In Abuja, several key policy makers and NGO leaders gathered together at the Protea Apo Apartments for the first session of the Health of Mother Earth Sustainability Academy (HOME School) on the 19th of August, 2013. The first leg of the 3-city event was targeted towards this sector of society in order to discuss Nigeria’s standing on policy in relation to the theme: Climate Change and the Looming Food Crises.
There were several key players in the Nigerian climate change space present including Nnimmo Bassey, Right Livelihood Award recipient, Rafto Prize winner, the founder of HOMEF and one of the advisory board members. Nnimmo Bassey welcomed the guests and gave a brief synopsis of HOMEF, on the occasion of her first outing. According to Nnimmo Bassey, “we believe we can instigate positive change and this is why we refer to our speakers as instigators.” He continued by saying: “if our sea level increases by 2 meters, even Benin City will go under and Eko Atlantic will be seen to be a folly.” On Pablo Solon’s first visit to Nigeria, Rev’d Bassey also welcomed the ambassador to HOMEF and Nigeria. The former Minister for Environment, Hon. John Odey described climate change as a fact and urged Nigerian citizens to take into cognizance all three key aspects of development (environmental, economic and social) without neglecting one aspect for the other.
Comrade Baba Aye of Health Workers Union challenged the justice issues behind environmental devastation, stating that even if wealthy countries manage to pay their way out of destruction in Earth, poorer countries cannot afford to do so. In his words, “the people most affected are the working people. The reason we are where we are is that the powerful benefit from it. It is a power struggle; struggle for the self-emancipation of the working people.” He also mentioned that environmental disasters are issues of the present not the future. Prof. Oladipo, a Nigerian climate negotiator and expert contributed the need for Nigeria to build a pressure group that urges the government to be futuristic in its approach towards development. Dr. Eniola Ajayi, the Ekiti State Commissioner for Environment and Comrade Chido Onumah of African Center for Media & Information Literacy expressed their desire to learn from Ambassador Solon.
The chief instigator, Pablo Solon was the ambassador of the Plurinational State of Bolivia to the United Nations from February 2009 to July 2011 and is the current Executive Director of the NGO, Focus on the Global South. Pablo Solon of Bolivia, who also serves on the advisory board of HOMEF spoke extensively during the session on the need for Africa to take active steps against climate change. “Africa is becoming the most exposed region in the world to the impacts of climate change”, Pablo began, and reiterated throughout his presentation the vulnerability of Africa to temperature changes. For instance, by 2025, the impact of climate change on water availability in Nigeria will drop to 1700 cubic meters of water per person per year from over 3000 in 1990. This means Nigeria is quickly approaching water scarcity. In addition, the displacement of people is key in the climate change discussion and so issues of civil wars and uprising are of concern. It is predicted that there will be an increase of African civil wars by up to 54% due to climate change. And while it is possible to adapt to climate change to a certain extent, money is the deciding factor. So, poorer countries, with fewer emissions, will end up suffering the impacts the most. He concluded by giving practical and real solutions to the false solutions of GMOs, ocean fertilization, synthetic biology, stratospheric sulfate injection and the like. His suggested solutions include leaving 2/3rd of fossil fuels in the ground, adopting zero waste strategies and dismantling military infrastructure.