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Why Nigeria must take Immediate Action on Air Pollution to save lives

CSDevNet's Publication in commemoration of 2019 World Environment Day

Soot in Port Harcourt, Nigeria
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Soot in Port Harcourt, Nigeria

2019 World Environment Day, celebrated in over 100 countries, as the United Nations day for encouraging international awareness and action to protect the environment, presents a veritable opportunity to call upon the government of Nigeria, industries, communities and individuals to take action to explore renewable energy and green technologies, and improve air quality in cities and villages across Nigeria.

This comes on the heels of the theme for this year’s celebration which is beating air pollution. Air pollution is a deadly, man-made problem, responsible for the early deaths of some seven million people every year, around 600,000 of whom are children.

Climate and Sustainable Development Network (CSDevNet) considers uncontaminated air as a core component of the right to a healthy environment, together with clean water and adequate sanitation, healthy and sustainably produced food, a non-toxic environment, healthy biodiversity and a safe climate which the Nigerian constitution upholds.

The right to a healthy environment is fundamental to human well-being and it must be nationally reaffirmed to ensure the enjoyment of this right by every Nigerian everywhere

The ambient air quality in Nigeria is more likely to cause harm than the air in any other country in Africa as the country currently has the highest burden of fatalities from air pollution in Africa and 4th highest in the world with 150 deaths per 100,000 people attributable to pollution.

The annual State of the Global Air Report published by the Health Effects Institute (HEI) reckons that air quality in Nigeria is among the deadliest anywhere on earth with higher than ambient air pollution death rates as a result of the environmental hazards combined with extreme pollution sources like soot, gas flaring, generator fumes, vehicle emissions and crop burning among others.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) also lists Nigeria as home to four of the most polluted cities in the world by air. The cities are Onitsha, Kaduna, Aba and Umuahia.

Nigeria is presently at crossroads when it comes to renewable energy and clean mobility. On one hand, the country still has one of the lowest on-grid energy consumption levels in the world while on the other, the country is facing one of the fastest vehicle growth rates, grappling with mobility challenges in terms of congestion costs, air pollution and its impact on health, inadequate infrastructure and costs to the economy.

The above leaves the country with no option than to take decisive actions capable of engendering a cleaner, more sustainable, low carbon emission pathway if the Economic Growth and Recovery Plan (EGRP) of the government and the country’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to the Paris Agreement are to be realized.

To address these challenges and map out a cleaner pathway for Nigeria, CSDevNet therefore urges the Nigerian Government to take action on the following:

1) Implement and enforce strictly, the existing National Ambient Air Quality Standards
2) Tax every form of pollution including vehicular, gas flaring, and bush burning
3) End fossil fuel subsidies and oil prospecting activities in Northern Nigeria, and halt the seeming embrace of coal and nuclear sources for energy.

4) Create the required minimum enabling environment capable of supporting the shift to cleaner mobility and energy choices.
5) Advance the renewable energy agenda with emphasis on liberalising energy generation and transmission thereby boosting local manufacturing options;
6) Stringently regulate the importation of used vehicles as a means for the country to quickly shift to cleaner mobility;
7) Promote sustainable transport infrastructure by integrating cleaner mobility in national and state development strategies.

Signed

Dr Ibrahim Choji
Chair, Board of Trustees
Climate and Sustainable Development Network (CSDeVNet)

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