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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Tackling climate challenges through regional integration

As the federal and state governments make frantic efforts to tackle the adverse effects of climate change, environmentalists are of the view that regional integration will go a long way to mitigate the effects, writes Kayode Aboyeji 


Citing previous achievements through regional governments particularly in the first republic, some of which are still thriving till date, environmentalists have suggested regional integrated approach based on the account of national historical experiences to tackle the climate change challenge.

Besides, they argued that climate and the attendant variability do not recognise political boundary but, rather, respond to ecological zonal changes which do not correspond to states in Nigeria.

Generally,  regional integration promotes management of shared natural resources including  watersheds, mineral deposits, fisheries, and sensitive natural environments that are shared among countries. Also, it enlarges markets through the integration of small economies, thus promoting economies of scale and intensifying competition, leading to lower prices and expanded supply.

In a recent publication titled: “Unlocking North Africa’s Potential through Regional Integration: challenges and opportunities,” the trio of Santi, E., Romdhane,S.B. and Shaw,W  noted that regional agreements can provide  a “commitment mechanism” for countries’ domestic trade and other policy reforms, reducing the likelihood of policy reversals; effective action to combat infectious diseases, such as HIV/ AIDS and malaria, and vulnerabilities arising from climate change which depend on collaborative efforts among groups of countries.

They added that it also creates preferential reductions in tariffs within regional agreements that can induce shifts in both demand and supply with the net effects on national income that depend on the costs of alternative supply and trade policies toward nonmember countries; encourage bilateral agreements that can attract more FDI by enlarging markets (particularly for “lumpy” investment viable only above a certain size), reducing distortions (depending on policy content) and lowering the marginal cost of production.

They emphasised that regional integration agreements may enable countries to coordinate negotiating positions in international fora, thus raising visibility and possibly increasing bargaining power.  Such regional agreements, according to them, may lower the risk of conflict within the region as a result of improved intraregional confidence and trust, common defense arrangements, and interdependence in key aspects of countries’ national development.

Nigeria is one of the countries that are being affected by the effects of climate change caused by global warming.  The impacts of the phenomenon are visible across the states vis-a-vis at the regional level. At the moment, the Northern region is facing serious desertification, the Southern part is contending with gully erosion, pollution and other environmental degradation, while the western region is facing massive incidence of floods and ocean surge that has claimed lives and destroyed property, particularly, in Lagos State due to its coastal nature.

Similarly, due to the release of water from Lagdo Dam in Cameroon, about 15 people lost their lives while close to 250 villages were submerged in the Northern part of the country.

Although some of the state governments are intensifying efforts through various programmes and awareness creation on the danger of abuse to the environment many, however, believe that if there could be regional agreements, it would be easier to integrate the various efforts and address the challenges.

For instance, the floods that affect Lagos State in most cases originate from Ogun, Osun and even Ondo states where some of the rivers have their sources. Similarly, the impact of desert encroachment in the northern part (such as in Bauchi, Gombe and Borno states) cut across geographical boundaries.

Climatologist and lecturer at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Prof. Emmanuel Oladipo, said that the Southern, Middle Belt and Northern parts of Nigeria would respond to climate change differently.

According to him, climate and its variability know no political or geographical boundary, but rather responds to ecological zonal changes which do not correspond to states in Nigeria.
Said he: “Regional approach will be an advantage to mitigate the impacts of climate change. For instance, some of the floods in Lagos State originate from Ogun, Osun and even Ondo states where some of the rivers have their sources.

“Oyan River is a typical example. Extreme rainfalls in the upper part of the river normally results in excessive amount of water which forces the Basin Authority to release water from the dam and which consequently floods the Ikorodu/Isheri area of Lagos State.”

Oladipo, who is also one of Nigeria’s international climate negotiators, posited that an inter-state collaboration of the sustainable management of the water resources in the Oyan watershed would be a way out of the problem.

Another proponent of the idea and Commissioner for Environment and Sanitation in Osun State, Nigeria, Prof.( Mrs). O.M Oyawoye, noted that though differently, people are already feeling the adverse effect of climate change-flooding, drought, heat, biodiversity loss, livelihoods and reducing food production.

She stressed that while global negotiation and efforts continue, there should be immediate, concerted and collaborative adaptive actions crucial at the national, regional, state, local governments and community levels to address the challenge.

Such actions, she said, would lead to better and effective environmental policy, efficient and effective application of resources – human, material and financial. She noted that they would also create synergy, better economies of scale, strength of unity, better access to national and international benefits and eco-tourism.

On regional cooperation that had worked, she cited the example of the Great Green Wall afforestation initiative to protect sub-Saharan Africa from desertification and afforestation. It entails a cooperation by the 11 frontline states of northern Nigeria and Niger Delta region cooperation to address pollution and environmental degradation challenges peculiar to the region.

She went further: “Regional integration is a process in which states enter into an agreement in order to enhance regional cooperation through institutions and rules. The objectives of the agreement could range from economic to political; although it has generally become a political economy initiative where commercial purposes are the means to achieve broader socio-political objectives.”

Oyawoye recommended regional mitigation and adaptation for the South-west region that would include afforestation plan, urban renewal master plan, early warning system, capacity building and networking and information sharing.

Carty Tan, who works with Millennium Institute, a US-based organisation that is assisting Nigeria to develop the Threshold 21(T21) model to tackle the climate change impact, said it would be appropriate to break Nigeria into three. based on the visible effect of climate change so as to be able to address the challenge.

She said the issue of oil production in the country would have to be considered for any meaningful climate mitigation effort to be recorded.

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