Global climate summit in Paris

The United Nations climate chief, Christiana Figueres (left); United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius; and President François Hollande of France after the Paris climate accord was adopted, recently COURTESY: CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON/EUROPEAN PRESS PHOTO AGENCY

The United Nations climate chief, Christiana Figueres (left); United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon; French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius; and President François Hollande of France after the Paris climate accord was adopted, recently COURTESY: CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON/EUROPEAN PRESS PHOTO AGENCY

THE success of the world climate conference by parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is worth celebrating. This is hinged, first, on the little or no chance of success widely given to the conference. And second, for the first time, every country in the world has pledged to curb emissions, strengthen resilience and join in common cause to take action on the climate. Nevertheless, the conference presents an opportunity for Africa as a continent, to look inward for a solution to its peculiar climate circumstances.

Prior to the conference, the world community had doubts if anything meaningful could come out of the conference dubbed COP21. Reasons: The planetary condition of global warming is largely a consequence of industrial production by the advanced global economies with embedded economic interest. On the other hand, the same path is the route not yet taken by the developing countries with ambition to reach the zenith of industrial production or remain doomed to their peripheral status in the global economy. These deep interests of the global community could only engender recalcitrance among nations.

The fact that progress was made in Paris despite pre-conference pessimism, is cheering. For 195 countries to agree on carbon reduction strategies, the Paris conference can be said to be forward looking on global action on climate change. Indeed, the agreement covers key areas such as mitigation, transparency in accounting for climate action, adaptation to changing climatic condition, recovering processes and financial support. The Kyoto protocol before it allowed for differentiated responsibility for the least developed countries and Small Island developing States. As the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon puts it, Cop21 opens “a new era of global cooperation on one of the most complex issues ever to confront humanity. For the first time, every country in the world has pledged to curb emissions, strengthen resilience and join in common cause to take common climate action. This is a resounding success for multilateralism.”

It marked the first time the real polluters, U.S., China, India and European Union are coming to terms with the reality and seeking ways to make amends. The U.S., generating about 15 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, pledged a cut by 26-28% between 2005 levels and 2025. China, the world’s chief polluter, accounting for about 27 per cent aims to cut its GHG per unit of gross domestic product by 60-65% from 2005 levels. India which accounts for seven per cent of the global carbon emission would reduce emissions intensity of its GDP by 33-35% by 2030 from the 2005 level.

Nevertheless, the significance of the Paris conference as well as the disquieting issues that are often undermined in the whole climate question need to be underlined. The global community has set for itself the prevention of global temperature from exceeding two degree Celsius over pre-industrial times (1760-1900) by the end of the present century. If the world does not do this, it risks catastrophic climate conditions – storms, cyclones, droughts, melting artic ice, ocean heat expansion – that would result in rising sea levels with dire consequence for coastline communities, food and fresh water. In ways that are ingenious, the Paris agreement set a somewhat new target based on the recognition that climate change is even now dangerous at 1.5 degree Celsius of warming, and therefore, should be the global target over the two degree Celsius previously agreed by governments. In addition, it espouses a net zero emissions attainable in the second half of the present century based on equity, “and in the context of sustainable development and efforts to eradicate poverty.”

It is arguable whether the African continent needs to be part of the global compact on climate. Those polluting the world are polluting the continent. Africa, therefore, ought not to be signatory to their protocols because it is not yet industrialised. It ought to be the business of the grand polluters – China, United States, India, European Union and other industrialised countries who have exhausted over 50 per cent of the global coal reserve in industrial production – to show concern about their injurious activities. Africa contributes nothing significant to the global carbon footprint. Some European countries are dumping nuclear waste in Africa. If Africa’s participation must be rationalised, this and other issues ought to have been raised by African leaders at the summit. Today, a compelling case for being at the summit is that Africa has about 80 per cent of the world arable land. By being part of the global pact to protect the climate, Africans can protect this world’s arable land if the world changes its attitude to climate protection. Africa is the continent with potential to feed the rest of the world.

Nigeria faces the problem of crude pollution and putrification. Of course, vehicles are also polluters. The country’s Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) submitted to the Paris conference expressed commitment to 20 per cent unconditional and 45 per cent conditional Greenhouse Gas (GHGs) emission reduction post-2020. The country’s carbon footprint per capita is less than 0.1 per cent. A paradigm shift is required. The rest of the world must cut down emission and preserve the continent. However, Africa must take its own preventive measures. The environment of many Nigerian cities in the past was a thing of pride. Replacing trees that have been cut down is imperative. Getting carbon out of the atmosphere is something that trees do naturally. Environmental elements have to be incorporated into building plans as a matter of national policy. Countries’ ability for credible policy implementation is the true test of their commitment to internationally spawned agreements.

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