This week, about twenty-five thousand people from nearly 200 different countries are attending the 26th annual edition of the Conference of Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, a two-week event. The attendees include activists, negotiators, delegates, world leaders – including our own President. The gathering is for taking action on the climate crisis. COP26 was launched just two days after the G20 summit in Rome – where climate crisis was the second most important topic after global recovery. Nigeria was absent at the G-20 summit. 

Conventional wisdom says problems that are left unattended have a habit of becoming a crisis. Human activities of heating the globe are evident. Burning fossil fuels for energy, cutting down forests and farming livestock are all avoidable activities. These create many gases like carbon dioxide, methane, and many others, called greenhouse gases. These volumes of greenhouse gases, triggered by humans, are added to those naturally occurring in the atmosphere. As a result, the earth is now 1.1 degrees Celsius warmer compared to the pre-industrial level. Paris Agreement’s goal is to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius to avoid any catastrophic outcome. 

The impacts of climate change are now evident to the world, from wildfires in Greece and Algeria, to flooding in London and Turkey, to drought in Australia and Northern Nigeria. Wildfires start quicker and spread faster, storms are more severe, and flooding is increasing. There is also the crisis of extinction of land and ocean species, rising sea levels, and increased drought. For the developing countries, like Nigeria, these issues lead to increased food shortage, animal migration, health risks, poverty and displacements. In 2020, the 10-highest climate change-induced disasters occurred in some of the poorest parts of the world. It cost over $130 billion, killing thousands and displacing millions. These costs are escalating every year.

Seeing this crisis, old Nietzsche’s profound question comes to mind: is this modern world of ours a rising civilisation or an exhausted one? I will leave the question to answer itself.

Research by scientists from Europe, US and China predict that by 2070 a third of the global surface would be unsuitable for human life as the global temperature rises. The prediction included West and Central Africa, which will force the majority of the people to migrate to a suitable region. It is estimated that about 81% of Nigeria’s population would suffer from these extreme temperatures. Despite our preference not to migrate, the extreme temperature may drive a large percentage of people. 

Whenever a wound becomes infected, doctors would advise changing the bandage or risk losing the limb. Today, scientists are warning us that there will be mass extinction unless drastic actions are taken. COP26 is seen as the moment to set aside our differences to launch a substantial agreement that will put the global economy on a sustainable trajectory to save our planet. The Prince of Wales, a five-decade climate change campaigner, calls this period the last chance saloon. 

Despite a near-total agreement on the scale and urgency of this crisis, critical issues have to be determined if this conference will succeed. There is cynicism that the COP26 may yield questionable pledges. Those who are being asked for these commitments are politicians, banks, and oil companies. For example, the leaders of China and the CEO of BP only participated via a video link, with the former making superficial pledges. The Russian President is contemplating attendance. The Brazilian government wants to be paid before it stops destroying the Amazon rainforest. 

What is being asked of everyone does not go against any religious or any ideological ideals. It is the most humane thing any moral institution could support. In trying to emphasise the gravity of the situation, the Archbishop of Canterbury compared the current actions of politicians with the atrocities brought by the Nazis. The comment created a vibe. In the first 24 hours of COP26, deals were struck to achieve net-zero carbon emission by 2030. Net-zero carbon emission means investing in carbon dioxide removal to compensate for the emissions one creates– following up an evil deed with a good deed. It will mean there will be a little, or no, addition to the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which could achieve the goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius. Over $19 billion was raised to halt deforestation in the world’s forests, Africa inclusive. 

Like many countries, Nigeria committed to ending deforestation by 2030 and achieving a net-zero target by 2060 – 30 years later. Until then, Buhari emphasised, Nigeria will continue to use gas. This fossil fuel accounts for a fifth of the world’s total carbon emissions. Buhari told stories about Lake Chad, drought, deforestation, and pollution. It felt like the 1980’s theme park because there are so many references to what Nigeria was.

COP26 has yet to see Nigeria’s proposal but has seen several funding commitments for developing countries following the presentations of their climate proposal. For example, the Costa Rican government showed how it has been paying farmers to protect forests near their farms. The project won Prince William’s Earthshot prize, which comes with £1 million. The President of Columbia, where tropical forests cover 52% of its land, presented a plan to protect 30% of its territory by 2022. South Africa showcased its $8.5 billion transitioning models from coal to renewable sources, which has become the talk of COP26. Pakistan presented its $10 billion Tree Tsunami reforestation campaign. 

As days go by, activists are bracing up to the moment when the delegates and world leaders will be discussing a commitment for the elephant in the room – fossil fuel. Greta Thunberg, the Swedish activist, has petitioned COP26 to immediately end all fossil fuel investments, subsidies, and new projects and stop further exploration and extraction. So far, over 20 countries and financial institutions will halt all financing for fossil fuel development overseas and divert the spending to green energy instead. 

The hard fact is that fossil fuel, which emits the highest volume of greenhouse gas globally, still accounts for 80% of global energy. Fossil fuels, together with other industrial processes, contribute 65% of the greenhouse gas emission – which brought us to this place. Nigeria’s financial income will be affected if that happens. But should income be Nigeria’s immediate problem when facing mass extinction? The Climate Crisis is not the petty competition we do with Ghana. Our relative position in the global pecking order must change for the common good.

Of course, some are worried that flowery global talk about climate change may lead to collective action. Some are concerned that COP26 will mean an aggressive push toward the total phase-out of fossil fuels to keep global warming below 1.5 Celsius. Russia, India, and China are among these groups as they prioritise economic growth over a burning planet. It is mind-boggling how these intolerants free-riders take advantage of just institutions as we face mass extinction. 

Lastly, it is by no means a foregone conclusion for developing economies to be concerned about the cost of transitioning from fossil fuel to low-carbon options. Affluent nations and private institutions will collectively provide a minimum of $100 billion annually by 2023. The fund will be provided to poorer countries through grants, cheap finance, and loans. Doing so will make them overcome the barrier of high costs as they actively make low-carbon choices. 

For Nigeria, getting a financial guarantee will not be difficult, but it must adopt a climate action as fast as scientists tell us the planet is burning. 

Dr Nasir Aminu is a Senior Lecturer in Economics at Cardiff Metropolitan University.

Source saharareporters

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