Biodiversity: Nigeria Hosts 33rd UNESCO Summit

President Muhammadu Buhari says there is a need for communities around the world to promote respect for natural habitats, in order to conserve biodiversity.

He is therefore calling on all concerned, to gear their effort towards ensuring a healthy planet, to sustain livelihoods on earth.

The Nigerian leader made the call in his remark, while opening the 33rd Session of the International Coordinating Council of the Man and Biosphere Programme (MABICC), hosted by Nigeria.

The President, who was represented by Secretary to the Government of the Federation Boss Mustapha, said: “Changing our behavior, respecting the natural habitat and living in peace and harmony with nature are paramount to a future resilient generation where biodiversity is valued, conserved, restored and sustainably used while maintaining ecosystem services and delivering social benefits to the people.”

President Buhari thanked UNESCO for enabling Nigeria to host the global summit on the continent of Africa for the first time.

While charging participants at the summit, the Nigerian leader said: “The importance of the work you all do in your respective countries and for the global community, creating vast reserves, cannot therefore, be overemphasized.

“As you work to reconcile humanity and nature, the challenge remains your ability to continually demonstrate that biodiversity conservation can foster human development with a continuous provision of ecological services.

“As you review progress and define priorities, I do hope your experience form the visit of Okwangwo Biosphere reserve in Cross River State would inform some of the final decisions to be made.”

President Buhari, who highlighted Nigeria’s effort towards environmental conservation, used the occasion to reel out some of the steps being taken by the current administration to remedy the situation.

He stressed that Nigeria has taken various reversal measures in compliance with some of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN.

“The realization and understanding of the significance of environmental conservation as the propelling driving force for sustainable development in the light of destructive environmental challenges and threats to the country’s ecosystem culminated in the various responsive and resilient reversal measures. This is in compliance with a good number of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

“Nigeria has adopted a good number of measures to ensure that it sustainably manages its environment and these include developmental policies on the environment, solid waste management, plastic waste management, biosafety policy, gender and climate change.

“Through the operationalization of the aforementioned policies and programmes, the following mitigation efforts are being carefully implemented; accelerated implementation of the Ogoni cleanup for restoration of polluted and degraded land, effective implementation of the Great Green world Programme, promotion of set targets for tree planting and expansion, of the protected areas through the creation of 10 additional National Parks,” he said.

The Nigerian leader restated the country’s commitment to emerging global solutions for addressing climate change and other environmental challenges by informing participants that he made a pledge at the 74th session of the UN General Assembly that the country will plant 35 million trees nationwide, a pledge he has kept, with about 80 percent of the trees so far planted.

He said when completed, the project would pave the way for improved socio-economic livelihood as well as increase forest cover and significantly a veritable carbon sync towards climate change and reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

The President said the country is championing the recharging and resuscitation of Lake Chad, which will go a long way in improving the socio-economic livelihoods of people inhabiting the area, as well as address the environment and security challenges that threaten the region.

In her remarks, Director general of UNESCO, Miss Audrey Azoulay, noted with dismay, the reality of the erosion of biodiversity, which continues to threaten human existence.

She said: “The erosion of biodiversity is no longer a hypothesis, but a fact, one that can already be seen and felt in our everyday lives we are currently confronting. Biodiversity is collapsing, at an unprecedented speed.

“From the treetops to the ocean depths, from vertebrates to invertebrates,3 no species is spared. And we know very well why: because of a lifestyle that is putting pressure on the natural world. Indeed, climate and biodiversity are inextricably linked: when one suffers, the other does too.

“As Nigeria knows all too well, especially on the shores of Lake Chad, we must therefore heed the wisdom of the internationally acclaimed Chinua Achebe, who said, when we stand on this Earth, we must “go with her at her pace”, in his novel No Longer At Ease.”

She therefore, pointed out the need for countries around the world, especially Africa, to redouble their efforts towards achieving protected areas.

“We have less than 10 years to achieve the goal that the United Nations wishes to set: for 30% of the planet to be covered by protected areas.

“Therefore, we must double our efforts. This is why, a few days ago, at the Congress of the International Union for Conservation of Nature,we committed to doubling the protected areas under UNESCO’s care by 2030,” Azoulay added.

Un Resident Coordinator in Nigeria, Mr Edward Kallon said the emergence of COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the world into difficult and unpleasant conditions.

He said: “The Covid-19 pandemic has brought with its devastating consequences resulting in an unprecedented human crisis that is affecting the most vulnerable and the poorest among us, especially youths, women and children. The pandemic has compounded already existing problems like violent extremism, children staying out of school, poverty and food insecurity.

Despite these consequences, the Covid-19 pandemic has called our attention to fixing our deteriorating relationship with nature and has reaffirmed that biodiversity is fundamental for human health and critical for sustainable development. As we may observe, our combined attitudes and lifestyles have dramatically altered the land around us. We have cleared forests and other natural terrain to create spaces for urban areas, settlements, agriculture and industries.

In doing so, we have reduced the overall space for wildlife and degraded natural safe spaces between humans and animals. We must all rise up and take responsibility to restore this Human-Nature safe space by taking responsible steps to conserve biodiversity and restore lost resources.”

Kallon congratulated Nigeria for hosting the 33rd session of the International coordinating Council of the Man and the Biosphere, saying it is not just a huge achievement for Nigeria, but the whole of Africa.

Earlier while welcoming guests, Nigeria’s Minister of State for Environment, Sharon Ikeazor said the global summit provides a veritable platform, through which cooperation and research are boosted in order to achieve capacity building and ecological restoration.

“This is the first time that MAB-ICC is being held on the African Continent since its inception and I am proud that Nigeria has taken the lead by hosting this event today. For this reason and so much more, I wish to appreciate His Excellency, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Mohammadu Buhari for approving that this event be hosted by Nigeria.

“Nigeria acknowledges the role of UNESCO in contributing to peace and security in the world by promoting collaboration among nations through education, science, culture and communication. Also of great importance is the Man and Biosphere program which seeks to reconcile humans and nature and demonstrate that it is possible to use biodiversity sustainably while fostering its conservation,” she said.

The Minister restated Nigeria’s strongly committed to taking bold steps to reverse biodiversity loss and to mitigate climate change.

There were goodwill messages from Nigeria’s Ambassador and Permanent Delegate to UNESCO, Dr Hajo Sani as well as Ministers heading various Nigerian ministries and Diplomats among others.


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