As candidates intensify campaign for various elective positions in the build up to 2023 general elections in Nigeria, concern has been raised as to what extent climate change has featured on the soapbox.
Climate change is a complex global problem. It occurs through Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions and contributes to global warming.
Checks showed that environmental issues first emerged in political discourse in the 1970s. Efforts to mitigate environmental disasters have been prominent on the international political agenda since the 1990s.
According to environment experts, Nigeria has had its own share of climate change impacts over the years ranging from flooding, irregular rainfalls, drought to heat spells.
They say the 2022 flood disaster is a testimony to the reality of climate change in the country.
The disaster ravaged several states causing over 600 deaths, displacing millions of people, washing away hundreds of farm lands.
However, environment stakeholders worry that climate change has not been accorded a deserving attention in the ongoing political campaigns unlike other sectors such as economy, security and education.
They argue that presidential candidates should tell Nigerians their road map for mitigating climate change and transition to cleaner energies.
According to African Development Bank Group Economic Outlook for Nigeria “climate change’s impact is seen in crop yields declining by 7 per cent in the short term (2006–35) and by 25 per cent in the long term (by 2050).
“Projected increases in annual maximum temperature of 3–4°C between 2050 and 2070 could further undermine agricultural productivity and cause greater water stress.
“Already, shortages of water and grazing land are generating communal conflicts. Nigeria is 73 on the 2021 GCRI (Global Conflict Risk Index).
Mr David Michael, the Executive Director, Global Initiative for Food Security and Ecosystem Preservation (GIFSEP), said a review of manifestoes of various parties showed an under-representation of climate change in the 2023 campaign.
He said that GIFSEP had launched an awareness campaign on climate change in several states to arouse the interest of politicians and general public on the impact of climate change.
Michael said it would not augur well if the political class in climate change vulnerable countries such as Nigeria continued to ignore the challenge it posed.
“It will be a grievous mistake if we elect climate change denials in the 2023 general elections.
“Climate change issues are too important to be left in the hands of denials, this is because climate change is the crises of our lifetime.
“It is the defining issue of today’s world, that is why we are calling on citizens, especially those communities impacted by climate to ensure that they collect their PVCs.
“They should look beyond empty campaign promises and other forms of inducement to vote candidates that have a concrete climate action plan,” he said.
Michael said those voted into position of authorities have power to shape clean, green, low carbon future for posterity through climate change friendly policies.
He said that climate action was critical to the survival of democracy and for sustainable development.
“We are so worried that climate is under-represented in the 2023 campaigns, elections are the opportunity for our voices to be heard on issues that affect the majority of the population by those who hold positions of authority.
“We are encouraging people across Nigeria to engage political parties to know which ones have serious plans to take on the fossil fuel polluters and ensure transition to 100 per cent renewable energy.
Michael said apart from a vote for climate campaign, GIFSEP had also planted thousands of trees in several states; Zamfara, Kastina, Borno Sokoto, Kebbi, Taraba, Benin, Benue, Nasarawa, Cross River, among others to mitigate climate impacts.
He further said in its quest for clean energy, GIFSEP supplied free solar light to Internally Displaced Persons camps in Borno and Benue, adding that plan was underway to extend its work to Lagos, Bauchi and Kaduna.
“We have planted over 10, 000 trees across Nigeria through our “Project Trees for Schools.
“In Abuja alone, we planted over 2000 trees. Right now we piloting briquettes production and hoping to extend it to Nasarawa state after the general elections.
Ibrahim Joseph, GIFSEP Programme Manager, said in the last one year GIFSEP partnered Nasarawa government in developing climate risk register and policy to help in building resilience to the challenge.
“Climate change is the defining issue of today’s world. A vote for climate is a vote for food security, sustainable energy, health, healthy environment, equity and fairness, sustainable future; and a vote for life.
“The only way the next government can set an example is to stop projects that will lock citizens in emitting carbon for years to come.
“These include removal of subsidies for fossil fuels; a coal free Nigeria and put an end to gas flaring.
“These are risks too for climate and nature; they need to be phased out as quickly as possible,” he said.
Joseph, who is also GIFSEP’s project officer for African Activists for Climate Justice said climate change issues should not be treated with triviality, considering their impact on citizens’ lives and economy of the country.
“We have few weeks to Nigeria’s general elections and as other issues take centre stage, climate change seems to have no place in this election.
“Flood disaster, food insecurity, insecurity are by – products of climate change, and if the people that are asking us to vote them into power are not talking about how climate change affects these things and what their plan is, then there is a problem.
“The sad reality is that these issues will continue in frequency and magnitude if we are not able to reverse the present trend and build climate resilience we will be doomed,” he said.
Obadiah Ovye, a climate change enthusiast, urged the electorate to vote for candidates who offer solutions to the challenge of climate change.
“There is the need to support candidates who have clear cut solutions to reduce carbon emission, encourage clean energy, and employ adaptation policies that will salvage agriculture, extreme weathers and engender clean air,” he said.