The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a collection of 17 global goals set by the United Nations in 2015. These 17 Goals build on the successes of the Millennium Development Goals, while including new areas such as climate change, economic inequality, innovation, sustainable consumption, peace and justice, among other priorities. Unlike the MDGs, the SDG framework does not distinguish between “developed” and “developing” nations. The goals are interconnected – often the key to the success of one will involve tackling issues more commonly associated with another.
Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations Secretary General from 2007 to 2016, stated that “We don’t have plan B because there is no planet B”. This thought has guided the development of the SDGs. On 25 September 2015, 193 countries of the United Nations Assembly adopted the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda titled “Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”. This agenda has 92 paragraphs. Paragraph 51 outlines the 17 SDGs and the associated 169 targets. Achieving all 169 targets would signal the accomplishment of all 17 goals.
The SDGs work in the spirit of partnership and pragmatism to make the right choices now to improve life, in a sustainable way, for future generations. They provide clear guidelines and targets for all countries to adopt in accordance with their own priorities and the environmental challenges of the world at large. The SDGs are an inclusive agenda. They tackle the root causes of poverty and unite us together to make a positive change for both people and the planet. United Nations Development Program Administrator Achim Steiner said. “The Agenda offers a unique opportunity to put the whole world on a more prosperous and sustainable development path…”
Goal 13: Climate Action
There is no gainsaying that man depends on his environment for his existence and sustenance such that man’s life is shaped by his environment and this underscores the need for protection of the environment from all forms of degradation, especially those caused by man. Climate change is now affecting every country on the continent. It is disrupting national economies and affecting lives costing people, communities and countries dearly today and even more tomorrow. It represents an enormous threat to a host of human rights: the right to food; the right to water and sanitation; and the right to development.
It was Pope Francis that amplified the potential human rights abuse perspectives of climate change when he addressed the UN General Assembly in September 2015, and said: “Ecological destruction could place the human species in danger of extinction”.
People are experiencing the significant impacts of climate change, which include changing weather patterns, rising sea levels and other extreme weather events. The greenhouse gas emissions from human activities thatdrive climate change continue to rise and are now at their highest levels in history. Without action, the world’s average surface temperature is projected to rise over this century and is likely to surpass 3 degrees Celsius – with some areas of the world expected to warm even more. From a subsistent farmer in the Northern part of Nigeria to a businessman in London, climate change is affecting everyone, especially the poor and vulnerable as well as marginalized groups like women, children and the elderly. It is an issue that requires solutions that need to be coordinated at the international level and it requires international cooperation to steer developing countries toward a low-carbon economy.
Affordable and scalable solutions are now available to enable countries to have a jump-start to cleaner, more resilient economies. The pace of change is quickening as more people are turning to renewable energy and a range of other measures that will reduce emissions and increase adaptation efforts.
The targets of goal 13 are to strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries; integrate climate change measures into national policies, strategies and planning; improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning; implement the commitment undertaken by developed country parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to a goal of mobilizing jointly $100 billion annually by 2020 from all sources to address the needs of developing countries in the context of meaningful mitigation actions and transparency on implementation and fully operationalize the Green Climate Fund, through its capitalization, as soon as possible; Promote mechanisms for raising capacity for effective climate-change related planning and management in least developed countries and Small Island Developing States(SIDS), including focusing on women, youth and local and marginalized communities.
It is now commonly used as both a technical description of the process as well as noun used to describe the problem. It is commonly referred to as Global warming; it is the observed century-scale rise in the average temperature of the Earth’s climate system and its related effects such as increasing global temperatures, rising sea levels, changing precipitation and expansion of deserts in the subtropics.
In 2013, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report concluded “It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century”. The largest human influence is evident in the emission of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. Other human activities that contribute to global warming are: Global changes to land surface, such as deforestation and increasing atmospheric concentrations of aerosols.
It is noteworthy that not only humans are affected by the effects of climate change. Warming ocean temperatures are increasing the frequency of coral reef bleaching and outbreak of infectious diseases. Additionally, carbon dioxide absorbed into the ocean from the atmosphere have already begun to lead to ocean acidification; warmer, drier weather means that forests in some regions are no longer recovering from wildfires and wildlife habitats around the world are becoming less hospitable to animals.
Climate change is having economic and socio-political effects too. The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) of the UN has warned that hunger in Africa is being made worse by impacts of climate change. 224 million people are now reportedly under-nourished on the continent, an increase of over 20 million in the recent years. Rising temperatures and a greater prevalence of droughts across the continent have led to repeated crop failures. Cases abound in South Sudan, Somalia and the Central African Republic where the spate in hunger and food insecurity can directly be linked to climate change with its attendant floods, droughts and crop failures.
Additionally, there is a latent growth in the first set of climate refugees as people are displaced by rising sea levels, melting Arctic permafrost and other extreme weather. The internal displacement of over eight million people in thirty-two districts in Bangladesh owing to moonsoon floods, in September 2017 is an example. Also in Iqaluit, Canada; climate change has destabilized the housing market around the Arctic thereby making good housing evasive and expensive.
International Agreements on Climate Action
At the very heart of the response to climate change, however, lies the need to reduce emissions. In 2010, governments agreed that emissions needed to be reduced so that global temperature increases are limited to below 2 degrees Celsius.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is the main agreement on climate action. It was one of the three conventions adopted at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. To date, it has been ratified by 195 countries. It started as a way for countries to work together to limit global temperature increases and climate change and to cope with their impacts.
By 1995, countries realized that emission reduction provisions in the Convention were inadequate. Thus, they launched negotiations to strengthen the global response to climate change. The brainchild was the Kyoto Protocol that was adopted in 1997. It legally binds developed countries to emission reduction targets.
Recognizing that developed countries are principally responsible for the current high levels of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere because of more than 150 years of industrial activity, the Protocol places a heavier burden on developed nations under the principle of “common but differentiated responsibilities”.
There are now 192 Parties to the Protocol. It entered into force on 16 February 2005. Since then, the Parties to the Protocol have continued the negotiations and have amended the Protocol to achieve more ambitious results by 2030. The Protocol adopts mechanisms to stimulate green investment and help parties meet their emission targets in a cost-effective way; this is viewed as an important first step towards a truly global emission reduction regime.
The Paris Agreement
The Paris Agreement builds upon the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) and for the first time. brings all nations into a common cause to undertake ambitious efforts to combat climate change, adapt to its effects through nationally determined contributions (NDCs) and to strengthen these efforts starting in the year 2020, with enhanced support to assist developing countries to do so. The level of NDCs set by each country will set that country’s targets. As such, it charts a new course in the global climate effort.
A watershed is the CNN News Report of September 3rd, 2016 showcasing the signing of Paris Climate agreement by both the United States and China which sought to cut carbon emissions by half within the next fifteen years. This endorsement is significant because the USA and China are said to account for about 40% global emission. It entered into force on 4 November 2016, thirty days after the date on which at least 55 Parties to the Convention accounting in total for at least an estimated 55% of the total greenhouse gas emissions had deposited their instruments of ratification. As of June 2018, 195 UNFCC members have signed the agreement, and 178 have become party to it. The central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change. In addition, it aims to strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change. These aims will supposedly to be achieved through appropriate financing, new technological framework, and an enhanced capacity building framework to help developing countries align with their national objectives. The Agreement also provides for transparency through a robust framework.
Climate Change in Nigeria
Nigeria is recognized as being vulnerable to climate change. Climate change if left unchecked will cause adverse effects on livelihoods in Nigeria. Nigeria is already experiencing adverse climate conditions with negative impacts on the welfare of millions of people. Persistent droughts and flooding, off season rains and dry spells have sent growing seasons out of orbit in a country dependent on a rain fed agriculture. The reality now is that Nigerians are going to be caught between the “devil of drought” and “the deep blue seas of flood”. The red flags are already evident with lakes drying up and a reduction in river flow in the arid and semi-arid regions. The result is reduced water supplies for use in agriculture and hydro power generation. This does not bode well for Nigeria as a nation.
Nigeria like other countries of the world has had its own experience of climate change disasters like the one that struck about 25 years ago in the North-Eastern region presently comprising Borno and Yobe States. Lake Chad, which was formerly the sixth largest river in Africa, has literally gone from an oasis in the desert to being just a desert. It has contracted by a massive 95% since the 1960s. According to United Nations Environment Program, about half of the shrinkage of the traditionally shallow Lake Chad has been caused by climatic changes and the other half by high demand for agricultural water. Water scarcity intensified by climate change completes a conflict cocktail that includes surging populations, the spread of disease, oppression and corruption. Poor human management through overgrazing and unsustainable irrigation has resulted in deforestation and drying of the climate.
Growing desertification has forced thousands of Fulani herdsmen to move to the south and middle belt leading to clashes with crop farmers culminating in the death of hundreds. There has been public outcry across Nigeria over the killings orchestrated by the ravaging Fulani herdsmen while the killings and massacres have continued unabated. From Benue, through Taraba, to Nasarawa, up to Adamawa, Plateau and down to Delta, Ebonyi, Kogi etc; these herdsmen are shoving people to their early graves with a bestial spirit and brute savagery. It is estimated that over 1,351 persons have been killed.
One of the greatest impacts of climate change is the worsening condition of extreme weather events like drought, flood, and rain-storms, among many others. The frequency and magnitude of wind and rainstorms did not only increase, they also killed 1999 people and destroyed property worth N85.03 billion in Nigeria between 1992 and 2007. As at July 2017, Lagos and Suleja in Niger State were substantially flooded; man-made factors such as the deficiencies in the implementation and enforcement of urban/town planning laws came into play alongside the forces of nature to unleash these floods which equally can be traced to the effects of the climate change production.
Climate change has already begun and will continue impacting negatively on agriculture and food security, especially in tropical regions like Nigeria because of greenhouse gas emissions. Research shows that climate change has led to a shift in crops cultivated in Northern Nigeria. Another major problem is the reduction of arable lands; the sea incursion is reducing the arable land of the coastal plains. In addition, the frequent droughts and lesser rains have started shortening the growing season thereby causing crop failure and food shortage.
This poverty, economic frailty, drought and environmental degradation has provided a fertile ground for non-state armed groups such as Boko Haram to contest state authority across the region.
Recognizing the consequences and adverse impact of climate change on Nigeria, the country joined the global community to adopt treaties meant to tackle climate change. Nigeria became a party to the UNFCC in 1992 and ratified the Convention in 1994. It also became a party to the Kyoto Protocol in 2004. Nigeria ratified the Paris Agreement (PA) in March 2017, which was approved by the UNFCC on 16 May 2017 and entered into force on 15th June 2017. In addition, the Nigerian Government established the Department of Climate Change in the Federal Ministry of Environment to serve as the vehicle for driving National Climate Action efforts.
Policy makers in Nigeria need to understand how climate change acts as a threat multiplier and to address this on a policy and operational manner. Policies such as the idea of using carbon sinks to soak up carbon dioxide should be adopted: There should be reforestation. In addition, there should be reduction of consumption of fossil fuels like oil, gas or carbon. The government should seek to go green and also provide the requisite funding for the implementation of these policies.
In addition, there is the need to establish better-equipped weather stations as against the scanty and ill-equipped ones we currently have in Nigeria. With these, accurate weather forecast and predictions will be possible and this will help to prevent weather-related disasters through early warning and effective response system. There should also be partnerships with private sector committed to quick realization of this objective. Also, the government should embark on sensitization programs on the effect of climate change and implement environmental policies to enlighten citizens about their harmful actions to the environment.
According to reports by Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), agriculture is responsible for up to one-third of all human greenhouse-gas emissions. The CGIAR says that reducing agriculture’s carbon footprint is central to limiting climate change. Albeit, farmers are increasingly feeling the effects of a warming climate. With the decreasing rainfall amount and drought, seeds with short gestation period should be developed and made readily available to farmers. Nigeria should start to invest heavily in a climate-smart agriculture.
By 2030, the world population would reach 8.6 million. Although it is not a direct cause of climate change, it will worsen its effects. It is pertinent to note that it will take more than just legislation to tackle this menace. It will require a change in human behavior also: Starting from today; why don’t you board a bus to work instead? Purchase energy-efficient appliances and bulbs? Print less and download more? Reduce your consumption, reuse or recycle? You will be surprised at how far these seemingly inconsequential actions will go in reducing the spate of carbon emissions in our atmosphere. With cleaner atmosphere which will lead to self-sustaining ozone layer rebuilding, the current rate of global warming will be drastically reduced and its effects on humans and the ecosystem will be a bygone.