Eco-Instigator #22

Eco-Instigator-22-cover
The year could not slip by without our bringing you the December 2018 edition of your informative Eco-Instigator. The impacts of climate change are many – sea level rise, flooding, droughts, hurricanes, typhoons, weather irregularities, increased atmospheric temperature and so on. It is worrisome that at this time nations are still dithering over the causes and how to resolutely face the challenge.

Someone said that you don’t mop the floor with the tap running. We agree. Tackling climate change requires that we stop the very things pumping Green House Gases into the atmosphere and focus on transiting to 100% renewable energy.

In this edition, we serve you articles on climate change, food issues and reports from our projects. We are happy to bring you an article- Sounding the Climate Alarm which clearly advocates for the need to stop digging up more coal, more crude oil and the need to stop fracking. The issue of climate change induced clashes between herders and farmers is also brought to perspective.

Well-meaning individuals and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have continued to advocate for the role of agroecology to ensure food security in Nigeria and Africa at large. We share a declaration by which over 200 Global leaders and organizations reject gene drive, stating that the technology may drive species to extinction and undermine sustainable and equitable food and agriculture. We are also happy to serve you a peep into our farmers’ dia- logue which focused on Food and Farming Systems in Nige-ria and defined the pathway toFood Sovereignty.

There are must-read articles written by Firoze Manji, Femke Wijdekop, Sonali Narang, Bobby Peek and Mariann Bassey-Orovwuje in this edition. They are loaded!

In our poetry section, we give you a poem written by yours truly at a conference of the African Food Sovereignty Alliance which took place at Saly, Senegal in November 2018.

As usual, we suggest a couple of books that you should read to keep you primed for the struggle for ecological justice and the rights of Mother Earth.

Sound the climate alarm! Until Victory!

Download and read Eco-Instigator 22 here

A Call For Climate Common Sense

As the world hurtles towards climate catastrophe, the prime suspects keeping the world on this track are busy blocking negotiations aimed at tackling the problem. Climate crimes are not merely the ones already visible, they include the ones that will unfold, they affect humans and other beings currently on earth and others in generations yet to come.

The fact that the suspects openly boast of their crimes, of subverting global efforts to stem the coming storms, and that a multilateral body such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) appears helpless to call them out, says a lot about policy makers’ will to take real climate action. The open boast by such an official should be seen as admittance to a felony.

A report came out last week that an official of a notorious oil company boasted that his company was responsible for articles that ensure climate inactions and promote false market mechanisms in the acclaimed Paris Agreement. He also boasted that their text was appearing in the Paris Agreement’s Rule Book which was being negotiated. The very next day after this boast, as the first week of COP24 drew to a close, four oil producing countries – USA, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Russia- loudly resisted the “welcoming” of the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change’s (IPCC) special report on the 1.5 degrees temperature limit. They insisted that the report should merely be noted, and possibly ignored. These countries, and others complicit by their unusual silence, more or less spurned the clear indication by science that the world has a slim window of time to avert catastrophic global warming. This is quite shocking because the IPCC is an agency of the UNFCCC specifically set up to figure out the climate trends and needed actions based on science.

The extreme weather events that have so far accompanied the current 1degree Celsius temperature rise and the pointer from the IPCC report that the world is on course for higher temperature increases, should raise alarm signals. It is reprehensible that people, governments and corporate entities would know the wrong headedness of fossil fuel dependence and yet work to entrench it. A situation where polluters and vested interests throw spanners into the works and processes of agreeing on real climate action demands the removal of such entities from the halls of multilateral negotiations.

It is a no-brainer for anyone to believe, or to propagate the idea that the waning fossil civilization will stretch much further into the future. Good sense must become common sense. The sensible direction is the conservative position that 80 per cent of known fossil reserves must be left unextracted and unburned if we are to keep temperature increases within bearable limits. This means that oil, coal and gas companies must stop searching for new reserves, even though that is the linchpin with which they attract funds from speculators and investors.

The current epoch has been erected on the platform of exploitation, accumulation and consumption. We have gotten to the planetary limits possible for continued reckless exploitation of nature. We need an alternative logic, a radical mindset change. This is not about doing things better or more efficiently; it is about toeing a totally different track, or pathway. We need a wholesale socio-ecological transformation. This is not a pipedream. There is much thinking and organizing going on in this direction around the world. In Uganda, there is the Sustainability Schools in villages; in South Africa there is the Environmental Justice Schooland in Mozambique there is the Seeding Climate Justiceprocess. In Nigeria, Health of Mother Earth Foundation runs the School of Ecology.  Similar initiatives, many in the ecosocialist mold, are ongoing in Asia, Europe, North and Latin America. They all point to what labour framed as just transition from a carbon economy.

Although the just transition idea is anchored on energy shifts and creation of decent jobs, it extends to the need to transform our societies in such a way as to protect the best interests of the planet and the peoples. It is the vision of another world that confronts the challenge of building viable and sustainable societies. Just transition demands a tackling of the increasing inequality, including in terms of wealth and resource ownership. It is at the core of a much-needed system change.

When climate activists demand system change, they are referring to concrete systemic alternatives that are getting reluctantly recognized in the formal climate negotiations. Here we are referring to issues like loss and damage, gender rights and the rights of indigenous peoples. To these must be added the essential need of reparations to territories and nations that have been ravaged, exploited and rendered doubly vulnerable to climate impacts. These deserve payment of climate debts and not grants or extensions of charity. In addition, those responsible for ecocide must be held to account and made to pay for the full restoration of damaged ecological systems.

Just transition with decent jobs may also require a change in corporate management. The visions of corporate top brass may not be as long-term as those of the workers on the short floor. How about upending the current system and enthroning cooperative leadership from below?

As COP24 drags to a close, we can safely say that there will be no backslapping as was the case in Paris in 2015. Now we know that corporate interests ensured that an inherently ineffective and boobytrapped agreement was foisted on the world. We also now know that the same forces are working hard to ensure that the Paris Agreement Work Programme is tilted to ensure business as usual and allow fictive net carbon neutrality computations and dangerous technofixes. Surprisingly, there has been wide disagreements between rich nations and the vulnerable nations on how the NDCs will be delivered and evaluated.

Nevertheless, we applaud the committed African negotiators at COP24. They largely stuck to the justice principles of the climate convention. They also resisted a crafty rewriting of the Paris Agreement and defended the interests of the continent and other vulnerable peoples. The performance of African negotiators at the climate conference was in sharp contrast to that of their counterparts who bore the flags of the continent at the recently held Convention on Biodiversity COP14 that held in Egypt in November. In that conference, the negotiators played the scripts of the biotech industry and related political jobbers, and fought tooth and nail to eliminate regulations, allow risky technologies and to generally undo the safeguards that their predecessors had carefully built. The days in Egypt were sad days for Africa. In Poland, it can be said that although the process was less than would have been expected, our delegates did not trade the continent for some cheap copper coins.  

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This piece was first published under the same title in my column The Instigator in Leadership Newspaper, Nigeria, on 14 December 2018. You can also watch an interview with Democracy Now! at COP24 in Katowice here.

Kick the polluters out of the COP (A COP24 Poem)

Kick the polluters out of the COP (A COP24 Poem)

Today what do we say?
Kick the polluters out of the COP

Yesterday the world celebrated 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
In the Niger Delta we have endured 60 years of gross oil pollution, gas flares and human rights abuses
Today the world has 12 years to right the wrongs.
Shell and their cohorts must be held to account
Today what do we say?
Kick the polluters out of the COP

Every oil well has been a crime scene
Every gas furnace has been a crime scene
Pumping tons of carbon into the atmosphere
Causing extreme sicknesses in communities
Cutting life expectancy to a mere 41 years

Today what do we say?
Kick the polluters out of the COP

The oil rigs are nothing but gallows
They’ve hung our heroes
They’ve strung our mothers
They suffocate our waters
They pollute our lands
They choke our babies
We are refugees in our own land

Today what do we say?
Kick the polluters out of the COP

Today oil, gas and coal companies populate the corridors and negotiation halls of COP24
They have the guts to claim to write false solutions into the weak Paris Agreement

To entrench their misdeeds
They are proud to claim they are writing even the PA Rule Book

Today what do we say?
Kick the polluters out of the COP

They block nations from welcoming the IPCC Special Report
With a mere 12 years to avert total climate chaos
Oil and gas companies see 12 years of opportunities to steal and kill

To pollute our environment,
To kill our peoples,
To kill our future
To pile up dollars coated in blood
How wicked can polluters get?

Today what do we say?
Kick the polluters out of the COP

Shameful to have these polluters foul up the COP
Time for real climate solutions:
Keep the oil in the ground
Keep the coal in the hole
Keep it all in the ground
No fracking in our seas and lands

Today what do we say?
Kick the polluters out of the COP

11 December 2018
At COP24
Dedicated to all the environmental defenders whose lives have been cut short by the activities of fossil fuels companies
Note: COP stands for Conference of Parties

Kotawice and Climate Pathways

IMG_0421President Buhari made a subtle Climate justice pitch in Katowice There is cautious optimism that nations may get serious about climate change as the 24th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) opened in Katowice, Poland on 3 December 2018. The optimism is slim because the conference would essentially draw up the rule book for the implementation of the Paris Agreement of 2015. That agreement has been globally hailed as the singular effort of nations to jointly tackle global warming, ensuring that average global temperature rise is kept to 1.5 degrees Celsius or well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

The anchor on which action to tackle global warming hangs in the Paris Agreement, is what is called the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to emissions reduction. The key phrase here is Nationally Determined. This means that each nation must decide or determine what is convenient or feasible for them to do in terms of cutting emission of greenhouse gases known to cause global warming.

While the world celebrated the Paris Agreement, climate justice campaigners warned that there was nothing substantial on which to hang the celebratory banners. It was clear that powerful nations, who also happen to be the most polluting nations, would not cut emissions at source in ways that will halt the rising temperature dial. With pledges made and computed, the world is faced with the stark scenario of temperature rise in the range between 2.7 degrees and 3.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. Such a temperature rise will simply roast the planet, kicking in cataclysmic climate events and making life impossible for humans and other beings in most parts of the world.

In addition, the pledges made by many countries are conditional on having certain supports by way of finance and technologies. Nigeria pledged to cut emissions unconditionally by 20 percent and conditionally by 45 percent with support from international partners. The country also planned to work towards ending gas flaring by 2030 and towards providing off-grid solar power of 13,000 Mega Watts. While making those pledges, it is expected that within the 2015-2030 implementation period, the national economic and social development would grow at the rate of 5 percent per year. It is well known that the economic fortunes of the nation are not anywhere near that level, by any measure.

As the curtains opened in Katowice on Monday, 03 December 2018, President Muhammadu Buhari was one of the heads of governments that took the podium in the high-level sessions. One highlight of President Buhari’s speech was his emphasis that in taking climate action the principle of Common but Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR) must constantly apply. This was the hammer on the head of the climate nail because without adherence to this principle the justice basis of climate responsibility is forever lost. The CBDR principle was one of the strong anchors in the Kyoto Protocol of 1997. That protocol differentiated rich, industrialised polluting countries from poor, vulnerable and non-polluting nations. They were grouped under Annex I and Non-Annex I countries respectively.

The protocol provided a legally binding framework by which nations were supposed to be assigned scientifically determined emissions reduction targets. By that means, it was hoped that the effectiveness of emissions reduction would be known in advance if parties agreed to adhere to their assigned targets. The level of ambition of 37 industrialised countries and the European community in the first commitment period (2008-2012) of the Kyoto Protocol was a mere 5 percent against 1990 levels.

A second commitment period (2013-2020) was agreed in 2012 as the Doha Amendment. President Buhari announced during his speech that Nigeria was set to ratify the Doha Amendment. This agreement more or less provides life support for the Kyoto Protocol, especially after the emergence of the Copenhagen Accord (2009) and the Paris Agreement (2015) both of which are anchored on voluntary emissions reduction, with scant attention to the requirements of science.

The recently released special report of the Intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC) warns of the dire situation facing a world that has already crossed the 1-degree Celsius temperature increase above pre-industrial level. It gives the world an ominous 12-year window in which to act or descend into an utterly chaotic climatic situation.

While the big polluters are reticent, suggesting that the capacity to pollute is the mark of progress, some non-polluting countries are displaying NDCs that would mean cutting emissions they are not even emitting. These show that voluntary emissions reduction pathway is not the way out.

President Buhari spoke of the harsh situation the 14 million persons depending on the shrinking Lake Chad are facing. He spoke of the plans for an inter-basin water transfer that would see water from the Congo Basin being piped to recharge Lake Chad. The canalisation idea was first developed by an Italian firm, Bonifaca, about four decades ago. While the feasibility studies of that old recharge idea are being worked out, perhaps we can work on examining the ground water management systems in the region with the aim of conserving and protecting what is left to keep the lake alive.

The president’s speech covered many areas, including the need to maintain sound environmental management in economic development. Surprisingly, he said nothing about ending gas flaring. Considering that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) is selling the idea that gas flaring would end by 2020 ahead of the 2030 target set by Nigeria’s NDC, and has placed advertisements in papers indicating readiness to pursue that goal. It was disappointing that the president did not utilize that global stage to show how Nigeria is taking leadership in cutting emissions from one of the most obnoxious sources.

As the first week of COP24 draws to a close, the world is waiting to see if the leaders in Katowice will wake up to the fact that the NDCs are not the right way forward. To continue on the path that inexorably leads to intractable climate chaos is another side of the denial coin sold by the political heads of the USA and Brazil.

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This piece was first published on 7 December 2018 as Buhari’s Climate Justice Pitch in Katowice in my Leadership newspaper column,  The Instigator

 

 

 

 

When Dream Die

AvisittoOgale,GoiandBodoRiversstate(129of182)When dreams die, are people left with nothing but fear?  We need to question the inevitability of fear as the outcome of broken or dead dreams.

For this reflection, we will take a ‘dream’ to mean a cherished aspiration or a preferred ideal. It is indeed a strong proposition that when dreams die, they snuff out aspiration and cause ideals to appear unattainable. Dreams are the incubators of vision. They consolidate our hopes, beliefs, convictions and sense of possibility. Dead dreams can kill vision and hope. This applies to individuals as well as nations and even to the entire humanity.

The dream of global peace is being shattered on a daily basis not just by the loss of our sense of community, but also the loss of understanding that ‘community’ goes beyond just the community of people and encompasses the community of all beings. The dream of global peace gets broken by the erection of real and virtual walls between neighbourhoods, communities and nations. Dreams of peace recede with unnecessary sanctions by powerful nations and blatant preparations for war and increased militarism in times of peace. The intensifying arms race sees nations competing over who can build or acquire more state-of-the-art weapons of mass destruction. Dreams can die when creativity gets captured by hate. All these can birth fear and feed despair.

The love of money can trump peace and snuff the life out of dreams. We see humanity shamefully hanging its head in silent acquiescence to the supposition that life can be dispensed with, eliminated without question, provided the murderers stuff our pockets with promises of cash. This can breed fear of a loss of humanity and a descent into barbarism.

Let us consider one particular dream killer – the climate chaos. It is well known that the major source of greenhouse gasses triggering global warming is the burning of fossil fuels. Scientists sent early warnings that the tipping point (the point of no return) could be reached if action was not taken to stop or slow down the stoking of the atmosphere with carbon. National and global agencies warn political leaders that we are running out of time and that real action must be taken urgently. Still we dither.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) starkly states that the world has a mere twelve-year window to act. When some of us became active in the climate justice movement, our struggle was to ensure that nations cut carbon emissions at source in proportion to their levels of responsibility and capabilities. This is a climate debt owed by polluting nations. We insisted that the global temperature must not rise by more than 1 degree Celsius above what it was at the dawn of the Industrial Age. That target has already been reached. Today the official target is 1.5 degrees or well below 2 degrees Celsius. Advised by science, we also campaigned that the concentration of carbon in the atmosphere must not exceed 350 parts per million (ppm). By September 2016, the concentration level had already topped 400 ppm. Dreams die when we are so selfish and so short sighted that we forget that our children have a future ahead of them.

Dreams can die when we know the truth but chose to propagate a lie or vote for the lie. This is what climate deniers do. This is what polluters do. They seem to say that even if the world will burn in the coming decades, they would ensure they scrape the bottom of the barrel of all possible profits. To them, floods, droughts, heatwaves, forest fires, hurricanes, typhoons and the like, mean nothing but opportunities for exploitation, dispossession and accumulation.

Dreams die when trillions of dollars are spent on needless warfare while the climate finance purse literally runs on empty and vulnerable poor nations get battered by climate impacts and Small Island Nations watch their territories go under the sea.

Dreams die when we know that those who cause and benefit from climate harms have disproportionate influence on decisions and climate negotiations. Dreams die when these parties avoid mentioning the known sources and taking a stance on stopping further search for new fossil fuel reserves and deposits. Dreams become nightmares when expensive, ineffective but convenient actions are promoted rather than embarking on real solutions.

Dreams of safety and health die when drainage channels are clogged with plastics and sundry trash — and suddenly it thunders. Dreams die when the trees you lived off are mowed down by illegal loggers or by officials who promise never-to-be-realized infrastructure.

With rising unemployment and underemployment, workers are uncertain of the future of their jobs. Starting wages (or minimum wage) as well as pensions at the end of the job pipe are unpredictable for many, while security votes, possibly used to buy support from military governors during the era of military dictatorship, remain on the budgets.  Corporate dreams die when decisions are forever top down, returns are poor but the wisdom from below is disdained. Same could be the outcome when companies stay stuck in the industrial mode when they should shift into the digital mode.

We can count a thousand ways by which dreams die at individual and corporate levels. The truth is that the death of a dream is not the end of the road. When dreams die, fear does not have to inevitably kick in. When dreams die, we can dream again. We can indeed have better, bigger and higher dreams. It is a choice we can make. Even if you have had the most excellent dream, waking up and taking action is always the best next step. We always have a choice to wake up from a nightmare or to dream again. This is why the end of the year offers individuals and corporations opportunities to review the ebbing year and strategize for the coming ones. This is why nations hold elections at regular cycles and offer citizens the opportunities to see if their governors are leading them on dream paths or into nightmares. This is why we must survey the global terrain and see in which direction the multilateral spaces are tilting and decide if we must stay in those paths, accept palliatives or forge new dreams.

Dreams die when we can identify the dream killers and the purveyors of fear but chose to say nothing and prefer to do nothing.

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First published at https://leadership.ng/2018/11/30/when-dreams-die/