This may well be the long-awaited united front to the challenge of climate change. Put together by the former President of South Africa, Mr. Nelson Mandela and chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu also of South Africa, the Elders Coalition on Climate Change also includes former President of the United States, Mr. Jimmy Carter, former Prime Minister of Norway, Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, former UN Secretary-General, Mr. Kofi Annan, former President of Brazil, Mr. Fernand Henrique Cardoso, Mr. Martti Ahtisaari, former president of Finland and 2008 Nobel Peace winner, among others. Their age, character, proven leadership, admirable positions on international issues and their respected voices of reason distinguish them.
Between the Montreal Protocol and Kyoto, the UN had organized several international summits on the environment but many world leaders seem to be saying that the world can live with climate change, however devastating. Yet temperatures are rising, floods are becoming ever so menacing, deforestation and desertification are affecting the world, sea levels are rising, all traceable to climate change. Some world leaders erroneously believe that the world is just passing through a phase that would soon be over. They are wrong. Much more concerted action is required. The proposed Summit in Copenhagen should provide an opportunity for striking a more progressive deal on the challenge of climate change.
The Elders Coalition on Climate Change seems to disagree with the political amnesia of these global leaders. They insist that there is nothing inevitable about the fatality of a climate change that continues to advance incrementally due largely to the irresponsibility of humanity and particularly of developed countries.
They urge all heads of government to attend the Copenhagen summit, agree to twenty degrees Centigrade as the maximum tolerable increase in temperature the world can live with and that global greenhouse gas emission must be reduced by at least 50 percent by the year 2050 in order to stop further global warning. We endorse their passion and commitment.
World leaders have failed dismally to explain the issues to their citizens, particularly in the developing countries. Even the source of the problem is still something of a mystery to a vast majority of people in every country, let alone the urgency. How many ordinary citizens, for instance, know that the ozone layer separating the earth from the sun has suffered a puncture or fracture that is widening with time? This problem has been largely caused by the emission of carbon dioxide arising from tons of smoke discharged into the atmosphere by home and industrial activities, the cause of greenhouse gas emissions.
The elders suggest that they would like to see verifiable national plans on this and would like the emerging developing countries of China, Brazil and India to also have measurable national plans, while the industrial countries should commit themselves to an annual funding of at least $100 million to assist developing countries to cope with the problem created. Countries in Africa should also pay particular attention to all of these.
The Federal government at our own level should by now be considering a policy on the reduction of greenhouse gas emission if it does not already have one. Even if such a policy does not exist, Nigeria must formulate an articulate position on the subject to enable it contribute meaningfully to the discussion rather than serve as disgruntled observers in Copenhagen. The fact that the country has had to contend with the dumping of toxic waste from developed countries and that we are already facing severe flood and erosion menace on a scale never experienced before, an increasing rate of desertification and deforestation as well and a depleting wild life is enough for Nigerian leaders to realise that the country is already a victim of climate change.
The Nigerian Conservation Foundation, the Federal Environmental Protection Department, the state environmental protection agencies and the mainstream of the civil service should be involved in the articulation of a Nigerian response. The government should also strengthen the universities, research institutes and the civil society to make significant contributions to the solution of the problem.
The preparation for the December summit must be thorough and subsequent programmes of governments on the environment must reflect the gains from the summit. Insincerity in following such a summit with domestic projects and programmes is one of the major causes of our ineffective response to such issues. Whether we lack the executive capacity is an urgent question we must address. This is one subject on which the National Assembly should raise its voice.
We must not, however, participate in this summit only to ratify the treaty without sufficient understanding of the issues as Nigeria did in the past. We must listen to and understand the dissenting voices with a view to learning from them. Our seriousness in this summit will be evident in how well we tackle the problems with policies and programmes in later years. Nigerian citizens, children and generations to come deserve nothing less than an environment that is conducive to growth and development.