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Lawmakers named as pathfinders for winning the climate change war

 By Menidin Egbo

Lawmakers have been named: “pathfinders” for winning the war on climate change in Nigeria. Evaluating the critical role of legislation in addressing current challenges of the global community, an environmentalist, Dr. Kabari Sam, observed: 

Kabari SAM | Researcher | PhD | Cranfield University, Cranfield |  Department of Environmental Science and Technology
Dr. Kabari Sam


“Our lawmakers are the pathfinders” for effective climate-resilience governance and participatory development. Dr. Kabari Sam who is Head of Environment and Conservation Unit, Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD), a non-governmental organization based in Port Harcourt, made the observation while delivering a lecture, titled: “Developing Climate Resilient legislations in Rivers State.”

Dr. Kabari Sam presented his lecture at a training “Workshop for Rivers State Legislators on Biodiversity Audit Legislation,” recently organized by CEHRD, with support from Cordaid. The training was targeted at enhancing lawmakers’ capacity for focusing on environmental auditing under legislative action for broad engagements in addressing human and environmental concerns.

 The lecture pointed out that the current global “most prominent climate laws” are focused on climate change mitigation through cutting emissions of greenhouse gasses, as well as promoting renewable energy options. Other critical areas of global legislative focus as revealed by the lecture include water security, disaster risk management, sustainable agriculture, food production and health.  Dr. Kabari Sam stretched that legislative action must effectively address climate change effects as they affect present and future generations under changes across the critical focus areas, even as climate action must inspire development and national planning prioritizing.

Giving the reasons for training lawmakers on climate change legislation, Dr. Kabari Sam opined that legislation is critically important to develop effective strategy for addressing the current notable climate change impacts in their high potential scale for causing ecological and social devastations. He further pointed out that legislation can provide a road-map and direction for sustainable state action on climate impacts mitigation. He especially addressed the related issues of capacity building and needed political will for driving effort to attain the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as promoted by the global community.

Defining climate change as the “average weather at a given point and time of year, over a long period (typically 30 years),” he observed: “We expect the weather to change a lot from day to day, but we expect the climate to remain relatively constant.” According to him, climate change is the “change in weather patterns that are occurring because of an increase in the earth's average temperature.”

Naturally occurring greenhouse effect, with solar radiation from the sun being adequately re-radiated (as heat) back into space can be maintained at desirable scale with moderately emitted levels of carbon dioxide (CO2), methane, vapour (and other greenhouse gases), the lecture revealed. Dr. Kabari Sam, however, disclosed that human enhanced greenhouse effect, due largely to activities leaving behind harmful emissions of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, results in less heat escaping from the earth into space as currently experienced in increasing temperature levels.

 According to Dr. Kabari Sam, more of the greenhouse gases being produced and retained on the earth surface are trapping more heat that, in itself, leads to the “climate changing.” The effects of this reality, he said, is recorded as rising temperatures, rising sea levels, the oceans getting acidified, biodiversity being impacted and organisms shifting from their natural environment. Consequently, he pointed out that global mean temperature rising has been recorded across the warmest 12 years of 1998, 2005, 2003, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2001, 1997, 1995, 1999, 1990, and 2000.

The environmentalist observed that local impacts of climate change on Bayelsa, Rivers, Benue, and Katsina states were seen in the form of seasonal floods that ravaged several communities, with significant internal displacement of human populations along severe consequential risks.  Dr. Kabari Sam noted that climate change impacts affecting human health, ecosystem integrity, sustainable agricultural systems, water resource and socio-economic realities could be curtailed by climate change mitigation measures that could be secured by appropriate legislation.

The lecture equally expatiated on possible actions for climate change mitigation measures under appropriate legislative business. Such measures include providing guidelines and standards to set targets for improving the magnitude or rate of long-term impacting human activities like reforestation, carbon sinks promotion, reductions in human activities that lead to increase in production of greenhouse gasses (GHG), holistic and integrated approaches for sustaining effective processes, and creating target direction for realistic planning and action.

On the important task of legislative business contributing to effective climate change adaptation role, Dr. Kabari Sam pointed out the core value of creating a legal response of climate action that would seek to reduce vulnerability of social and biological systems in any relative shock caused by sudden change and related offsets under negative effects. He especially recommended re-designing of building codes, building materials, urban plans, energy efficient gadgets and related utility value chains, and investing in renewable energy which the work of legislators would help to establish. 

Viewing lawmakers as citizens under enormous mandates, Dr. Kabari Sam observed the lawmaking institution itself as being accountable for laws made and amended to govern all societal segments, including contributing to ratification of international climate change treaties to which Nigeria is a signatory. He equally pointed out that the legislature is an oversight body with power to hold government accountable for execution of laws, policy settings, and development funding.

 Policy and legislative opportunities abound for legislative response to development sustainability under climate action, Dr. Kabari Sam told the Rivers lawmakers. Accordingly, his lecture recommended legislative action for: setting of targets for regulating local greenhouse gaseous emissions, making effort to regulate air conditioning gadgets to control release of climate impacting Hydro fluorocarbons (HFCs), and reducing methane emissions by control of indiscriminate waste disposal. His list of recommendations include, making plans to move from fossil fuels to renewable energy, encouraging populations to integrate climate resilience into infrastructure planning and management, and developing standards and regulations for industrial and individual performance across climate impacting operations.

“Make laws for climate-resilience and inclusive development,” Dr. Kabari Sam urged the lawmakers, even as he was optimistic that “we can control rising CO2 and global warming …to contribute to reducing climate change impact on humanity.” Under Goal 17 of the SDGs, “Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development,” and Goal 16: “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels,” focusing on Goal 13: “Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts,” the training of the Rivers state lawmakers by CEHRD –with funding support of Cordaid –proves to be one veritable effort for contributing to attainment of core global development values in Nigeria.

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