To Copenhagen, We March

by Emmanuel Omoh Esiemokhai

International Environmental Law is a growing body of international legal attributes that have gained inroads into popular consciousness.

This is probably because people are witnessing the devastations of cities and hamlets by the weather, earthquakes and monsoons, all over the world.

Last week, the Nigerian Ministry of Environment hosted a well-attended conference at Sheraton Hotel and Towers in Abuja. Under the able leadership of the indefatigable Minister of Environment, Mr. John Odey, the conference brought together scientists, experts, the academia and civil society to discuss perspectives and prospects for Nigeria’s participation in December 2009, in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The key-note address was exhaustively delivered by the Managing Director of NNPC, Mallam Barkindo, who dealt with both technical and the ideological issues that pose serious problems during negotiations with Nordic states. He presented his views with great learning and energy.

The erudite Nigerian Ambassador to Sweden-Denmark-Norway. Finland, Dr. Godknows Boladei Igali, advised the Nigerian would-be participants to be well-prepared because the conference will be crucial to developing states, if they hope to get concessions from the West.

Under the scholarly supervision of Professor Oshuntogun, active participation was recorded and policy issues were raised. Hands were always up, even after the time was up.

I am very worried that the issues that have nagged every Environmental Conference since Stockholm will pop up in Denmark.

In 1968, there was the Stockholm Environmental Conference, which prepared the grounds for the 1972 UN Convention in Stockholm.

It is remarkable that Sweden has been in the fore-front of world environmental concerns having enacted forward-looking national laws regulating the environment in Sweden , long before other states followed suit.

The UN Convention on the Environment of 1972, evolved principles that have been universally accepted and which have been woven into most Environmental legislations world-wide.

The UN Convention of 1972 set up the United Nations Environmental Programme in Kenya. This institution has played a major role in the legal and technical development of International Environmental System.

From Stockholm to Rio , the non-ratification of the Kyoto Treaty by some major powers weakened the treaty. At Rio , there was a division between the developed and developing states. While the developing states were more interested in development, trade and the transfer of technology, the advanced nations were pushing for strict environmental observance.

The main problem I see is that the problem surrounding the inequality in the international division of labour, whereby the developing states supply raw materials and crude oil at the price developed states have fixed unilaterally, while developed nations sell their manufactured goods at the prices they dictate.

The consequence is that developing nations are put at the vortex of the debt peonage, from which they can hardly liberate themselves.

The NNPC Managing Director addressed this powerlessness of oil-producing states in his key-note speech.

Another worrying issue that needs attention is the colossal pollution by the world military.. Reto Pieth, in an article in the Nation (not Nigerian) June 8, 1992, entitled, “TOXIC MILITARY”, pointed out that the military establishments world-wide “use up a tremendous amount of environment and human resources and deplete massive amounts of energy.”

Report by the Canadian Research Institute disclosed that “the world’s armed forces are the single biggest polluters on the planet”

The University of Toronto Science for Peace Institute researchers claimed that up to ”10 to 30 percent of all global environment degradation can be attributed to military activities”.

There are more than fifty nuclear war-heads and leaking nuclear reactor under the ocean, poisoning marine fauna and flora.

Desertification, flooding, soil erosion are some environment problems we face. Recently, there was a flooding in Yola! This is a clarion call for Nigerians to take environmental issues very seriously.

What I have observed about our national attitude to things is that until it gets too bad, we do not react. This, too, must change.

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