by Darren Willman
SUNDAY 21 JUNE 2009 – The International Commission on Climage Change and Development’s report on managing the climate change issue says “context matters”. In those countries most vulnerable to climate change, Africa, I surveyed members of AIESEC as representatives of youth opinion for the unique solutions in their countries.
On Thursday 14 May the Swedish government’s International Commission on Climate Change and Development tabled their final report on how countries should be managing the climate change issue. A major point is “context matters”: different climate issues, varied economic situations, diverse political environments.
The report calls for new and additional climate adaptation projects and funding. It also recommends priority to the most vulnerable countries, such as Africa. For these poorer countries, projects on building adaptability and resilience should be prioritised.
I wondered, what really is context for African nations? If it is about context, what does the Swedish government know about Africa? I surveyed members of AIESEC in Nigeria and Uganda as the representatives of youth opinion on the unique solutions of their countries towards climate change.
The supply of water and energy are considered national priorities, whereas climate change, the broader topic, does not factor. Nigeria is a significant producer of oil and gas, the biggest in Africa, another example of the need for climate change to be an issue of national concern. Climate change is held back by general public awareness, except in the Northern part which is almost a desert. Instead, more immediate issues such as food, water, housing and employment are taking priority.
Given the country’s reliance on oil and gas, a change is required from the economy to better address environmental issues. Economic diversification away from fuel production must happen, perhaps in support of rural economies, to also address urban migration (which plagues the capital city of Lagos). Initiatives to decrease local demand on gas (e.g. increased car parking fees) were also suggested.
Politically, it is considered important to strengthen the political system to improve the decision making by governments to put climate change on the table. It would help if there was an NGO that consistently represented Nigeria’s environmental issues. It would also help if the country’s environment department had a higher responsibility and profile.
If these changes are not made, Nigeria would continue to suffer in the North as it desertifies. Agriculture is also at risk as rainfall irregularities grow. Any moves to tax fossil fuels like oil have implications for the development of Nigeria, as its main export will be less valuable.
Uganda is already seeing the effects of climate change in Northern Uganda, where people are starving from food shortages due to small harvests. Global warming is drying up Uganda’s farming seasons. This is coupled with one of the fastest population growth rates in the world, leaving a major food challenge for the country in the years to come.
As mentioned, rainfall will vary more and hence risk the agriculture sector. But it will be more devastating in Uganda as compared to Nigeria, given 80% of the economy is in this area. While government is making an effort to become industrialised, they should do so in cohesion with the environment. Waste management technology, environmentally friendly packaging materials and renewable energies are all practical examples.
They need to build a more solid environmental arm of government, one which is taken seriously be high-level politicians.
If these changes are not made, the backbone of the Ugandan economy, agriculture will struggle. Even worse, the surrounding countries in the region, who rely on Uganda’s food exports, will also get hungrier.
Back to the report
The report called for new and additional climate adaptation projects and funding, projects on building adaptability and resilience. Given the situations in Nigeria and Uganda, it seems that this needs to be matched with broader economic and political change.
Many thanks to Joseph Bbirikadde (Uganda), Adeyemi Adeniyi (Nigeria) and Bernard Olajide (Nigeria) for their insights.