During the 27th edition of the United Nations Global Climate Summit (COP27) last year, the Nigerian government announced to the world that they would engage vibrant youths in the country to plant and nurture 250,000 trees annually as part of an ambitious effort to accelerate climate action in the country.
But, over a year later, and less than five days to the commencement of the 28th session of the UN COP, preliminary findings by this medium suggest that no concrete move has been made towards fulfilling the ambitious tree-planting pledge.
The initiative, tagged “Project 250k” was launched by Nigeria’s former Minister of Youth and Sport, Sunday Dare, at the Nigeria pavilion on the “Youth and Future Generation Day” at the 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference of Parties ( COP27) in Egypt last year.
At COP27, the “Youth and Future Generation Day” is dedicated to the youths, in recognition of their crucial role in achieving effective climate action and justice globally.
Upon announcing the “Project 250k” initiative at the well-attended side event, Mr Dare said they were targeting the youth as part of efforts to get them involved in the country’s fight against the devastating impacts of climate change in Nigeria.
“We are launching a 250K project. This means we will be engaging 250,000 youths across the country, to plant 250,000 trees,” the former minister said at the time.
He went further to tell delegates that the initiative will ensure that youths are paid for every tree planted and nurtured over the years, assuring that “we have secured global partners already.”
In a further interview with PREMIUM TIMES on the sideline, Mr Dare explained that the goal of the initiative is not just about tree planting but the awareness that would be generated.
“These people (youths) that plant the trees would also become ambassadors of Climate Change and then they can help spread the awareness and the information that is needed,” Mr Dare said.
He said that a lot of activities are tied around the initiative and that his ministry is working with strategy implementation partners to actualise the goal of the initiative.
“We would work very closely with the Ministry of Environment and relevant agencies,” Mr Dare said at the time.
When asked about “Project 250k”, a top official of the Department of Climate Change (DCC) under the Ministry of Environment, who doesn’t want his name in print since he was authorised to speak on the matter, said the last thing they heard about the tree-planting program was an invitation to be part of the Technical Working Group and an inauguration meeting “which my Director nominated me.”
“I called the PA/SA to the Minister to confirm the event because we got it late and she said she would let me know once a new date is fixed that they will need us to co-drive the process with them which I assured her. Up until now have not heard anything, probably a change in administration caused the massive delay as the new HM Youths has not even reasoned that,” the official said in a response to PREMIUM TIMES enquiry on the issue.
The DCC official said: “Maybe the COP28 platform will be used to remind them and get their response or planned action for the implementation as time is ticking fast.”
Tree planting is one of the simplest and most effective ways of tackling and reducing the devastating impact of climate change caused by continuous greenhouse gas emissions.
As trees grow, they absorb ( sequester) carbon dioxide (CO2)—a major greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. As a result of this, communities are encouraged to plant trees to help reduce the impacts of climate change in their local area and around the world.
However, Nigeria has repeatedly failed to properly implement highly revered tree-planting initiatives that could have helped to boost climate resilience in the country amidst the lingering scourge of extreme weather events.
“Thank God you said former minister, nothing has been done in that regard. I have also tried to follow up but nothing,” says another official of the environment ministry.
Similarly, Salisu Dahiru, the Director General of Nigeria’s Climate Change Council (NCCC), which is Nigeria’s principal focal point for Climate action to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said he is not aware of such a project.
“I’m not aware of such a project or initiative,” Mr Dahiru said when asked for an update on the project in the lead-up to COP28.
Several calls to Mr Dare seeking clarifications on the project failed to connect. Likewise, messages seeking clarifications on the project got no reply.
As world leaders and climate activists prepare to meet in Dubai between 30 November and 12 December for COP28, climate advocates and activists in Nigeria have expressed deep concerns over repeated failed climate promises often dished out by leaders at the global conference.
Reacting to the findings by this medium, Nnimmo Bassey, director of the Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF), an ecological think tank advocating for socio-ecological justice and food sovereignty in Nigeria, said the challenge we have is that some politicians take multilateral negotiations as moments for grandstanding or project seeking.
“We need to have more technocrats and civil society actors on the negotiations, with as little intersection with politicians as possible,” he said.
This way, Mr Bassey said they would not lose the memory of the trajectory of the meetings and that it would help guard against making statements and pledges that the makers have no intention or plans to fulfil.
“COP28 seems set to be a hollow ritual of climate action avoidance while nations hoist scarecrows that are mere totems to indolence. This prognosis may seem harsh, but from the weather events recorded in recent months, increased water stress, desertification, floods and droughts, there is no way to sugarcoat the climate vinegar we are serving ourselves,” he said.
Sidelining the youths
As COP28 draws closer, several Nigerian youths have also alleged that they are being sidelined by the Nigerian government.
Some Climate advocates/activists championing climate justice initiatives in the country who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES within the week lamented that they have been deprived of accreditation and the opportunity to attend COP28 by the government.
“Imagine, the Climate Council DG asking what are youths going to do at COP? The council refused to give me accreditation. I was disappointed, I had to seek accreditation from another organisation in another country that believes in the incredible work that me and my team are doing in Nigeria,” one of the Nigerian youth who sought anonymity, said.
He lamented that the Nigerian government is not doing enough to encourage their youth participation in climate action as is being done by the governments of other countries.
Another youth championing recycling efforts in the country who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES said as COP28 approaches, Nigeria must recognise the role of young people in driving its national position and interest at the conference.
She noted that young people should be at the heart of conversation and activities on the #RoadToCOP28 because they represent the roadmap to the future.
“This can be achieved by equipping young people with the required skills, resources and support. Nigeria’s UNFCCC focal point must understand that one of the core challenges hindering youth participation is the finances, limited scope of climate education, capacity building and accreditation to meaningfully engage in negotiations, actions and side events that will gear the country’s agenda while showcasing youth-driven climate solutions at the convention,” she noted.
This year, the COP28 agenda is expected to be anchored on four key pillars: fast-tracking a just and orderly energy transition; fixing climate finance; focusing on people, lives and livelihoods (loss and damage); and underpinning everything at COP with full inclusivity.
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