The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has said the United Nations (UN) Decade on Ecosystem Restoration will be a mirage unless concerted and genuine effort is made to provide finance and set targets to reduce the rate of deforestation and ecosystems’ disturbance.
The group made this call during an event to mark the World Environment Day in Port Harcourt, saying ecosystems are dynamic communities of plants, animals and microorganisms interacting with the physical environment, landscapes, lakes, and oceans.
A statement by the programmes director and administration, ERA/FoEN, Mike Karikpo Esq., said sequel to unsustainable environmental human activities, the United Nations set aside 2021-2030 as the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. Degraded and destroyed ecosystems already cost the global economy 10 per cent of its annual output and without concerted global actions to preserve, restore and enhance the viability of our ecosystems, our capacity to make progress in critical areas such as education, health and employment will be greatly compromised, it pointed out.
According to the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021 -2030, “the restoration of 350 million hectares of degraded terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems could generate $9 trillion in ecosystem services. Restoration could also remove 13 to 26 gigatons of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. The economic benefits of such interventions exceed nine times the cost of investment, whereas inaction is at least three times more costly than ecosystem restoration.”
In his remarks, the ERA/FoEN executive director, Dr Godwin Ojo said “restoring the ecosystem will enhance biodiversity, clean polluted rivers and contaminated soil and improve local livelihoods of our people.”
He added: “Ecosystem restoration will enhance capacity of our soils and forests to store greenhouse gases rather than the false solutions of carbon capture and storage facilities that do not cut emissions at source and poses grave danger to ecosystems.
“The crucial challenge requires a post petroleum economy through deep transformation in global production and consumption patterns. Therefore, ecosystem restoration requires concerted actions at local, national and international levels focusing on a pragmatic shift towards a sustainable decarbonized development pathway before it is too late.”
Similarly, a Bodo Council of Chiefs member and chairman ERA/FoEN, Chief Saint Emma Pii contended that “our surest way of escaping the looming danger is to live in harmony with nature. Our survival as a species, the survival of other organisms and the future of our planet can be restored if communities are allowed to manage their resources and involved in environmental protection and conservation. The clean-up of the polluted Ogoniland will hopefully restore the degraded ecosystems.”
The statement said the ERA/FoEN, civil society groups and their allies, urged the Nigerian governments (local, state, and national) to put in place clear policies and regulations that would ensure the sustainability of our ecosystems in line with the United Nations policies on ecosystem restoration by setting achievable targets for implementation.
It said the ERA/FoEN further called for the urgent restoration of the polluted Ogoniland ecosystems and the entire Niger Delta region ecosystem within the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030.
It said ecosystem restoration work should focus on addressing the actual sources of environmental degradation, so that the removal mechanism would not become business as usual in the continuation of carbon emissions released into the atmosphere and that gas flaring should end now to restore Niger Delta ecosystems
Other environmental conservation recommendations given by the group include to commit to energy transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources to reduce the rate of environmental degradation and ecosystem disturbance; Put in place proper land governance legislation that would enhance proper land use and planning.
This, according to it, will require radical reform or wholesale abrogation of the current Land Use Act which has led to dispossession and caused untold hardship to our communities; and put in place rules that addresses land grabbing, solid waste management and grant easy access to justice for people and communities impacted by the deleterious actions of corporations.
It also urged government to set up community resource centers that would train communities to manage ecosystem resources and share local best practices on living in harmony with nature and community-based forests management systems that ensure environmental sustainability.