[By Kingsley Ekejiuba]
Low carbon, sustainability, social inclusiveness and resource efficiency – keywords that characterise the United Nations definition of a green economy. A lucid description refers to an economic model that ‘results in improved human well-being and social equality, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities’ as the benchmark for a green economy. David Pearce, in his exciting work on green economics, opined that a green economy has the capability of replicating itself on a sustainable basis.
The concept of a green economy, though alien to most third world countries, is not entirely new. ‘Blueprint for a Green Economy’ written by the trio of foremost environmental economists Pearce, Markandya and Barbier (1989) captures the essential pillars of a green economy. Expansively, these strategic pillars hinge on climate change, resource-saving and management, circular economy, environmental protection, ecosystem protection and recovery, water conservation and natural disaster prevention.
But how does a green economy affect me as an individual? How does a green economy affect the average Nigerian who is most interested in putting food on the table at all costs? What economic rewards await me in a green economy?
The need to illuminate to a point of effervescence the enormous potentials of a green economy and dire consequences of an irresponsible one (not green) motivated this exposition that aims to inform and create a vivid distinction between the facts and fiction around green economics.
In a country where little attention rests on actions that deplete biodiversities, and in a system with maximum focus on ‘constantly taking from the environment’ to satisfy homo-economicus-driven desires, one should think that it will be naturally beneficial to seek ways of preserving this environmental space that has harboured generations and blessed men with abundance. A green economy serves us in different ways; its potentials will see to the appreciation of environmental policies with a reduction in global warming, creation of sustainable jobs and introduction of measures to reduce waste.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOOA) annual Climate Report 2020, the combined land and ocean temperature has increased at an average of 0.32oF per decade since 1981. In that report, 2020 ranked as the second-warmest year in 141 years. In the article, Act Now or Face Costly Consequences (OECD 2012), the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) exposed prospective irreversible damages that could be done to our environment in the long term if necessary, and proactive measures are not taken. In that article, OECD stressed that without new environmental-friendly policies:
World energy demand in 2050 will be 80% higher and 85% reliant on fossil fuel-based energy. This could lead to a 50% increase in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions globally and worsening air pollution. Urban air pollution is set to become the top environmental cause of mortality worldwide by 2050, ahead of dirty water and lack of sanitation.
On land, global biodiversity is projected to decline by a further 10%, with significant losses in Asia, Europe and Southern Africa. Areas of mature forests are projected to shrink by 13%. About one-third of biodiversity in rivers and lakes worldwide has already been lost, and further losses are projected to 2050. Global water demand will increase by some 55%, due to growing demand from manufacturing (+400%), thermal power plants (+140%) and domestic use (+130%).
27th largest country in the world in terms of nominal GDP, 24th largest in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP), undoubtedly the largest economy in Africa with an estimated population well above 210million people, Nigeria has paid lip service to the call for a green economy and the economic, social and environmental consequence is untold. Heat waves, heavy flooding, erosion and rainfall variability are clear indications that the effects of global warming are gradually creeping into the green land and we must take proactive measures to prevent more loss. Wole Soyinka’s brilliant mind once stated that “Looking at faces of people, one gets the feeling there’s a lot of work to be done.”
Extensively, looking at the “face” of Nigeria, it is obvious that there’s a lot of work to be done and we are lagging.
Government must go beyond the usual media gimmicks to facilitate policies that synchronize with the green concept. It is not enough to have the Vice President drive an electric car within the villa or a group of students assemble an electric vehicle in a school whose research apparatus is underfunded. We must move beyond the usual, into a realm of intentional action where policies are driven by an environmentally friendly agenda that will sustain the current generation and preserve the next.
Diversifying our energy sector to include wind and solar power whose major resources are renewable as primary energy sources should be a foremost step in meeting rising demands for electrical energy and cutting down on carbon emissions. World Data Info (WDI) recorded a total of 130.57mt of CO2 emissions in Nigeria (2018) with projections indicating a potential significant rise in CO2 emissions in 2022. 80% of our electrical energy is produced with fossils aiding the significant rise in annual carbon emissions which contributes to the greenhouse effect. An expected demand of 15GW by 2025 poses more threats if we don’t change our current energy framework.
With the consumption of about 1.5 million tons of plastics in Nigeria in 2020, an estimated 45% increase in 2025 and about 1.125 million tons (75%) ending up in landfills, dumpsites, waterways and rivers, Nigeria is sitting on a keg of gunpowder. Regulations and policies that will reduce the consumption of plastics while improving recycling (less than 12% currently) will guarantee a cleaner society that will create jobs, reduce pollution and preserve biodiversity. Bio-plastics (degradable plastics) are options that players in the packaging industry must explore to provide products that are sustainable and environmentally friendly.
Demand and supply characterize the basics of human economics but between the inverse relationship of demand and supply lies a critical factor in the quality of supply. The World Bank recorded a total of $53,617,812.19 in exports for Nigeria in 2019 with crude contributing about 84% of the proceeds and other products (433) contributing just over 15%. The quality of our export commodities plays a huge role in determining the demand for our products. Over time, Africa depended on the export of raw materials to survive but the rising population of youths and the need to create jobs means that African leaders must wear their thinking caps and think beyond simple export. We must transition from exporting raw materials to exporting finished products. We must INDUSTRIALIZE AFRICA for Africa to survive.
To export finished products, we must ensure that our products meet the best global standards in sustainability and content; a green economy is a necessary condition for a globally-acceptable African finished product.
Bearing in mind the significance of the green economy and its prospective impact on international trade, FDI and local businesses, Nigeria as an influential market in Africa must rise to meet the best global standards in making eco-friendly policies. Globalization and ease of fortune transfer mean that what affects the world affects Africa, what affects Africa affects Nigeria, and what affects Nigeria stays Nigerian.
It is on this premise that we must make the unavoidable choice of ‘practically GOING GREEN’ to preserve our ecosystem and secure not just a life but a good, sustainable life for the next generation or risk BURNING OUT (creating avoidable environmental problems for us and ours).
- Kingsley Ekejiuba is the Chairman of the Progressive Abia Youths Association; a student of the School of -Politics, Policy and Governance (SPPG); and an environmental enthusiast.