OPINION: Is Nigeria Really Fighting Climate Change?

The Evangelist News Edition, June 9, 2023. By Adeze Ojukwu

Is Nigeria really fighting climate change? Experts often raise this poser at various national and international fora. Nigeria’s apathy towards environmental challenges is really disconcerting. Though the country is inundated with staggering social, economic, security and political problems, government should not neglect the extreme climatic calamities confronting its people.

Incidences of erosion, drought, desertification, flooding and pollution are escalating nationwide. Erosion is a major disaster in the South, particularly, Anambra state, notably Agulu, Nanka, Onitsha, Nnobi and Abagana. Failure to ameliorate desert encroachment in some sections of the north, through reforestation, is a dominant factor for the contentious migration of pastoralists to the Middle Belt and South, leading to persistent conflicts and carnage.

Unfortunately, successive administrations have exhibited a lackadaisical attitude towards these existential problems, which reflects gross ineptitude towards the welfare of citizens. This is rather shameful and irresponsible for a nation, that is a signatory to several protocols on environment sustainability. Sadly, there is no indication that the authorities will address these environmental concerns.

Recently, the global environmental enthusiasts, marked this year’s World Environment Day(WED), with tremendous zest and grandeur. Individuals, communities, civil society, businesses and governments celebrated the date, with the theme on finding solutions to plastic pollution. United Nations Environment Programme(UNEP) spearheaded the official celebrations held in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, with the support of the Netherlands.

Nigeria, the giant of Africa was hardly visible in the commemoration, though it held in neighbouring Cote D’Ivoire. The agenda to beat plastic pollution is, particularly, timely, following the recent conclusion of a second round of negotiations on a global agreement to end plastic pollution in France.

The agency’s Director General, Inger Andersen, sent a powerful message to the world to mark the occasion. “For the sake of the planet’s health, our health and prosperity, we must end plastic pollution. Help us beat plastic pollution. This will take nothing less than a complete redesign of how we produce, use, recover and dispose of plastics and products that contain them.”

She highlighted the tremendous threats arising from plastic use. “Humanity produces over 430 million tonnes of plastic annually, two-thirds of which are short-lived products that soon become waste. While the social and economic costs of plastic pollution range between $US300 to US$600 billion per year.

This will take nothing less than a complete redesign of how we produce, use, recover and dispose of plastics and products that contain them. How the world produces, consumes and disposes of plastic has created a disaster. But it is one we can end by turning off the tap on plastic pollution.

I call on everybody to join the global movement and help us beat plastic pollution,” Andersen stressed. This year’s programme was quite exhilarating, because “it marked the 50th anniversary of WED, established by the United Nations General Assembly(UNGA) in 1972,” UNEP said in a release. “Over the past five decades, the day has grown to be one of the largest global platforms for environmental outreach.

Tens of millions of people participate online and through in-person activities, events and actions around the world,” she added.

Earlier in a video address, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said “plastic is made from fossil fuels and the more plastic we produce, the more fossil fuel we burn, thus worsening the climate crisis. But we have solutions. We must work as one, including governments, companies, and consumers to break our addiction to plastics, champion zero waste, and build a truly circular economy.” Also speaking at the official event at Espace Latrille Events Deux Plateaux in Abidjan, Mr. Jean-Luc Assi, Côte d’Ivoire’s Minister of Environment and Sustainable Development, said: “Côte d’Ivoire issued a decree in 2013 banning the production, import and marketing, possession and use of plastic bags. It has supported businesses in switching to reusable and biodegradable packaging.

The country’s largest city, Abidjan, has also become a hub for start-ups looking to beat plastic pollution. They are being encouraged. So let’s all be aware of the need to combat plastic pollution. Let’s act now and all say stop to plastic pollution.”

The date “helps to highlight the urgent challenges we currently face. Challenges like climate change, biodiversity loss, and pollution. Plastic pollution touches on all three of those challenges,” noted Vivianne Heijnen, Netherlands’ Minister for the Environment. “It’s crucial that we continue raising awareness, collecting best practices, and ensuring commitment from all stakeholders.

I hope that this edition will prove to be a landmark event in our collective fight to beat plastic pollution.” It is noteworthy that, during the fifth session of the UN Environment Assembly, in February last year, a historic resolution was adopted to develop an international legally binding instrument on plastic pollution, including the ambition to complete the negotiations by end of 2024. The instrument is to be based on a comprehensive approach that addresses the full life cycle of plastic.”

This year’s map featured innovative, community-driven solutions to reduce plastic pollution. Hundreds of activities were recorded from beach clean-ups in Mumbai to cloth-bag sewing workshops in Ghana and zero-plastic-waste live concerts in Atlanta, America. Cheerily, the International Air Transport Association(IATA) and UNEP announced a Memorandum of Understanding, aligned with the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, to address sustainability challenges in the aviation industry. Indisputably, reduction of problematic single use plastics products and improving its circularity in the aviation industry, will bolster the zero- tolerance goal to plastic pollution worldwide.

Clearly, to achieve this ambitious global target, other sectors, corporate giants and nations must apply similar measures and also boost funding for the production of more convenient alternatives to plastics.

•Ojukwu, a journalist, author and Fellow of Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship, a US sponsored Fulbright programme. Kindly send feedback to

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