The United Nations (UN) has urged Nigeria to channel its Coronavirus (COVID-19) recovery plans towards not only economic recovery but mitigating climate change as well as it posed a greater threat than the pandemic.
Dr Walter Mulombo, acting Resident Coordinator of the UN in Nigeria, said this at a hybrid event held in Abuja on Monday to mark UN Day 2021.
The statement is coming just as stakeholders and experts in the environmental sector have called on President Muhammadu Buhari to sign the Climate Change Bill.
The UN Day of Oct. 24 marks the anniversary of the day in 1945 when the UN Charter entered into force.
UN Day offers the opportunity to reassert and amplify the purposes and principles that have guided the UN for the past 76 years.
The UN has ‘Building resilience through hope to recover from COVID-19, rebuild sustainably, and respond to the needs of the planet’ as its theme for the event.
Speaking at a symposium organised to mark the day, Mulombo who is also the World Health Organisation (WHO) representative stressed that post-COVID recoveries would not be effective without recovering the environment.
He said that with the gathering of World Leaders at the COP26 just a few weeks away, the time was right for Nigeria in particular, and Africa, in general, to press home the need to increase funding for the environment.
“Changing climate affects everyone, but it’s the world’s poorest, most vulnerable, and most marginalised that bear the brunt of environmental shocks.
“Sub-Saharan Africa countries like Nigeria are at great risk without sufficient funding for climate adaptation and mitigation.
“We must build a resilient and sustainable society in Nigeria that can absorb these climate impacts.
“We must respond to the needs of our blue planet which is flashing red with the warning signs of climate change appearing everywhere.
“These warning signs are already visible in Nigeria’s coastal and riverine areas of the South.
“We need to protect and restore nature as it is the foundation of Nigerians’ health, their food systems and, for many, their means of living.
“Thus, Climate change threatens Nigerian lives and livelihoods on a much greater scale than even the devastating COVID-19 pandemic. The time to act is now,” he said.
The resident coordinator reaffirmed the readiness of the UN to continue to advance its global mission of ensuring peace and prosperity for all as contained in the charter.
He commended the efforts of the 21 resident and non-resident UN agencies and its workers, pointing out also that the UN remembered those who have died in active service to the World.
He called on Nigeria to strive to build resilience into systems that the pandemic had exposed.
“We must work together to turn the impact of COVID-19 into a generational opportunity to build back better for a more equal and sustainable world.
“We must protect and preserve the source of human health.
“The UN is committed to supporting Nigerians living in poverty and to building back a more resilient society during the pandemic recovery,” he said.
Some of the stakeholders who participated in a panel discussion at the symposium included: Minister of State for Environment, Sharon Ikeazor; A professor of environment Prof. Chukwumerije Okereke and a climate change activist Mrs Adenike Oladosu.
Ikeazor in her remarks corroborated that climate change was the biggest challenge that was now facing humanity, stressing that Nigeria was not oblivious of the dire need to tackle it.
“Government recognizes this and it committed to tackling any presumed threat to its national sustainable development.
“With the pandemic, the whole earth is going through a rebooting and both the preservation and restoration of environmental quality are experiencing a new normal.
“For example, the massive amount of medical waste being generated in response to the pandemic requires special disposal means,” she said.
The minister disclosed that the Federal Government had already developed a post-COVID medium term strategy for the environment sector.
She however harped on the need for resources to mitigate environmental challenges, while expressing optimism that the Climate Change Bill will receive the Presidential assent.
Prof. Okereke called on Nigeria to begin to think beyond oil, pointing out that reduction in oil consumption was a key point of the global environmental strategy being deployed by advanced nations.
He called for proactive measures. warning that environmental issues had become major threats with flooding affecting more people than ever before.
He urged Nigeria to stop sending mediocre representatives to international conferences like the COP26, pointing out that people with understanding of the issues “will better advance our needs at such events.”
Prof. Okereke called for assent to the pending bill, stressing that it should be backed with finances in the 2022 budget.
In her remark, the environmental activist, Ms Oladosu pointed out that the shrinking of the Lake Chad was a key causative factor in the food and security crisis in Nigeria.
She stressed that if the Lake Chad can be restored, the need for military action in the North as well as other security challenges would reduce drastically.