“Human behaviour is central to both COVID-19 and climate change”- Achenyo Idachaba-Obaro

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“Human behaviour is central to both COVID-19 and climate change”- Achenyo Idachaba-Obaro

“While the Kyoto Protocol required only developed countries to reduce emissions. the Paris Agreement recognizes that climate change is a shared problem and calls on all countries to set emissions targets.”

That was the opening line of the keynote address at Climateaction.africa’s first stakeholders’ forum on October 8, 2021.

Exploring the sub-theme, “Ensuring a more inclusive, more inclusive and collaborative climate actions and initiatives on national and regional levels: The value of collective action”, the keynote speech was given by Achenyo Idachaba-Obaro, the founder of MitiMeth, an award-winning social enterprise based in Nigeria.

Her commendable insights set a great tone for the event; she delved into Africa’s response to the Paris Agreement; drew a parallel between Covid-19 and climate change; and also recommended action points that could
help the continent address climate change.

She said, “The goal of the Paris Agreement is to limit global warming well below two degrees Celsius, preferably 1.5 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels.

To put it simply, the Paris Agreement essentially is putting the ball in our courts, here in Africa to do something about mitigating climate change, as well as adapting to the effects of climate change.”

According to Idachaba-Obaro, all but three countries on the African continent have actually ratified the Paris Agreement. And as 2019. And at a minimum, those three that have not read ratified the agreement, are signatories to it in the bare minimum.

“This means is that each nation has essentially set Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) targets and timelines to achieve those targets. And priority areas within our economies have been identified for action within our respective countries,” she said.

Using Nigeria as a case study, she disclosed that while the priority areas in Nigeria are laudable, it is not all-inclusive neither do they reflect some of the key sector areas which are low hanging fruits.

She argued that waste management, though imperative, was not considered when Nigeria set its NDCs. She believes that Nigeria is a major contributor to this sector; as such the country is contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and global warming.

Africa should take lessons from COVID-19 to address climate change

During the course of the keynote address, Idachaba-Obaro revealed that 2020 was a key milestone year in the life of the Paris Agreement.

As most people would agree, 2020 threw the entire globe a curveball in the name of COVID-19 as attentions were literally shifted and focused on curbing the effects of the global public health crisis.

“Interestingly, both COVID-19 and climate change have similarities. A key similarity is that human behavior is central to both crises. The SARS-CoV-2 spreads between people directly requiring social distancing for containment. And you have climate change which is caused mostly caused by emissions of greenhouse gases from human activity.”

She continued, “Both crises are global in nature, as well as economically devastating. Both disproportionately impact the poor and deepen existing inequalities.”

She believes that there are several instructive lessons from the deaths, and the lockdown restrictions, resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. On the one hand, there was a collaboration among scientists backed by generous funding from governments; on the other, there was private-sector ingenuity.

As a result, vaccines were approved only nine or so months after WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic- a record development Program for the vaccines.

“If that could happen for COVID-19, there’s no reason why the same principles of collaboration and speed cannot be applied to tackling and implementing mitigative and adaptive solutions to climate change.”

“The West sprinted for a COVID-19 solution in vaccine development, and because their populations were significantly affected by the health crisis there was a deep sense of urgency to deliver a solution in order to mitigate and adapt to the effects of the virus on its population, as well as the rest of the world.

That mitigation came in the form of vaccine development, adaptation came in the form of social distancing, wearing a face mask sanitizing, and we are all familiar with the protocols associated with COVID-19.”

Even now, COVID-19 still dominates the news and the media is awash with the latest news on developments within the country and across the globe. Monitoring and reporting mechanisms have been put in place and all that is happening with the pandemic is literally in our face on a day-to-day basis.

In her opinion, she believes that these are lessons as well as opportunities for environmental action in Africa. She stressed, “We need to sprint for a solution to climate change on the continent because we are the ones that are disproportionately affected by the effects of climate change.

Also, there needs to be a spectacular collaboration amongst nations, among scientists. There needs to be generous funding by governments as well as private-sector ingenuity. The communities, the media, CSOs all need to be mobilized into action.”

On building more inclusive and collaborative climate actions

Idachabo-Obaro highlighted three points that Africa as a continent needs to consider in its response to climate change.

The first point is heightened media coverage. She emphasized that climate change effects and solutions need to be amplified by the media. “People who wouldn’t ordinarily think of it need to be made aware of the developments that are happening within this space in the area of mitigation in the area of adaptation.”

The second is in the area of collaboration. According to her, climate change solutions need to be developed by science, and practitioners through collaborative research and development, partnerships, and capacity building through climate innovation centers, incubators, and accelerators.

These can then be commercialized, these solutions can be commercialized and scaled by generous government funding and private sector investments.

“We need to grow these initiatives and make them continents wide. So it’s not just enough for Nigeria to have its own climate innovation center or Ghana, Kenya, and Ethiopia to have theirs. We need to ensure that climate actions are inclusive and collaborative in nature.” 

The third point is that climate solutions need to reach the last mile. “It’s not enough for us to come up with these brilliant solutions to address our issues of climate change, but they need to reach the last mile, the populations that are affected the most by the effects of climate change.”

She concludes the keynote address by calling on civil service, civil society organizations, non-governmental organizations, government agencies from ministries of health, agriculture, rural development, and social welfare to engage in collaborative climate actions that will reach the last mile.

In her words: There’s a role for every one of us to play as we sprint to find solutions that can address climate change. We can’t afford to crawl anymore. How true!

Featured Image: Achenyo Idachaba-Obaro, Founder of MitiMeth

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