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Sunday, December 3, 2023

Govt, UNDP develop two-year Covid-19 environment recovery plan

With the loss of hundreds of thousands of human lives and millions of jobs worldwide, the coronavirus pandemic has posed an extraordinary challenge to man.

Dr. Mahmood Mohammad Abubakar
Minister of Environment, Dr. Mahmood Mohammad Abubakar

But stakeholders in Nigeria’s environment sector see an opportunity in the global crisis, offering to correct mistakes associated with and unveiled by the plague.

In fact, the situation has been described as a chance to rethink and alter the current economic trajectory away from overdependence on fossil fuels towards one that prioritises investment in creation green jobs, investment in climate smart agriculture, deployment of affordable renewable energy solutions and nature-based solutions.

Consequently, the Federal Ministry of Environment (FMoE), in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), has developed the “Post-COVID-19 Medium-Term Strategy Plan (2020-2022) for the Environment Sector”, which was unveiled at a virtual session on Thursday, July 9, 2020.

The forum was attended by the Environment Minister, Dr. Mohammad Mahmood Abubakar; Environment Minister of State, Mrs Sharon Ikeazor; and the UNDP Deputy Resident Representative for Programmes, Mr. Lealem Dinku, among several others.

Speaking during the event, Mr Dinku, said that the report could not have come at a better time.

His words: “It is about turning the recovery from Covid-19 into a real opportunity to do things right for the future. It provides a clear roadmap for action, taking into cognisance the cross connectivity between climate change, environmental sustainability, and COVID-19. It is our hope that the report would stimulate policy actions, engender further discussions which will ultimately give birth to a new green economy for Nigeria.”

According to him, time is of essence, and that the time for action is now. He called for urgent action, on behalf of future generations, to ensure that:

  • Public funds are invested in the future, not the past, and that these funds flow to sustainable sectors and projects that help the environment and the climate,
  • Ensure that polluters must start paying for their pollution,
  • Incorporate climate risks and opportunities into the financial system as well as all aspects of public policy making, budgeting and infrastructure, and
  • Enshrine the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) targets into the very core of Nigeria’s medium to longer term economic growth and development plans.

Dinku said: “We believe that it is achievable, and that purposeful and visionary leadership is imperative for the type of bold steps that is critical for such a time as this.

“We at UNDP are incurable believers in Nigeria’s abilities to lead the world greening of its recovery plan. Nigeria did it before with the issuance of the first green bonds in Africa and can surely do it again.”

Shedding some light on the report, Prof. Emmanuel Oladipo, who heads a team of experts who prepared the document, said that the strategy was informed by the need to address the country’s environmental challenges in the post COVID-19 era given the shocks the pandemic created.

The report, which listed Covid-19 pandemic and environmental issues to include environmental health challenges, waste management challenges, environmental pollution challenges and climate change impacts, is expected to place the FMoE “in a strategic position to be able to respond effectively to the future environmental challenges that may emerge after the initial environmental shocks created by the COVID-19 pandemic”.

Apart from examining performance of the environment sector and progress regarding the implementation of the National Policy on Environment and identifying gaps in the immediate environment, the report also looks at the current COVID-19 pandemic in relation to the Policy on the Environment.

Prof. Oladipo and his colleagues sought to determine the key areas in the country’s environment sector that are likely to be mostly affected by COVID-19 pandemic, even as they identified critical and impactful measures, initiatives and projects that will help the system adapt, cope, and mitigate the COVID-19 potential current and future impacts.

The report examined programmes and initiatives under sectors like Biodiversity and Biosafety, Climate Change, Drought and Desertification, Flood and Erosion, Forestry, Oil Spill and Gas Flare, Pollution, and Waste Management.

“The objective of this strategic focus for 2020-2022 is to strengthen national institutions and initiatives to respond effectively to the future environmental challenges that may emerge after the initial environmental shocks created by the COVID-19 pandemic in a participatory manner that involves engaging all sectors of the Nigerian society, including the poor and other vulnerable groups, within the overall context of advancing sustainable socio-economic development in the country,” submitted Prof. Oladipo.

He listed some of the activities to be undertaken under the plan to address emerging environmental challenges in post COVID-19 Nigeria to include:

  • Strengthening laws and regulations, and policies and measures/plans relevant to addressing environment and development,
  • Improving the science-policy interface of environmental governance,
  • Enhancing capacities of all technical Departments in the Ministry to develop policies and plans, formulate programmes and projects and provide strategic leadership and direction in environmental management,
  • Providing technical assistance and guidance to states for the establishment of functional environmental governance system,
  • Promoting inter-departmental and inter-ministerial and coherence among agencies to transform national approach to environmental management,
  • Integrating environmental safeguards into national development programmes,
  • Raising awareness and outreach through knowledge sharing, use of network, environmental education, training, and access to information,
  • Building strategic partnerships with the private sector and development partners (bilateral and multilateral) to advance environmental sustainability and sustainable development,
  • Facilitating country access to national and international funding for the environment,
  • Promoting gender responsive and socially inclusive approach to environmental management, and
  • Operationalising an effective monitoring and evaluation system for results-based impact assessment.

While Dr. Abubakar reiterated government’s commitment to ensuring a clean and liveable environment, Mrs ikeazor disclosed that Nigeria now has a Climate Finance Advisor domiciled in the Finance Ministry by working closely with the Environment Ministry.

Dr. Abubakar said: “Nigeria is faced with mirage of environmental challenges, which are exacerbated with COVID-19. The pandemic has devastated the global economy and health sectors of which Nigeria is not an exception. The livelihood and sustainable living of our people is dependent on the environment, therefore, environmental sector has crucial role to play in Post COVID-19 recovery.

“It is the desire of the management of the Ministry that the Medium Term Strategic Plan (MTSP) will serve as a Roadmap for specific environmental actions that will lead to Sustainable Development, Livelihood Enhancement, Poverty Eradication, Clean Energy Generation, Sustainable Waste Management, Erosion and Flood Control, Desertification and Ameliorations, Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation, Pollution Control, Afforestation, enhancing assess to global environmental finances and Nigeria environmental diplomacy

“As you are all aware, at the national level, the Committee headed by the Vice President have submitted the Post COVID-19 Economic Sustainability Plan. I urge the Team of Experts that produced the MTSP document to scrutinise the VP’s report and integrate key elements into the document.

“I am aware that this document is generated based on submissions by Departments and Agencies of the Ministry, I am of the view that the document should also be subjected to further stakeholders’ engagement and even with international inputs. Furthermore, I will urge the Departments and Agencies to provide further input if any into the documents.”

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