By: Kazeem Biriowo
THE Federal Government, on Monday, says as the world is facing planetary crises of climate change and biodiversity loss, the effects are threatening food security.
It said the trend was also bedevilling the livelihoods of millions of people globally, including indigenous people and local communities, especially in the African region.
The Minister of State for Environment, Barrister Sharon Ikeazor, disclosed this during her remarks at the opening of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) MAB-ICC Programme, held in Abuja.
Despite the situation, she said it was not too late to reverse the current trends, especially if conservation efforts were scaled-up and protected areas were expanded, describing the protected areas as the cornerstones of biodiversity and conservation globally.
The International Coordinating Council of the Man and Biosphere Programme (MABICC) programme is an intergovernmental scientific programme launched in 1971 by UNESCO. It aims to establish a scientific basis for enhancing the relationship between people and their environment.
Ikeazor sought the opportunity to reaffirm Nigeria’s commitment to reversing biodiversity losses and the country’s efforts at mitigating climate change.
The Minister recalled the recent approval of the establishment of ten additional National Parks across the ecological zones of the country, two of which would be designated Marine Protected Areas.
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She stressed that through the Ministry of Environment, Nigeria joined the Global Ocean Alliance and the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People calling for the protection of 30 per cent of the world’s lands and seas by 2030. These, she noted was to halt the accelerating loss of species and protect vital ecosystems.
“Other notable measures taken by Nigeria in this respect is the issuance of Sovereign Green Bonds to assist Nigeria in meeting her Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) targets and facilitate our transition to a low carbon pathway.
“Various reforestation programmers have been initiated under the National Afforestation Programme (NAP) of the Federal Ministry of Environment. All these measures are aimed at ensuring a resilient future for the Country”.
She added that “in the area of conservation, prior to the year 2020, Nigeria had only one Biosphere Reserve, which was the Omo Biosphere Reserve in Ogun State”.
“In line with its conservation policy, Nigeria identified and processed more protected areas and with the approval of UNESCO, secured three more Biosphere Reserves such as Oban Biosphere Reserve; Okwango Biosphere Reserve, both in Cross Rivers State; and Hadejia-Nguru-Bade.”
“Biosphere Reserve, straddling Yobe and Jigawa States. The designation of these biosphere reserves is geared towards reversing various ecological changes and disruptions caused by the removal of flora species, displacement of fauna species and alternation of the natural ecosystem, while at the same time enhancing the livelihoods of the indigenous communities in a sustainable manner”.
“The Biosphere Reserves are expected to positively impact not only the environment but also on social, economic and cultural aspects, especially peoples’ welfare”.
According to her, the agenda is critical to fostering harmonious integration of people and nature for sustainable development through participatory dialogue, knowledge sharing, poverty reduction and human wellbeing improvements, respect for cultural values and society’s ability to cope with change.
“We shall continue to play our role to safeguard the environment for future generations and with the support of partners like UNESCO, I believe that a resilient environment can be sustained as we strive to live in harmony with nature”. Ikeazor reiterated.
In her address, the Director-General of UNESCO Audrey Azoulay said the erosion of biodiversity was no longer a hypothesis, but a fact that could already be seen and felt in our everyday lives.
“Year after year, the figures worsen, revealing the true depth of the crisis we are currently confronting. Biodiversity is collapsing, at an unprecedented speed. From the treetops to the ocean depths, from vertebrates to invertebrates, 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.”
The UNESCO boss, however, called for the adoption of the late Chinua Achebe’s counsel on nature protection.
“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”
“With this impending collapse, not only is human survival at risk, but also the beauty, the poetry, the diversity of the world. But this collapse is not inevitable and there is still time to make peace with the planet and this is the spirit driving UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme as it is what makes it so pioneering, and so valuable”. She added