By Michael Simire Deputy Sunday Editor, Daily Independent.
Private sector players in Nigeria, who seem yet unbitten by the fast-spreading sustainability bug, last week formed the fulcrum of stakeholder focus that border on the operatives’ lingering hesitation in embracing inherent ideals.
The environmentalists are frowning at the somewhat snail-speed process of greening business, which they want reversed, in the light of emerging financially-beneficial opportunities, courtesy of initiatives aimed at mitigating and adapting to the outcome of global warming.
A green business is regarded as an enterprise that has no negative impact on the global or local environment, community, society, or economy – one that incorporates principles of sustainability into each of its business decisions and supplies environmentally-friendly products or services that replaces demand for non-green products and services.
Economically, the prospects appear bright as, for example, Nigeria has the opportunity to benefit from about $200 billion of global capital flows from carbon trading – the Pan Ocean Oil gas gathering project has yielded some $1.8 million worth of carbon credits under the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). Besides expectations from the emerging Africa Green Fund, $4 million was recently approved for Nigeria by the United Nations for the nation to kick-start its National Programme for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD).
“We need to encourage the private sector in all aspects of greening the economy, beginning with reforestation, afforestation, revegetation community forestry programme whereby we name community forests after sponsoring organisations and private sector player. We need an urgent buy-in by the private sector to move into a real sustainable green economy,” suggests Victor Fodeke, erstwhile head of the Special Climate Change Unit (SCCU) that is domiciled in the Federal Environment Ministry.
But observers lament the fact that Nigeria has not adequately positioned itself to benefit from the global carbon trade market.
“It is very painful that Nigerians are not participating in this trade, considering that Nigeria contributes only 0.03 percent to global emission,” states chairman, Nigeria Environmental Study/Action Team (NEST), David Okali.
As a first step however, climate change negotiator, Lekan Fadina, believes that the private sector should adhere to environmental legislation and respond to challenges regarding the competitiveness of business enterprises in the global markets.
He wants the operators, including the financial institutions, to do these by partnering in implementing environmentally friendly and sustainability policies, use raw materials efficiently, invest in sustainable projects that consider the society and the environment they operate, adhere to financing projects on a sustainable basis, invest in technology and knowledge, promote small medium enterprises as catalyst for entrepreneur development, invest in research, and encourage the development of community-based food and wood energy programmes.
Fadina describes the creation of a Green Economy is a key step towards environmental sustainability, describing the initiative “as a mechanism for turning the threat of the environment into an opportunity to mainstream existing solutions towards a safer, fairer and more sustainable world.”
His words: “A Green Economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication is one of the central themes of R10+20. It underlines the point that it is in the interest of all nations – developed and developing – to begin to reduce humanity’s planetary impact in ways that reflect national circumstances.
“In the Vision 2050 Project of World Business Council for Sustainable Development – a group of major global organisations – the members are demanding action to tackle the environmental challenges by moving towards the path of sustainability and green economy. We must invest in knowledge and expertise through capacity building, sharing experience, investment in technology and collaboration with other stakeholders.”
Describing the road to a low carbon economy as “very desirable,” Fadina urges government to take urgent steps to incorporate this into the national Vision 20:2020 and Transformational Agenda. “The benefits are enormous and will provide considerable job opportunities and assist in poverty eradication, entrepreneurial development and low-carbon transformation.”
He adds, “We must learn from the past and avoid conflicting roles by different arms of government. What should interest us is: whose interest are we caring for? It is those of the present and future generations? If so, we must have implementable, enduring and sustainable programmes.
“RI0+20 is a wake-up call; a call that emphasis a new approach to how we do things. It is the focus on environmental sustainability. The greening of our economies is central to achieving long-term sustainable development with enduring economic growth that provides decent jobs and reduces poverty.”
The Nigerian strategy, he suggests, should aim to: support the shift towards a low carbon economy, decouple economic growth from the use of resources, increase the use of renewable energy sources, modernise the transport sector, promote energy efficiency, invest in people and knowledge, as well as integrate sustainable development activities as central to the fight against poverty and hunger,
Calling for a permanent structure that will drive the process on the path of sustainability and explore the business opportunities, the environmentalist stresses, “We suggest Nigeria Road Map to COP 17 and RI0+20 to have series of meetings, dialogue with a view to enrich Nigeria’s input and to tap on getting the dividend of these programmes for business opportunities and job creation.
“The long term vision in Nigeria should be to develop a viable environment sector which creates jobs, develops infrastructure, generate domestic revenue, economic growth: Simply put, environment in Nigeria has the potential to be a driver of poverty reduction and sustained growth if managed properly. We must therefore move on the path of sustainability.”
“We must be actively involved in influencing global policies for responding to climate change. For example we must know how the Climate Change Fund will operate and the mechanism for accessing it. We must put machinery in place to set up a carbon market in Nigeria, and use international platform to inform the global society of the enormous efforts Nigeria has made to respond to climate change and how our private sector has integrated sustainability into their operations. We should also diversify our economy towards a low carbon economy.
“We must use available media coverage to help Nigerians to appreciate the problems related to climate change and employing the unique and in sighting business perspective as a crucial element in the effort to set Nigeria and the rest of ECOWAS on the path of sustainability.”