Sep 5, 2019

Climate Change And Environmental Law | Okpara Cherish

"We are running the most dangerous

experiment in history right now,

which is to find out how much carbon dioxide

 the atmosphere can handle before

there is an environmental catastrophe."(ELON MUSK)

    Climate change is a change in global or regional climate patterns, in particular a change apparent from the mid to late 20th century onwards and attributed largely to the increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide produced by the use of fossil fuels. Climate change occurs when changes in Earth's climate system result in new weather patterns that last for at least a few decades, and maybe for millions of years. The climate system comprises five interacting parts, the atmosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere, biosphere, and lithosphere(Wikipedia).

Climate change has become one of the greatest global challenges of our times. Climate change affects people all over the world. Effects that scientists had predicted in the past would result from global climate change are now occurring, such as loss of sea ice, accelerated sea level rise and longer, more intense heat waves. Science shows that as time goes by, it will get extremely worse. Worse impacts will be on the lives and livelihoods of the poor and developing countries, especially small island states. We are increasingly aware that what happens in one part of the globe can affect another part of the globe – be it toxic pollutants from Asia, Europe and North America contaminating the Arctic or the greenhouse gases of the industrialised regions triggering droughts or the melting of glaciers in the less industrialised ones.

According to the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), human-caused global warming is driving climate changes impacting both human and natural systems on all continents and across the oceans. Human-caused global warming results from the increased use of fossil fuels in transportation, manufacturing and communications.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is an intergovernmental body of the United Nations, dedicated to providing the world with an objective, scientific view of climate change, its natural, political and economic impacts and risks, and possible response options. 

In Nigeria, according to findings from EcowarriorsNG (A Non Governmental Organization) during their Climate Change Awareness Walk at Magodo; there is very little sensitization on climate change and global warming. The very few that know just hear of it in movies and do not educate their minds further. 

According to a survey done by the World Health Organisation, Onitsha is rated as the dirtiest city in Nigeria. Aba is a popular city in Nigeria known for its commercial activities. Also, the Association of Waste Managers of Nigeria, popularly known as Public Private Participation, says Lagos State has now become one of the dirtiest cities in the world.

Most of this waste gets into the drainage system, blocks them leaving waters to flood the roads and into the ocean.Plastics pollution has a direct and deadly effect on wildlife. Thousands of seabirds and sea turtles, seals and other marine mammals are killed each year after ingesting plastic or getting entangled in it.

The 2014 World Climate Change Vulnerability Index classified Nigeria as one of the 10 most climate-vulnerable countries, and Lagos as the 10th most vulnerable city in the world. The continued heavy reliance on fossil fuel-powered generators in Nigeria by government institutions, businesses and households for electricity supply constitutes a major threat to the nation’s climate change plans. The dark smoky fumes that comes out of the exhaust of some commercial buses in Lagos is enough to keep the country in total darkness.

As of 2005, Nigeria has the highest rate of deforestation in the world according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the ited Nations (FAO). Between 2000 and 2005 the country lost 55.7% of its primary forests, and the rate of forest change increased by 31.2% to 3.12% per annum. Forest has been cleared for logging, timber export, subsistence agriculture and notably the collection of wood for fuel which remains problematic in western Africa.

In 2005 12.2%, the equivalent of 11,089,000 hectares (27,400,000 acres) had been forested in Nigeria. Between 1990 and 2000, Nigeria lost an average of 409,700 hectares of forest every year equal to an average annual deforestation rate of 2.38%. Between 1990 and 2005, in total Nigeria lost 35.7% of its forest cover, or around 6,145,000 hectares.

   In 2015, the Nigerian Federal Executive Council (FEC) approved the adoption of National Policy on Climate Change and Response Strategy (NPCC-RS), as a National Document for implementing climate activities in the country. The National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency NESREA, is the major federal body responsible for protecting Nigeria's environment is responsible for enforcing all environmental laws, regulations, guidelines, and standards '[National Environmental Standards Regulations and Enforcement Agency (Establishment) Act 2007 (NESREAA) and the 33 Regulations made by the Minister of Environment under section 34 of the Act This statute was created under the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (section 20) and repealed the Federal Environmental Protection Act 1988].These laws prohibit the carrying, depositing and dumping of harmful waste on land and in territorial waters among other things.

Despite the regulations we seemingly have in place, there is has been no major milestone in combating climate change and global warming in Nigeria.

In an article written by YUSUF OLAOLU on Legal Professions and Climate Change in Nigeria;  he stated that:

"Climate Change, Energy and Sustainability are rapidly developing areas of law. There has been significant activity at the national and international levels to design and implement specific legal tools to address climate change and renewable energy concerns. The coming years will see increased attention to a broad range of climate and renewable energy issues at all levels of government. Almost all business sectors and industries will be affected, including public entities, non-profit institutions, lenders, developers, investors, landowners, and companies in the engineering and construction, chemical, industrial and manufacturing, transportation, and waste management sectors.

It is time the legal profession turns its attention to the global dimensions of this serious challenge and motivate decision-makers to bring about a transformation of institutions and agreements to protect the lives of those who would be worst affected by the impact of climate change. There are a number of opportunities that exist for lawyers from the emergent regulatory and corporate responses to climate change. Most importantly, the emerging Climate Change Bill (the significant local legislation on Climate Change) in Nigeria and International Treaties will generate new business opportunities and additional regulatory risks. It is imperative for lawyers to be able to recognize and analyze them for developmental gains. "

There is a scarcity of legislation dealing with climate change. Nigerians disregard topics related to climate change and global warming. These changes have led to the emergence of large-scale environmental hazards to human health, such as extreme weather, ozone depletion, increased danger of wildland fires, loss of biodiversity, stresses to food-producing systems and the global spread of infectious diseases. In addition, climatic changes are estimated to cause over 150,000 deaths annually.