By Huzi Mshelia, Nigerian Climate Action Network Coordinator
It is time for yet another of those big international conferences that comes with so much hype and frenzy. Governments around the world will be making statements (some in good faith, others less so. Negotiators will finalize tiny details of negotiation texts with thousands of alteration and amendments. This time, it’s the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) popularly tagged Rio+20 coming on the twentieth anniversary of the World Earth Summit that took place in Rio de Jenairo, Brazil in 1992.
Against the backdrop of monumental environmental, economic and developmental crises that are threatening to reverse the minimal gains made in poverty reduction, food production and sustained livelihoods, the Rio + 20 will be seeking to recommit to balancing of the social, economic and environmental objectives of development. The world must agree to a shift in the current development model that emphasis economic growth and marginalizes social and environmental concerns of the poor and perpetual resource depletions. The search for a new economic and social paradigm has inevitably led to the concept of the green economy, which is also the theme for the Rio+ conference. The UN envisage that the green economy provides an alternative model of development that potentially offers growth, reduce depletion of natural resources through protecting the earth’s ecosystem’s and contributing to poverty reduction.
As countries scramble to make final input into the Zero Draft of the Conference text, perhaps the biggest challenge lies in the post-Rio implementation strategies. As part of this process, the Minister of Environment formally presented Nigeria’s Rio+ 20 position to the House of Representatives last week.
Without prejudice to the recommendations contained in the Report, Nigeria needs to unpack its concept of the green economy and properly articulate its vision on the concept within our national context. A national economic development model that is inclusive and can deliver long-term sustainability and greater equity should be debated and adopted. Already, some reports have indicated the potentials of a low emission development and opportunities of generating about 600,000 green jobs from small hydropower and gas generation plants. Many other opportunities exist in the renewable energy and energy efficiency sector that could be optimized to increase access to energy and raise standards of living. The Nigerian green economy must improve human well-being and social equity, reduce environmental risks and ecological scarcities; and above all be gender sensitive. It must also be designed in the context of how to minimize demand on, and reduce consumption of natural resources. Regrettably the Nigerian report is still not within the public domain.
Let this Rio be a departure from other international conferences where Nigeria’s delegations are amongst the largest with little impact either during or after the meetings. Let this be done differently, for posterity and us.