Archive | December, 2011

A funeral for the Kyoto Protocol?

19 Dec

Ewah Otu Eleri

Executive Director, International Centre for Energy, Environment & Development

I met Vijay Iyer yesterday. Vijay is the World Bank’s Director of Energy and Sustainable Development.  He told Honourable Eziuche Ubani and me a funny story. Ubani had asked him what his assessment of the negotiations was. “Are we making progress?” he asked. Vijay smiled. He asked if we had noticed how everybody is so nice to each other here at the climate change negotiations. Ubani and I didn’t know why. He told us that it was normal for people to be kind to each other during funerals. “The climate negotiation in Durban is like a funeral for the Kyoto Protocol”, he said.

The only legally binding agreement to reduce the emissions of harmful gases that cause global warming met its slow and painful death here in the beautiful South African city of Durban. First, it was the Americans that rejected this treaty in 1997. And because the treaty excluded developing countries, some of the world’s biggest polluters, China, India and Brazil were also left off the hook. Today, the combative American congress is less likely to accept any binding obligation to reduce their emissions, especially if China and the big developing economies are left out of the deal.

Before the Durban conference, Japan’s position was already very clear. The world’s third largest economy will not be part of any renewal of this deal, if China and the fast growing developing economies are left out. But it was Canada that took the oxygen out of any hope that this treaty will be renewed. The announcement that Canada will not be part of a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol unplugged the life support from the only binding agreement to reduce emissions that result in the sort of floods that hit Lagos and Ibadan this year.

For our Nigerian delegates and some NGOs, the Kyoto Protocol has become a strong emotional issue. We have been told that this is the main concern for the African Group and the Group of 77 and China. And since our national delegates have been told that we have no national interests in these negotiations except to support Africa, many loiter around this expansive conference centre with their heads down. In corridors, cafeterias, side events and shopping malls, wherever you find Nigerians, it’s all talk about Kyoto this, Kyoto that.

A new agreement or renewal of the treaty to reduce global emissions in a substantial way would be of benefit to Nigeria. But a new Kyoto treaty that binds only a handful of countries that together make up less than one quarter of global emissions is meaningless to Nigeria. Any agreement that leaves out the two biggest emitters – China and the United States is not in Nigeria’s interest.

For a long time, the big developing economies of China, India and Brazil has been hiding behind our back. Yes, of course, many of them still have poor people in their country. We also accept that rich countries have contributed historically to the build up of these harmful gases. But it will be mindless for us to accept that countries who today pile up the bulk of these dangerous gases should not be obliged to reduce them consistent with their national circumstances. But because our leaders are out of touch with our own interests and realities, we are told to support China and India and sing the songs of African solidarity when our house is on fire.

Perhaps we should talk about some other things. The Nigerian delegation was livid today because our minister, Mrs Hadiza Ibrahim Mailafia made a good speech to the plenary. In her speech, she listed the accomplishments of the government on climate change. Particularly, the minister told the world audience that the National Assembly has passed the Bill to Establish the National Climate Change Commission and that President Goodluck Jonathan will soon sign this bill into law.

The rest of the world cannot understand why the President cannot sign the climate commission bill one year after the national assembly forwarded it to him. That the minister committed the president to signing the bill is a positive sign. The world will hold her to her word.



Green growth on the agenda

19 Dec

Ewah Otu Eleri

Executive Director, International Centre for Energy, Environment & Development.

Yesterday, I attended a side event. For most delegates and NGOs, side events at the climate change negotiations are the main events. This is where countries, inter-governmental organisations, companies and research institutes present latest policies, programmes and ideas on solving the climate problem. It is an excellent place to learn, get inspired and network. So today, the Republic of South Korea held a side event on their green growth programme.

South Korea has made green growth the centrepiece of its long-term development programme. The first speaker, Dr. Han Seungsoo, the former prime minister of the Republic of South Korea and chairman of the Global Green Growth Institute defined green growth as the national quest for economic growth that is compatible with low emissions of harmful greenhouse gases. This is a radical thought.


Traditional economic thinking assumes that rapid economic growth and high greenhouse gas emissions are natural bed fellows. In expanding national income and lifting people out of poverty, developing countries will have high energy intensities and will expand their carbon emissions, the argument goes. Green growth strategies combine high economic growth with lower emissions.


The side event had an impressive line up. It had Sir Nicholas Stern, Professor of Economics at the London School of Economics and Lead Author of the influential Stern Review of Economics of Climate Change. According to Nicholas Stern, green growth represents a new industrial revolution comparable to what happened in the 19th century. Investments in clean technologies and processes will drive the economic growth of the future. Economies that fail to modernise its energy technologies and processes will stunt and face atrophy.


Ministers and senior government officials from Brazil, Ethiopia, Korea and UAE took turns to present their national green growth economic programme. Today, Paul Kagame, the president of Rwanda will be here to present his country’s green growth development plan. A Nigerian, Dr Chukwumerije Okereke of the University of Reading led this important work for Rwanda.


As I listened to these leaders speak on their new economic strategies, I couldn’t keep my mind from drifting back home. No country in the world has a stronger case to embark on a green economic strategy than Nigeria. Korea was motivated to make green growth its official development plan because 93% of its energy requirements were imported. The development of clean energy technologies will save energy, create new industries and ensure growth in employment.


In Nigeria, we almost have no price to pay for this economic transition. Green growth in terms of converting the over 15 billion cubic meters of natural gas flared annually into power production is practically our only hope for boosting power supply and revving up a double digit growth. And we can also reposition agriculture as the engine of growth and employment by massive dam infrastructure expansion and proper management of existing ones. Accompanied by new financing programmes put in place by the Central Bank of Nigeria, Nigerian agriculture will be transformed. And we would have protected our farmers from the uncertainties created by the impacts of climate change.


As I listened, one other thing that struck me was how far climate change has left the shadows of the environment. Not long ago – in many countries, action on climate change was the prerogative of environment ministries. Today, in India, China, Rwanda, Kenya – you can go on, the office of prime ministers and presidents have taken over national action on climate change. When the National Assembly began work on the climate change commission, we thought Nigeria was blazing the trail. But we were not. The bill passed by the National Assembly to establish this office under the president is still wasting away on the president’s table.


In times like this, I miss people like Chukwuma Soludo, with all his imperfections – people who can see far into the future and have the courage to summon a government to action.

Climate change conference – designed to fail?

19 Dec

Ewah Otu Eleri

Executive Director, International Centre for Energy, Environment & Development.

I finally arrived Durban yesterday – at the beginning of the second week of the United Nations Climate Change Conference. I had spent the last week in Bangalore at an event organised by the International Renewable Energy Agency, the inter-governmental agency for the promotion of renewable energy. IRENA brought together about fifty leaders comprising entrepreneurs and experts to gauge where we are in addressing barriers to the growth of renewable energy.

We got into town early enough to soak in the breathtaking beauty of this Indian Ocean city with its endless beaches and lush landscape. But we arrived too late for registration at the Albert Luthuli International Conference Centre, the venue of the climate change conference.

I joined a shuttle bus to my hotel alongside delegates and some NGOs. Beside me was Antonio. He was from Chile and works for a government agency. This was Antonio’s first COP – the annual Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. He told me he had been here since the beginning of the two-week conference. But the whole event seems too overwhelming and confusing. It feels like hundreds of meetings going on at the same time. Antonio told me he had attended a number of negotiation meetings, but he had come out more confused. Hours upon hours are spent on procedural issues and fine language.

I had followed developments in the Durban negotiations from Bangalore. Strangely, you have a better chance of tracking these negotiations away from the mad rush of fifty-five simultaneous negotiation tracks attended by over 10,000 delegates from 194 countries. With several online publications and newsletters you can feel the pulse of the negotiations thousands of kilometres away.

I asked Antonio and the others on the bus what the mood of the negotiation was like. Are we close to any tangible agreements? I asked. It will be awful if the first COP on the African soil will result in a disaster.

We all knew that an agreement on the reduction of the emission of dangerous gases into the atmosphere is not within reach in Durban. In a way, existing agreements make global response to climate change dependent on mandatory emission reductions from rich countries and similar actions to be taken by developing countries on the basis of financial transfer from rich countries. The only big hope for Durban was therefore an agreement to launch the Green Climate Fund already established by the Cancun Accord last year. But this hope is now shaky. Several countries are now calling for the opening of negotiations on the report by a Transitional Committee established to work out the details. So there is an atmosphere of despair, especially among NGOs.

The loss of momentum and the whole atmosphere of powerlessness that is increasingly grinding this global effort to a halt seem to be structural. It is as if the climate change talks are designed to fail. With tens of negotiation issues being discussed at the same time, there is apparently no sense of priorities. Over the years, we have not seen a sufficient number of quick-wins that has been agreed upon and successfully implemented. Let’s take for one the issue of energy poverty.

The United Nations Secretary General has dedicated 2012 as the year of Sustainable Energy Access. Nearly 2 billion of the world’s population have no access to electricity and are dependent on wood fuel for their daily cooking. These billions of open fire result in billions of tons of these harmful gases sent to the atmosphere every year. But they also result to millions of deaths from respiratory and other diseases. The cost of modern efficient wood cooking stoves could be between 750 – 1500 Naira or five to 10 US dollars. This means that if these endless negotiations had focused on solving this problem, we could have prevented billions of tons of these gases from being emitted to the atmosphere. At the same time we would have saved millions of lives and built a huge stove industry with millions of jobs. In Nigeria alone this will result to the prevention nearly 100,000 deaths annually. But this is hardly the focus of the negotiations. Or is it?


Art for Climate Justice

5 Dec

Art can be used as a tool for communication. In the face of climate change, different media are being implored to pass across the climate message. The Goethe-Institut South Africa,  the Heinrich Boll Foundation and the Durban Art Gallery put together an art exhibition titled  ”DON’T PANIC”.

The exhibition  curated by  South African born Gabi Ngoobo seeks to raise questions and offer new perspectives rather than pre-fabricated answers on climate change during the COP UN Climate Conference in Durban.

”DON’T PANIC”  presented powerful artistic voices from across the African continent, including works by Mlu Zondi, Clive van den Berg, Otobong Nkanga, David Koloane, Batoul S’Himi and Moshekwa Langa and Nigeria‘s Bright Ugochukwu Eke. The organizer did not explain the messages the art pieces bore, but asked us to make something out of them. So I will do same but share my thoughts on just a few. Interpret the photos as they connect to climate change and our environment.

My favorite piece would be the one by Bright Ugochukwu Eke. It looks like a wall of crystals. But they are NO WAY close to crystals. More artists should come on board, and communicate climate issues using art. Click on photo to view or view via slideshow.

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Negotiating Climate Change on World AIDS Day

2 Dec











Dec 1 is internationally recognized as world AIDS day. As the world celebrates the fight against HIV/AIDS, Africa might be in for a stronger fight  against the virus. Experts say climate change will worsen the health problems in Africa including an increase in HIV/AIDS infections and more health issues for those already living with the virus.

Click below to listen.

Ugochi: Sister of the Earth

2 Dec

I woke up this morning to see that my interview with has been published. I feel blessed and I wanna share on my blog too.  Enjoy!!!

I finally got to the top of Aso hill. Panting and wheezing all the way for about 30 minutes, I always thought I had good stamina but that rock just took the wind out of me. I used to run up this same landmark like a mountain goat…oh well, I guess the years are just adding up…finally feeling my age…so not a good sign. As I let the breeze do its job by cooling me off, I look over the city as it lay before me. From this height, not much has changed…well, with a harmattan haze over it, it actually looked romantic in a funny way. It brought back memories of my NYSC days when I was working here. It was here I met my interviewee. Sweet, fun, always had a smile on her face for everyone. Not that we were close or anything deep but I have always had a deep respect for her. And what more can I do if not, you guess right, throw her in my sweet blog here. Cool huh?

Well, I finally walk into the studio where my interviewee is tearing the mic away. She is good, serenading the audience from the top of the hill and finally saw me through the glass windows. She waved me in and with a smile of her face, put me in front of an open mic.

“I haven’t done this in a long time” I said, staring at the mic like it was the biggest bug I saw.

I know, she said, “I just want to see you sweat a bit, that’s all.” That evil smile. How come everyone I interview has an evil smile?!?! Sooo not fair.

Oh well, so I fumbled and sweated that hour out on air and finally, we got to the one hour long only music segment. It was tough but brought good memories of when I did the radio thing. And finally, I got the chance to get Ugochi’s attention and so I start.

Well, first off, tell us about yourself?  ……… below to read more!!

Grabbing the OgoniLand

1 Dec
While nations are at the COP 17  negotiating on how to protect host communities and their livelihood, indigenous people of Ogoniland are being  harassed and detained in the quest to grab their land.
Five  Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) staff, activists and two journalists who visited Ogoniland to witness a protest by aggrieved Ogoni people whose farmlands were being surveyed by heavily-armed military men preparatory to the establishing a military cantonment have been detained.
The protest which started from Sogho community in the Khana Local Government Area of Ogoni, Rivers State, spread to other parts of Ogoniland, including Korokoro in the Tai Local Government Area where heavily-armed thugs associated with a known paramount ruler in the area beat up the activists and confiscated the cameras of the journalists, seized their mobile phones and other personal belongings.  The activists were subsequently handed over to a police team of 10 from the nearby police post in Nonwa in the Tai LGA who were lurking around.
Activists arrested include Michael Kanikpo head of ERA/FoEN Port Harcourt Office, members of the Ogoni Solidarity Forum(OSF)  and others whose identity are yet to be known as at the time of the issue of this release. Tekena Amaofiori, a correspondent of the African Independent Television (AIT) and a camera man whose name is still unknown were also arrested.
 ERA/FoEN Executive Director, Nnimmo Bassey said “We completely disapprove of the militarization of Ogoniland and this shameful action which seems a clear throwback to the military era when peaceful protests were viewed as an affront to the military establishment and responded to by silencing of perceived opponents. The activists and journalists detained must be released immediately and unconditionally” .
Bassey explained that: “Rather than this unacceptable detention which rubs salt on the injury of the genuinely aggrieved Ogoni people who recently commemorated the 16th anniversary of the killing of Ken Saro-Wiwa and other Ogoni people, the Federal Government should be thinking of how to engage the people for remediation of their degraded environment as recommended by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) in its assessment of Ogoniland”.
“Foul play is suspected here. Is the planned establishment of a cantonment in Ogoniland a systematic way of breaking down the resistance of the people to allow Shell return to Ogoniland? We demand an answer and promptly too. Not only must a comprehensive probe of this ugly incident be carried out. The paramount ruler who allegedly ordered the beating up of the activists along with the suspected thugs that carried out this action must also be questioned and prosecuted if found culpable”.
Bassey reiterated ERA/FoEN earlier articulated position that government immediately compel Shell to start decommissioning in Ogoniland and begin the cleanup of the area, even as he added that government’s silence on the cleanup exercise nearly four months after the release of the UNEP report and the sudden plan to establish a cantonment in Ogoniland is a calculated attempt to bring Shell back through the backdoor.
He said  Shell must not be allowed to come back to Ogoniland and demanded a complete halt of any survey for construction of the cantonment and immediate release of the activists and journalists as their detention without cogent reason is unacceptable.
After massive environmental degradation comes a military cantonment. Would Ogoniland ever be free from abuse?