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Climate Change Mitigation: The Task Before Civil Society In Nigeria

NIGERIA – 20th May, 2016 - Recently, I had the opportunity to read through a Twitter thread of one episode of the popular #OfficeOfTheCitizen program, where Nigerians discuss about various issues as they affect their local and national development. The topic of discussion on that episode was “Nigeria’s fuel mix”. As expected, there were varied opinions about the kinds of energy sources that should be in Nigeria’s fuel mix. But a trend that was discernible in that discussion was that there appeared to be little appreciation for the raging global quest to eschew environment-depleting energy sources like fossil fuels in efforts to mitigate climate change. Comments like “the truth is there's no industrialized nation in the world that didn't build on coal. We need to go back to coal”, “gas is the future of power generation in Nigeria", and “the impacts of coal excavation for fuel/power generation can be controlled and properly managed” particularly caught my attention. It begs the question: how much of the dangers that climate change poses to humanity does the general Nigerian society understands and appreciates? More importantly, it once again redirects attention to the part civil society has to play in contributing to the quest to save the planet and humanity’s future.

Let’s begin at an international level. Following last December’s successful Paris Climate Summit, and the impressive turnout at the signing ceremony in New York earlier this year, the world appears to be taking its first baby steps towards tackling climate change. In the journey so far, focus remains on government and the private sector to lead the way. The world is practically looking up to governments and industry to ditch the business as usual approach and become “greener” in their respective policies and practices. However, there is the recognition that success or otherwise in our quest to save the planet would not depend solely on these two important stakeholders. There is the understanding that a third, probably less-mentioned, stakeholder – civil society – has an equally important role to play. And this role it has played quite well, as civil society groups made up of non-governmental organizations and institutions with common interest in environmental issues, have been pulling the strings and mounting public pressure on governments and businesses to become more environmentally-conscious in their actions and decisions. The efforts of groups like Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, the Transition Movement, and Climate Trackers are well acknowledged in this regard.

In Nigeria, civil society groups with environmental inclinations have also excelled in engaging governments and businesses. Just last month, a youth-driven environmental group, Climate Wednesday, organized a media chat with the Honourable Minister of State for Environment where members of the Nigerian public had the opportunity to quiz the minister on the actions the Nigerian government is taking to contribute to global climate change mitigation efforts. However, these civil society groups must not stop there. The task of instilling the knowledge and culture of sustainability and environmental-awareness into the general Nigerian public is equally an important one that they must perform. To many lay members of the Nigerian public, the concept and dire consequences of climate change are simply too scientific to comprehend or too distant to be taken seriously. As far as many are concerned, climate change is a cacophony of noises being screamed by environmentalists about how the world is going to end many years from now if we continue to burn fossil fuels and pollute our environment. Perhaps, since many already submit to the religious belief that the world is going to end anyways whether climate changes or not, they do not feel the urgent need to acknowledge or participate in climate change mitigation efforts!
It is in demystifying this climate change phenomenon, breaking it down to its basic level of understanding, illustrating how the common man can contribute to solving the problem and inspiring him to take some actions, that civil society groups in Nigeria need to do more. The fact that coal and gas are still considered in some quarters to be the “future of power generation in Nigeria” at a time when renewable energy is defying the odds and smashing barriers and limitations in some other countries shows the enormity of public education and enlightenment about climate change that need to be done.

The need to emphasize that tackling climate change is a shared responsibility between government, industry and society has never been more evident nor pressing. Now is the time to nail home the point, in a language that the lay Nigerian man understands, that every unit of fossil fuel that we burn or support government and industry to burn is a burden on ours and our children’s future. Now is the time to emphasize the concept of “carbon footprint” to the common Nigerian man, to show him how his daily activities increase it and how he can reduce it as much as possible without compromising his or her wellbeing. Now is the time to refute the popular and farcical belief that Nigeria’s social and economic development is impossible without fossil fuels. These are the messages that the Nigerian society needs to understand better, and who is better placed to deliver it than civil society groups?

By Ridwan B. Bello

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Climate Change Mitigation: The Task Before Civil Society In Nigeria Reviewed by Olumide Idowu on Friday, May 20, 2016 Rating: 5
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