Nigerian Environment Minister Steps up as Deputy UN Secretary General

Ministers of Environment on the scene

R-L: Minister of Environment, Minister of State for Environment

As Nigerian Environment Minister becomes Deputy UN Secretary General- HOMEF sees the appointment of Amina Mohammed, the Minister of Environment of Nigeria as the Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations, as a validation of her clear focus and universal commitment to the common good – and especially to the environment. Within the short time of her being on the seat as the environment minister, she worked tirelessly on many fronts including efforts to get the implementation of the UNEP report on Ogoniland a reality. Under her tenure the Hydrocarbons Pollutions Remediation Project (HYPREP) was restructured and gazetted. The structures needed to implement the clean-up process has been set up and work on the ground was expected to commence by the year’s end.

One other front on which this Amazon fought gallantly was to ensure that the flawed Superhighway project of the Cross River State government did not proceed without an approved Environmental Impact Assessment and the free prior informed consent of the forest communities.

She has also worked on the plans to set up the Great Green Wall as an economic corridor that would integrate local populations in the battle to check the desertification menace in Northern Nigeria.

HOMEF regrets that under her watch the National Biosafety Management Agency issued hasty permits to Monsanto to introduce three genetic engineering events into Nigeria on Sunday, 1st May 2016. We have called for a radical review of the law setting up the agency to eliminate conflict of interests where board members are also applicants for licenses and tightening safety rules for the protection of our biodiversity and human health. We are hopeful that steps will be taken to address this issue.

On the whole, the mark of her administration has been a bottom-up approach with communities extensively consulted on plans and projects.  The team of Amina Mohammed and the Minister of State for Environment, Ibrahim Jibril, showed that, with commitment, understanding and determination, it is possible chart a positive path and to make a difference, within very difficult circumstances.


HOMEF congratulates and sends our very best wishes to Ms Amina Mohammed as she assumes her next assignment. Her time in the Ministry has shown that this is one sector where concerted efforts can be holistically made for the benefit for all Nigerians irrespective of which part of the nation they reside in. We strongly hope that the Ministry of Environment will continue on the path of pro-people actions and that the Minister of State will seamlessly step up to fill in the gap.

A Salute to Human Resilience

To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity –Nelson Mandela, 1918-2013.

The world is witnessing an onslaught against human rights defenders perhaps more than at any other time in history.

Global Witness, the advocacy group, reports that on average three Earth Defenders were killed every week in 2015. Less than 1 percent of those who perpetrated those crimes were ever brought to book. One group of activists specially criminalised and targeted include those defending territories and fighting for ecological justice. Some of these brave people that have been murdered this year include Berta Caceres and Nelson Garcia of Honduras; Tendy Salamat, Nestor Lubas and Teresita Navacilla of the Philippines; Sikosiphi ‘Bazooka’ Radebe of South Africa and Walter Méndez Barrios of Guatemala. These and many more are routinely cut down, assassinated simply because they have stood up for what is right.

The silencing of dissent, curtailment of liberty and the blatant violations of human rights, including assassinations of defenders of Nature, are all manifestations of a systemic rot. It is the decline of civilisation that acquiesces to trillions of dollars being spent annually on warfare, and the accompanying destruction and mass murders, while calls for climate finance is comparable to attempting to squeeze blood from stones.

Twenty-one years ago, on 10 November 1995, the then military dictatorship in Nigeria murdered Ken Saro-Wiwa and other 8 Ogoni leaders who were in the campaign against the pollution of their environment by oil companies operating there and who were demanding for economic and political justice. Sixteen years after their gruesome murder, an environmental assessment by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) confirmed that the complaints of the people were genuine. Their report was published a year before I had the honour and privilege of receiving the much valued Rafto Prize.

A ray of good news is that five years after the report was made available to the Nigerian government, the clean-up of Ogoniland is in the process of beginning.

This gathering is a salute to the many brave women and men standing in defence of Nature, standing against the giant jaws of powerful, merciless political, military and economic forces. This gathering is a salute to the many peoples in diverse parts of the world defending their rivers, forests, lands and seeds at the risk of their lives. This gathering is a salute to the many persons, who, after being displaced by political repression, violence and the ravages of climate change are faced by huge physical and political walls denying them the right to migrate and to live in basic dignity.


with Peter Molnar and Asria

In a world of growing uncertainty, we need women and men who are rooted in their convictions and strive to uphold equity and justice at all times. In a world wracked by multiple crises – climate, economic, political and moral dimensions, we certainly need models of stability and clarity rooted in the simple truth that our humanity is interlinked with one another and that the denial of the rights of one individual is a denial of the rights of us all. In a world where rights defenders are being co-opted by state and corporate forces; in a situation of shrinking space for expression by non-state actors, we must recognise the dogged stance taken by these our brothers and sisters.

This year’s award highlights the very dangerous circumstances in which Rafto laureates work. A fearless woman working in extremely difficult circumstances and in a very delicate sector fraught with risks. Yanar Mohammed the Rafto Prize laureate for 2016 is truly exemplary in her work in Iraq with women and other vulnerable groups in that country.

Thirty years is a milestone in the life of individuals and organisations. It is the age of maturity. Over the past 30 years, prizes have been awarded for defenders of human rights, including those engaged in the struggles for gender rights, right to self-determination, democracy, rights of children, climate justice and environmental rights, freedom from repression and exploitation, rights of minorities, and in support of victims of war. These individuals represent communities of struggle because no one could successfully fight alone.

We deeply thank the Rafto Foundation for making this gathering possible. Taking a pause to dine together and to reflect on human resilience in the face of extreme pressures helps us all to reaffirm faith in our collective humanity. It is an honour for me to give this speech on behalf of all recipients of the Rafto Prize. Let me end this by paraphrasing the words of Maryam al-Khawaja who received the award in 2013 on behalf of Bahrain Centre for Human Rights: the persons who should be sitting on this dinner table are not us, but the unnamed heroes on the streets of our communities and in the battle lines across the planet.

Thank you.


Dinner speech by Nnimmo Bassey (Rafto Prize 2012) at Håkonshallen, Bergen, in honour of Rafto Prize Laureates on Saturday 19 November 2016










Clean Up Ogoni!

Clean Up Ogoni! With the exception of Ogoniland, oil is still being produced in the Niger Delta, and the environment as well as residents’ health is being affected by oil spills and the flaring of natural gas. Will the “Clean Up Ogoni” campaign set a precedent?

In June 2016, Nigeria’s vice-president signalled the first five years of the planned clean-up of the oil-polluted Niger Delta – one of the largest such operations in the world. The cost of the programme will run into the billions and, according to the United Nations (UN), it may have to continue for 30 years. The ambitious project is being undertaken in reaction to a report released by the UN’s environmental programme (UNEP) in 2011. In it, scientists outlined in much detail how, for decades, Ogoniland had experienced pollution on a massive scale, affecting the health and the livelihoods of its inhabitants.

Responsibility clearly rests with a consortium made up of the state-run Nigerian oil company NNPC and international oil firms, most prominently Shell. Up until 1993, when oil production was finally halted after years of protest by the Ogoni people, 900 million barrels worth about 30 billion US dollars had been produced. Today, the companies involved will have to share in footing the bill for the clean-up.

With the exception of Ogoniland, oil is still being produced in the Niger Delta, and the environment as well as residents’ health is being affected by oil spills and the flaring of natural gas. Will the “Clean Up Ogoni” campaign set a precedent?

This, and other questions, will be the focus of our talk. Under the catchphrase “corporate social responsibility” (CSR) there is much talk about how companies may act in ways that respect the wider needs of society. Is “Clean Up Ogoni” a model example for such responsible behaviour? What preconditions will have to be met in order to master this giant task? In what ways will Ogoni communities be able to participate? And, what actual processes are in place, including on the international level, to make companies accountable for pollution and human rights abuses?


Nnimmo Bassey, Environmental activist, co-winner of the Right Livelihood Award 2010, poet, Benin City, Nigeria

Sarah Lincoln, Policy Advisor Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Bread for the World, Berlin

Moderator: Dagmar Dehmer, Journalist, Der Tagespiegel, Berlin

Heinrich-Böll-Foundation in cooperation with Bread for the World.

Please note: This event will also be transmitted as livestream.

Thursday, November 24, 2016 – 18:30 – 20:00

Schumannstr. 8


Heinrich-Boell-Stiftung – Head Quarter Berlin


Beate Adolf
Africa Department

culled from: Heinrich-Boell-Stiftung

Climate change: Hangman of the poor

cover-2016-augustseptemberClimate change: Hangman of the poor

Climate change affects the world unevenly and it is developing countries which, though not historically liable for it, that have to bear the brunt of its adverse effects. Nnimmo Bassey explains, with particular focus on Africa, the nature of the threats facing countries which are financially and economically ill-equipped to meet them.

THE impact of the climate crisis, which is disproportionately felt by those that have contributed least to the crisis, is undisputed. This is why the concept of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ (CBDR) is seen as a key principle by which climate justice is introduced into the climate debate. This same reasoning led to the creation of the Annex I and non-Annex I categories of nations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in order to have those most implicated in the climate debacle take greater steps or actions to tackle the menace.

Since the 15th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP 15) in 2009, the idea of having nations committed to emissions reduction at levels required by science has been sidelined. At COP 21 in Paris last December, leaders set targets for temperature increase of 1.5oC or ‘well below’ 2oC. We remember that at COP 15, the lead negotiator for the developing-country Group of 77 (G77), Lumumba Di-Aping, denounced the 2oC warming target as ‘certain death for Africa’. He also characterised it as a type of ‘climate fascism’ that was being forced on Africa. He wondered why Africa was asked to sign an agreement that would permit an unacceptable level of warming in exchange for $10 billion, and also being asked to celebrate such a deal.1

At COP 21 the idea of binding emissions reduction targets was totally jettisoned, in a manner that underscores the high level of power play and global dominance by rich industrialised nations which are determined to avoid responsibility for the climate crisis. The Paris Agreement of COP 21 has been applauded by political leaders across the world and celebrated by mainstream media and transnational corporations mostly because it marked the first time nations agreed that action had to be taken to combat climate change. A close examination of the document shows, however, that the real agreement by political leaders was that: while climate change demanded action, they could essentially perpetuate business as usual, without recourse to what science requires. The actions they would take are called Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). As the name indicates, nations state what they intend to contribute to tackling the looming crisis according to national interests, with the NDCs being subject to review every five years and coming into effect by 2020.

It has turned out that if emissions are reduced at the levels nations have said they would contribute, we will be on track for a global temperature rise far above the ‘well below’ 2oC target set by COP 21. We should note at this point that the polluting nations are punching far below their weight in terms of emissions reduction while the poorer, vulnerable nations have pledged to do much more than their fair share. That is the classic way of turning justice on its head.

The Paris Agreement is loaded with good intentions that are not backed by commitments to take requisite action. Added to the NDCs, the agreement left a hole through which false solutions such as REDD+, geo-engineering, carbon trading/offsets and other market environmentalism schemes could gain ascendancy. ‘Solutions’ such as REDD+ (REDD stands for ‘reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries’) transfer the burden of action to curb global warming to vulnerable forest communities, for example, in ways that further deepen their vulnerability. Meanwhile geo-engineering entails intentional weather modification efforts that essentially put the planetary climate thermostat into the hands of powerful entities that could be governments or corporations. Computer models used to check the impacts of pumping sulphates into the stratosphere, for example, indicate serious implications for nations in the Global South.

Computer modelling in two peer-reviewed scientific papers showed, among other findings, that ‘sulphate injections into the [Southern Hemisphere] could increase precipitation in the Sahel region by up to 100 mm/month, but decrease precipitation in the South West [of Africa] by up to 60 mm/month … Similar results were found regarding NPP [Net Primary Productivity] with an increase in the Sahel region by up to 100% but a decrease in the South West by up to 60% and also in the Magreb area of up to 20%. [The authors also noted that] Brazil could see a decrease in both NPP and precipitation. In a scenario where sulphate is injected into the [Northern Hemisphere], the Sahelian region is subject to reductions in NPP by as much as 60-100% … The precipitation pattern in the region could be affected by a reduction of 20-80mm/month … In this scenario, Southern Africa could see increases in both NPP and precipitation.’2

Urgent actions are needed and they must not be such as would create more problems for the poorest. One of the factors that hamper climate action is finance. It must be stated here that if the ecological or climate debt owed the Global South were recognised and paid, there will be no debate about who contributes how much, and who can access, climate funds. The debates always tend to suggest that finding needed finance is a herculean task; meanwhile enough funds that could make a huge difference are stashed away in tax havens by a handful of individuals and corporations. A recent report by Friends of the Earth International shows that 13 richest persons in the world have enough money to provide renewable energy to all of Africa within 15 years, for instance. Meanwhile the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative is looking for $10 billion between 2015 and 2020 to tackle energy poverty on the continent. In terms of the Green Climate Fund, the target is $100 billion per year from 2020. Meanwhile, the rich nations are spending over $1 trillion a year on destructive military hardware and warfare. The point is that the money is there; what is lacking is commitment to face the planetary crisis.

What are the implications of this lack of commitment and readiness to act?

The world is currently enamoured with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a fitting successor to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). If sustainable development is to be attainable and not an oxymoron, we must become conscious of the fact that the very concept of lineal development or growth is an impossibility on a finite planet. The targets or goals will remain mere pipedreams in a climate-changed world.  For the goals to be met, tackling global warming cannot be based on nationally determined contributions.

The casualties of climate change are many. They include those whose nations, territories and communities are being washed away by rising sea levels, floods and coastal erosion. They include those whose lands are suffering desertification. There are casualties braving deserts, seas and oceans to find a foothold on higher lands.

A major area of vulnerability is agriculture and food production. Real climate actions are needed to build resilience into agricultural systems before catastrophic climate change sets in. The 1996 World Food Summit declared that ‘Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.’3 This indicates that food security must rest on four pillars: availability of food, accessibility to food, suitable utilisation of food, and the presence of these three in a stable way. When hazards meet vulnerability, the inevitable outcome is disaster. No hazard is more pressing globally than climate change.

Some 80% of the food in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia is produced by smallholder or family farms.4 They depend on natural resources such as forests and shrub lands for their livelihoods as farmers and pastoralists. They also depend on rivers, lakes and creeks for fish. The tragedy is that governments seldom think of the smallholder farmer when they think of agriculture. They think more of industrial agriculture which utilises chemical inputs with heavy dependence on fossil fuels. Apart from the concomitant land grabs, displacement of smallholder farmers, and destruction of food systems and ecosystems, industrial agriculture, including cash cropping through plantations, exacerbates climate change.

Besides the threat to food security, there is a greater risk to food sovereignty. Understanding the difference between food sovereignty and food security is important for us to grasp the grave impact that climate change has on agriculture and nutrition. Food sovereignty speaks of the right of peoples to grow crops and produce foods that are healthy, suit their ecosystems and are culturally appropriate. Food security, in comparison, is concerned with having food in sufficient quantities. These two concepts are not opposed to one another, but rather food security is best secured in the context of food sovereignty. What does this mean?

With a simple focus on food security, it does not matter what food a person eats, provided she eats something. The food could be totally alien to the individual, but to erase hunger, whatever food is available has to be consumed. Mere food security eliminates choice and forces people, for example, to eat genetically modified (GM) foods, even when they are opposed to the technology. This was the sore point that Zambia was confronted with when the country faced food shortages in 2002.5 At that time Zambia insisted on being given milled and not whole grain GM maize to avoid contamination of indigenous species. The struggle over what food to receive or reject became a source of big debates and geopolitical power play. A major newspaper in the country, the Zambia Daily Mail, had this to say: ‘It is very interesting to note that for the first time Zambia was being forced to accept a gift. Doesn’t this worry us as recipients, that the giver is insisting that we take the GM foods? Are the Americans just concerned about our stomachs or there is something behind the gift?’6

Increasing temperatures and freak weather events are bound to have profound impacts on agricultural systems. The magnitude of these impacts would determine how the remaining carbon budget is managed or expended. The race to colonise the atmosphere is on and will likely intensify with nations making voluntary pledges to cut emissions. The implication of such voluntary pledges and actions is that sufficient resilience will not be built into our food and infrastructural systems. That translates to the harsh fact that vulnerable nations and regions will be incapable of coping with resulting loss and damage.

El Nino, La Nina and desert locusts

El Nino is a weather pattern which happens as a result of the warming of the Pacific Ocean near the equator, off the coast of South America. It occurs when trade winds off the Pacific coast of South America weaken, or at times reverse, letting the warm water of the western Pacific flow instead towards the east. This change sets off atmospheric changes triggered by the warm water displacing the cooler water that is normally found near the surface of the eastern Pacific. This abnormal weather situation sets in motion altered weather events in many parts of the world. It occurs every 2-7 years and does not have a regular pattern.7 This recurring cycle thus goes with variations in sea-surface temperatures, convective rainfall, surface air pressure and atmospheric circulation across the equatorial Pacific Ocean.  The opposite to this is called La Nina.

A minimum 0.5oC temperature increase has to occur in the waters of the eastern Pacific Ocean near the equator for it to be considered an El Nino year. It is not clear how these phenomena will change in the age of climate change, but the associated precipitation variability on regional scales is likely to increase due to larger moisture availability in the atmosphere.8 With heightened unpredictability in precipitation as well as the cyclic occurrence of the El Nino and La Nina phenomena, it is obvious that food systems will come under greater stress and plans must be made to absorb or cope with the shocks.

One cause to worry about these changes in temperature, rainfall and wind patterns associated with climate change is the effect they may have on the desert locust in Africa. The land mass from West Africa to the Horn of Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and southwest Asia will be particularly exposed to the impacts of this highly destructive migratory pest. Warmer temperatures and increased rainfall in desert areas cause the locust to mature sooner and have a shorter lifecycle; the breeding season begins earlier than normal and continues beyond the usual. It is expected that with a combination of a general increase in precipitation, higher rainfall events and tropical cyclones in the Arabian Sea, locust numbers may increase more rapidly and, if not adequately controlled, may become plagues.

Water stress

The quantity and pattern of rainfall affect the availability of water. Already we are seeing a significant shrinkage of a water body such as Lake Chad. Others like Lake Turkana are under threat from proposed dams and other factors. Lake Chad, located at the intersection of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria, has shrunk from over 25,000 square kilometres in the early 1960s to less than 2,000 square kilometres. This has led to the displacement of farmers, pastoralists and fisherfolks. The resultant loss of livelihood is seen to be contributing to the violence in northeast Nigeria as well as in the country’s Middle Belt region where violent conflicts between herdsmen and farmers flare up frequently.

Water wars or conflicts will likely intensify as freshwater systems get salinised through sea level rise and incursion of seawater. It has been estimated that by 2030 climate-related conflicts will rise by 54% in Africa. This could be directly linked with the availability of water. Overall, it is estimated that by 2020 up to 75-250 million people in Africa will face water stress. Changes in rainfall patterns will affect the distribution and health of wetlands, streams and rivers. When rainfall is reduced in arid and semi-arid areas, serious water stress is experienced, while other regions may have increased rainfall and be confronted with new challenges on how to cope with floods.

Biodiversity changes

Climate change and rising temperatures affect ecosystems in many ways. One vital way is through the spread of vector-borne diseases such as malaria. It is estimated that up to 90 million more people in Africa will by 2030 be exposed to malaria, already the biggest killer in Sub-Saharan Africa, due to weather variations.

There are also effects on beneficial insects and birds, including those that help in the process of pollination. Pests and invasive and alien species can have direct impacts on livestock and general food production. For livestock, temperature variations affect the animals directly. It is projected that diseases such as West Nile virus, bluetongue or Lyme and schistosomiasis (bilharzia) may expand into new areas. Increased rainfall and flooding due to El Nino has also been implicated in outbreaks of Rift Valley fever in East Africa.

Increases in pest infestation which result in health issues and loss of forages and water sources create more challenges. The changes in crop and livestock productivity would have implications for availability and accessibility to food, which could instigate disaffection and riots. These impacts will also be reflected in existing geographical variations in ways that could see increased productivity in some regions and reduction in others. Climate change can easily lead to the erosion of genetic resources, including crop, animal and fish species.

Reduced rainfall and shrinking water bodies affect the presence and diversity of riverine fisheries. Assessments by researchers report that the impacts of climate change on fisheries and aquaculture will be felt most acutely in Africa and South Asia.9

Climate impacts on forests directly translate to livelihood challenges for the estimated 1.6 billion people who depend on forests for livelihoods. Forests provide timber and non-timber products, and protect water sources and soils. Forests are vulnerable to droughts and increased temperatures. Climate impacts will include loss of forest biodiversity through tree mortality, fire outbreaks and human pressures.

Human pressure includes conversion of forests into plantations, with the accompanying loss of biodiversity. It also includes the pursuit of infrastructural development such as roads through forests. A current case in point is a proposed superhighway that threatens to erode community forests as well as a major forest reserve in Cross River State in Nigeria. The sore point with the proposed highway is that the government revoked occupancy rights of communities within a 10 km stretch on either side of the highway. By estimates, the highway and the lands girding it would take up 25% of the landmass of Cross River State. Analysts insist that the superhighway can easily be re-routed to preserve the communities as well as enormous biodiversity which includes rare and endangered species. It is also noted that the highway will lead to massive deforestation with grave climate change implications.

The 260 km road is planned to lead from a proposed deep sea port at Esighi in Bakassi Local Government Area through the Cross River National Park and up to Katsina Ala in Benue State, at a cost of 700 billion naira or about $3.5 billion. Observers think the project may be a cover for land grabbing, illegal logging and poaching and the destruction of habitats in the forests and reserves that are protected by law and preserved by custom. They question why a project of this nature would reportedly enjoy contributions from Nigerian banks without requisite preliminary surveys, plans and approvals.10

Climate injustice and sundry impacts

The climate impacts we have discussed thus far illustrate inherent injustices: the poor and the vulnerable are the ones mostly at risk. Poor levels of social investment leave the poor vulnerable and without protection as unpredictable weather events manifest. They are the most hit by food losses, sicknesses, infrastructure destruction, droughts, floods and water stress. They are poor, and climate change makes them poorer still. They are the ones expected to take real climate action, like protecting their forests, yet they are the last to be compensated when the booty of market environmentalism (through the commodification of nature) is to be shared. Within this scenario lies also hidden gender injustice exacerbated by imposed gender roles, oppression and patriarchy.

There were serious floods in various African countries in 2012. As we write this, there are warnings to communities in the flood plains of the Benue and Niger rivers to brace themselves for heavier floods this year. The floods of 2012 displaced 530,000 people in Niger between July and September, while six million were displaced with over 300 deaths in Nigeria. Thousands more were displaced in Mali, Kenya, Uganda, Chad, South Africa, Mozambique, Somalia, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Sudan, Mauritania and others.11 Flooding cost Mozambique a whopping $550 million in 2000 and lowered the national gross domestic product (GDP) by 1.5%. For Nigeria, the 2012 floods brought a 0.36% drop in GDP.

With a 2oC warming above pre-industrial temperatures, it is estimated that there could be permanent reductions in per capita food consumption of 4-5 %. With current trends in temperature increase, about 20% of Sub-Saharan Africa’s arable land may become much less suitable for farming by 2080.

A paradigm shift from a one-dimensional characterisation of responsibility and suffering to dimensions of fairness and justice is necessary to move beyond the impasse in international climate negotiations and improve national-level policy-making. The inequalities which are associated with human-induced elements, unequal distribution of impacts, unequal responsibility for and disproportionate cost of climate change mitigation and adaptation have shaped vulnerability and capacities for adaptation.  There should be a shift from a simple dual classification of winners and losers derived from locations in sensitive biophysical systems to include political, economic and social determinants of vulnerability and adaptation capabilities.



1                    Patrick Bond (2012). Politics of Climate Justice.

2                    ETC Group (2014). Geoengineering and Climate Change – Implications for Africa.

3                    World Food Summit (1996).

4                    UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (2008). Food Security Concepts and Frameworks – What Is Food Security? Learner’s Notes.

5                    Friends of the Earth International (2003). Playing with Hunger. FoEI, Amsterdam.

6                    Zambia Daily Mail, 5 November 2002. Quoted in Friends of the Earth International (2003).

7           What is El Nino?

8                    Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2013). Projections of Long Term Climate Change: Regional Changes and the Atlas. Accessed at

9                    E H Allison et al. (2009). Vulnerability of national economies to the impacts of climate change on fisheries. Fish and Fisheries, 10(2): 173-196.

10                Nnimmo Bassey (2016). Halt the assault on the Ekuri community and other forests.

11                See for more details.

Culled from Third World Resurgence No. 312/313, Aug/Sept 2016, pp 17-20

Rising Martyrdom of Earth Defenders


Eco-Instigator #13 reflects on GMOs in Nigeria, the rising martyrdom of Earth defenders; the upcoming Ogoni clean-up and other critical issues. We bring you books you should read. And poetry!

This edition has two key articles on environmental justice – one is on the rising martyrdom of earth defenders written by Hannibal Rhoades of Gaia Foundation. The second article is on what it means to to fight for environmental justice in the Maghreb. That article is penned by none other than Hamza Hamouchene – an outstanding Algerian activist and writer.

We serve you with reports from the ongoing debates on the genetically modified organisms (GMO) debacle in Nigeria. We also bring you the submission by key activists against gene drive technology to the recently concluded conference of the IUCN.

Ogoni/Niger Delta Clean–up is picking up and there are concerns about the methods of tackling the resurrected militancy that stop Niger Delta. Will wielding the military big stick (Operation Crocodile Smile) solve the problem?

In Books You Should Read, we highlight Living in Fear, by Juan Lopez Villar. It is a book on the unending Wars, conflicts and natural resources in central Africa. It is one book that you should do all you can to read.

Do you have a story to tell? A poem, photograph or an article/report to share? We are waiting for you.

Until victory!

Down load eco-instigator-13 here

Climate Change and the World of Labour


Comrade Prince Adeyemi – NLC deputy President, Nigerian Labour Congress launching the NLC Climate Policy

Time for Green Labour Revolution

The launch of the Climate Policy must be followed by massive awareness creation on shop floors and board rooms. The capacity of workers must be enhanced through trainings so that the coming transitions will be beneficial rather than harmful to the workforce. The policy must also be seen as a tool for building bridges and for deep collaboration with citizens, movements and governments.

The Climate change phenomenon affects all humanity and the planet. It is a cross-cutting crisis that has deep implications for our way of life and for how and where we work. Climate Change is a social, environmental and ecological justice issue. It is also an issue of gender, political and economic domination wherein those that contribute the least to the problem are the most affected and it is the victims that are increasingly showing more ambition towards tackling the crisis. This realisation urges us not to see the demand for System Change as a mere slogan but as a key framing of the fundamental path to attaining climate justice.

The big challenge here is that getting involved in pressing for climate action may sometimes appear to go against the grain of the routine labour concerns of wages and job security. Keeping in mind the fact that climate change impacts do not differentiate between workers and non-workers, we cannot overemphasis the fact that labour activism must necessarily go beyond work tenure, wages and privileges. In fact, climate action is a major way that labour unions can retain relevance in a world facing dramatic and unyielding social, climate and environmental change. Labour’s climate change slogan “No jobs on a dead planet” speaks very clearly about the overarching understanding that demands mobilisations for action.

Climate impacts are already with us. And they are intensifying: floods, sea level rise, droughts, desertification, heat waves, water stress and disappearing water bodies, including Lake Chad.

Responses have been mostly on two tracks: adaptation and mitigation. Both require finance and in many cases technology. Climate finance and technology transfer are essential for serious climate action. The demand for these cannot be seen as charity or philanthropy, but on the basis of equity, historical responsibility and as reparation or settlement of climate or ecological debt. This can also be approached on the basis of polluter pays principle. This principle has already kicked in here with regard to the clean-up of Ogoni environment where the funds for the environmental assessment came from the polluter and the clean-up itself will be similarly funded.

The Nigerian Labour Congress must be applauded for placing due premium on Climate Change and seeking ways to contribute to the tackling of the crisis on the factory floors and in the wider political space. At a time when other sectors of the economy are yet to place the needed premium on finding solutions to the challenge, NLC has taken the bold step of coming forward with a Climate Change Policy.

Politicians cannot effectively tackle the climate crisis alone. The environmental and climate movements cannot do it alone. The fusion of forces requires a fresh understanding of solidarity and conjoined interests.

The NLC has shown over the years that its vision for workers includes the place of workers in community of citizens of our nation. Labour has been in the fore front of the struggles for liberties, democracy and sundry rights in our nation. With that pedigree, it would have been tragic if the NLC did not take a bold stand on this major threat that has both local and global manifestations. Labour has the onerous responsibility to make climate change action and clean jobs central collective bargaining planks.

Climate Deniers

It is well known that while businesses and corporations have known of the threat of climate change some of them have invested heavily in sowing doubts about the crisis and are in general denial that global warming has anthropogenic roots. Among the major climate deniers are transnational oil companies and it does appear that the main reason for blocking or blunting efforts to tackle the menace has been bids to lock in dependence on fossil fuels and by so doing secure their profit margin while maintaining a short term vision that does not worry about the catastrophic consequences of climate change.

Climate denial has powerfully impacted climate negotiations and actions. The short history of climate negotiations makes this clear. The major Kyoto Protocol of 1997 placed premium on the foundational justice premise of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR). Informing that principle is the fact that although humans have caused climate change, some nations are far more responsible for the situation than others. That reality led to the creation of Annex 1 and non-Annex 1 countries, with the Annex 1 nations being the rich industrialised and highly polluting nations who have already utilised a huge chunk of the carbon budget. The Kyoto Protocol required that countries agree to binding emissions reduction levels – by which they would do their fair share of emissions cut as determined by science, in order to keep global temperature increases within reasonable limits.

From the 15th Conference of Parties of the UNFCCC held in Copenhagen, the world shifted from binding emissions reduction and adopted the voluntary pledge and review system. This was concretised in the much-celebrated Paris Agreement reached at COP21.  Now, countries can do literally as they please. It has been seen already that if all the countries, including Nigeria, do all they say they would do as contained in their NDCs, the world would be on track for over 4oC temperature change within the Century. Keeping in mind that Africa experiences higher average temperatures than the global average the levels of temperature increase being foreseen would mean a roasting of Africa.

Climate and the World of Labour

Let us look at some of the consequences of climate inaction on the World of Work. First of all, we must all agree that it is workers that are called upon to provide emergency responses when there are natural or manmade catastrophes – whether these are floods, fires or conflicts arising from these and others. It is thus in the worker’s interest for action to be taken to avert such avoidable calamities.

The major driver of global warming is known to be the burning of fossil fuels- oil, gas and coal. In Nigeria we literally burn raw natural gas through gas flaring. It has been estimated that up to 80-85 percent of known fossil fuels reserve is not burnable[1] if we are to stand a 50 percent chance of keeping to 2 degrees Celsius temperature increase throughout this Century[2]. This has been attested to by several authorities including the International Energy Agency, The World Bank and researchers at University College London. Has this realisation halted the search for and extraction of fossil fuels? No. Rather than stop searching for and exploiting these resources we are witnesses to extreme extraction including by deep sea drilling and hydraulic fracturing or fracking. The challenge facing the industry is that if the use of their products is discontinued they would be left with stranded assets and diminished profits. To keep profits rolling workers must keep drilling even if the planet burns.

Another form of extreme extraction is deep-sea drilling. Deep sea drilling besides yielding resources that should be left below the sea bed, exposes workers to very risky work conditions. Workers literally disappear in accidents such as the Deep Sea Horizon oil spill of 20 April 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico and the Chevron gas rig explosion of 16 January 2012 in the Funima field off the coast of Kolouama, Bayelsa State.

Fracking is known to heavily contaminate ground water with toxic chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing processes. The process is also said to be triggering earth tremors and earthquakes in some areas.

With sea level rise and freak storms, workers are exposed to hazardous conditions even as drilling rigs and platforms face increasing risks and sometimes get knocked over. Sea level rise is a real threat in Southern Nigeria, just as desertification is in the North. Indeed, Nigeria’s 853Km coastline is so low lying that sea level rise and coastal erosion are already causing significant loss of land. We should add here that the industrial installations along our coastline stand at a great risk if climate action is not taken to strengthen and defend our coastline by means including sea walls and restoration of mangrove forests.

Deforestation is another phenomenon that must be stemmed as a way of fighting climate change. Our forests are challenged by illegal logging and by land-use changes, especially of replacing our forests with monoculture plantations. Forest cover is also lost to infrastructural developments. With our forest cover already down to less than 10 percent of what it used to be, the 260 KM superhighway that is proposed to run from Bakassi to Katsina Ala, ripping through pristine forests, and having 10 km right of way on both sides may well be the last nail to be hammered into the climate coffin in Nigeria. Labour has a duty to speak up on this matter.  The infrastructural development would provide some jobs in the short term, but destroying such a huge swathe of pristine rain forest would extinguish existing livelihoods in forest dependent communities, diminish tourist potential of the territory, destroy wildlife habitats and general biodiversity. Significantly, it would mean the destruction of a major carbon sink in the region.


New Thinking, New Jobs

If fossil resources are kept in the ground, would this not lead to massive lay off of workers around the world? Not likely if we act proactively.

Labour can play strategic roles in climate change responses, including by activating a global movement of workers that are actively ensuring that their pension funds are invested in climate friendly sectors. Labour can work towards training and retraining for the acquisition of new skills for jobs in the renewable energy sector, greening our infrastructure, retrofitting and other areas of the built environment. The fear of job losses that may arise from a shift from jobs that hurt the climate is to a large extent unfounded. The Trade Unions-led One Million Climate Jobs campaign, for example, gives ample reasons to see that we simply need a new mind-set and willingness to invest differently. According to the campaign, Climate jobs are jobs that lead directly to cuts in emissions of greenhouse gases, and so slow down climate change. For instance, workers who build wind farms replace power stations that burn coal or oil. Workers who insulate buildings reduce the oil and gas we burn. Bus drivers reduce the amount of oil we burn in cars[3].

The campaign also shows that one million climate jobs can be funded from recovered stolen funds and from other monies stashed away in tax havens.

The Green Labour Revolution

We have heard it said that Africa missed the first Green Revolution and so we need a new Green Revolution for the continent. The true revolution that we need is one that builds on our inherent diversity and resilience. In the area of agriculture, labour should be in the forefront of ensuring that our biodiversity is not eroded and that our farmers are not turned into share croppers or mere farm hands in monoculture wastelands. Labour must promote truly climate smart agriculture that is built on agro-ecology and not on genetically engineered crops that depend on toxic chemicals that endanger the health of farm workers and the environment. It is time give birth to a Green Labour Revolution. According to the frontline climate crusader, Naomi Klein, this sort of revolution would not only delink our economic system from the clutches for neoliberalism but would heal the planet in the process.[4]

Dominant political and neo-liberal economic thought holds that through technological development we (humans) can fix whatever we break and destroy. This position is promoted by the rupturing of bonds between humans and Nature; with Nature being seen as an object to be transformed and/or commodified. This thinking has driven extreme extraction and dramatic transformation of Nature that has now thrown up new realities.

The protection of livelihoods will remain a key concern of Labour, but the reality of some workers being adversely affected by climate impacts and policies must necessarily be kept in view through provisions for a just transition[5] to a climate-friendly economy.[6]

Work sectors that must embrace just transitions to a low carbon economy include:

  • Power/energy sector
  • Agriculture
  • Infrastructure and construction
  • Waste management
  • Health
  • Mining
  • Land management
  • Industrialization
  • Transportation

The launch of the Climate Policy must be followed by massive awareness creation on shop floors and board rooms. The capacity of workers must be enhanced through trainings so that the coming transitions will be beneficial rather than harmful to the workforce. The policy must also be seen as a tool for building bridges and for deep collaboration with citizens, movements and governments.

The solutions to complex problems are often so easy that they are overlooked or simply ignored. Real climate change actions require that

  • Emissions are cut at source and not offset through the various market mechanisms that can be equated to plea bargains where offenders are let off the hook by making some payments (and carrying on with the harmful activity)
  • Climate debt must be recognised and paid and this will cover for climate finance
  • The Rights of Nature is ensured and Nature is not traded as objects of trade, manipulation and transformation.
  • Consumption and waste is reduced. Promotion of local production and consumption is key
  • Vigorously promote and pursue climate cooling agro-ecological agriculture as opposed to climate hurting fossil/chemical dependent industrial agriculture.


Disaster occurs when hazards meet with vulnerability or unpreparedness. By launching a climate policy today, the NLC has shown that it will not wait to be taken unawares by climate change impacts. It is now the duty of NLC to encourage all labour organisations to urgently buy into this policy framework or draw up policies especially focussed on their areas of work. As we said at the outset, government cannot tackle climate challenge on its own. The NDCs submitted to the UNFCCC are largely aspirational and require much commitment and tweaking to make it effectively operational. Labour can provide the push that politicians often need to gain momentum towards actions.  This is the time for a much needed Green Labour Revolution and the environmental movement is ready to join forces for this to happen for the good of our peoples and the planet.

**Talking points used at the Public Presentation of Nigeria Labour Congress’ Climate Change Policy at Nicon Luxury Hotel, Abuja, on Monday 24 October 2016



[1] Duncan Clark. 2015. How much of the World’s Fossil Fuel can we burn?

[2] Christophe McGlade and Paul Ekins.2015. The geographical distribution of fossil fuels unused when limiting global warming to 2 °C

[3] See Jonathan Neal. 2014. One Million Climate Jobs – Tackling the Environmental and Economic Crises at

[4] Naomi Klein.2013. Why Unions Need to Join the Climate Fight at:

[5] Just transition has been defined by COSATU in its Framework on Climate Change (2011)as “A Just transition means changes that do not disadvantage the working class worldwide, that does not disadvantage developing countries , and where the industrialized countries pay for the damage their development has done to the earth’s atmosphere. A just transition provides the opportunity for deeper transformation that includes the redistribution of power and resources towards a more just and equitable social order.”

[6] Ava Lightbody. 8 April 2015. How are U.S. Unions Working Toward a Climate-Safe Economy for All Workers?

20 years of Oilwatching

asamblea de oilwatch en octubre de 2016

Delegates at the 20th Anniversary/General Assembly of Oilwatch International

Oilwatch International was formally inaugurated in 1996 in Quito, Ecuador. Oilwatch has remained a network driven by the conviction that the petroleum civilisation is driving humans to the precipice. This forward-looking network called for oil to be left in the soil from its very early days. That is still the call today. Building a post-petroleum civilisation has never been more urgent as it is now.

Ecuador was the right place to begin this adventure, this struggle, this working with and learning from communities impacted by fossil fuels extraction. Ecuador served as a big school because in one or two days, and within a short travel time, you could visit oil wells, pollution spots and refineries. You could see all the atrocities and massive oil spills left by Chevron in the Amazon, for example. Using the tools of research and social exchanges, Oilwatchers from various countries could see that the destructive impacts of hydrocarbons extraction and oil-driven civilisation was uniformly reprehensible.

The extreme pollutions of the Niger Delta, the acid  and asphalt lakes beside the refinery in Curacao, the Tar sand pits of Canada and the ongoing epic struggles to keep pipelines from destroying nature and peoples ,remain the open wounds that we must confront daily.

In two days Oilwatchers looked at the rearview mirrors over the past 20 years, talked about the increasing criminalisation of nature defenders, remembered our fallen comrades, and agreed to pursue the attainment of a future where the rights of people and nature are respected and where humans live in harmony – in the true spirit of Ubuntu.

On my first trip to Quito in 1997 I took a photo of the three Amazons above on a scooter. Talk of mass transit! That photo is preserved in my pollution travelogue – Oilwatching in South America (Kraft Books, 1997). As we marked 20 years of Oilwatch we could not resist the pull to have a throwback! Simply amazing.

Oilwatchers stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters taking the stand on the Dakota Access Pipeline.