be the most important milestone in tackling climate change since the Kyoto Protocol in 1997.
The work to achieve that agreement has already begun, and it is up to us to ensure that we create the momentum needed to finish the job.
June 17 is EU Climate Diplomacy Day, which gives us an important opportunity to reflect together on the magnitude of the global threat posed by climate change, the actions that different countries can take to tackle the problem, and how to increase public awareness.
As representatives of different European countries present in Nigeria, this is also a chance for us to consider how Nigeria can respond to that threat, and the assistance it may need. The EU has itself already made a strong commitment, promising that by 2030 we will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% based on 1990 levels.
Indeed, many European countries are going further, and will already have exceeded this target by the planned deadline.
There is widespread international agreement that action needs to be taken to limit the rise in global temperatures to less than two degrees.
In Paris, countries will be asked to commit to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions to meet this target. These commitments will not be externally imposed, but they should be realistic and ambitious, and include plans for delivery.
Around the world, developing and developed countries alike need to identify these targets and commit to delivering them. If we fail to take collective action, there is a serious risk that we will not deliver the changes needed to prevent that two degree rise.
There is clear evidence in Nigeria of the need for action. Encroaching desertification, flooding, coastal erosion, and changing weather patterns affecting agriculture – there is barely a part of Nigeria which hasn’t been affected by climate change.
It was, therefore, gratifying to hear President Buhari identify international engagement on climate change as a priority for Nigeria in his Inaugural Speech. As one of Africa’s leaders, Nigeria has an opportunity, and a responsibility, to encourage and support African partners in developing a progressive regional position.
That global engagement will need to be backed up with a clear national commitment. Nigeria is already developing its own national plan, and we urge the Nigerian government to set ambitious, concrete targets for reducing carbon dioxide emissions. We stand ready to assist in any way we can, in the development of that plan, and its implementation and monitoring.
As a developing country, with an economy dependent on oil, we recognise that addressing climate change in Nigeria will not be easy.
Electricity remains a scarce commodity and many households and enterprises rely on diesel-run generators – a solution that is as expensive as it is harmful for the environment. But this creates also opportunities for Nigeria, whose interest is to engage in sustainable ways of development.
Unchecked oil flaring in the Niger Delta produces massive amounts of carbon dioxide and wastes huge quantities of gas, which could be tapped and used to feed power stations.
Those stations would be cleaner burning, and would produce electricity which could reduce dependence on generators: a win both for greenhouse gas reduction and for economic growth, boosting employment and family incomes.
All this needs hard work and good policy, and won’t happen without support and assistance. EU countries have been working closely with Nigeria on climate change in a range of areas: from developing tools to monitor gas flaring and forecast future energy demands, to delivering policy advice, and renewable energy, agro forestry and land restoration pilot projects.
Through various European and national funding systems, we stand poised to work with the new government to help Nigeria deliver a response to climate change which will secure the wellbeing of its own citizens, as well as making a global impact.
The climate change clock is ticking. Let’s not sleep through the alarm call.
• HE M. Michel Arion is EU Ambassador to Nigeria;
•HE M. Denys Gauer is French Ambassador to Nigeria;
• HE Hr. Torben Gettermann is Danish Ambassador to Nigeria,
• HE Sir Andrew Pocock KCMG is British High Commissioner to Nigeria; and
HE Hr. Michael Zenner is German Ambassador to Nigeria.