ECOWAS Countries Need To Rally Together On Biodiversity, Climate Change To Ward Off Environmental Disaster, Insists Nigeria

By Bukar Bolori

Nigeria has called all other members of Economic Community Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to rally behind her to find solution to biodiversity and climate change to ward off environmental disaster that is not only threatening the region but the entire planet.

The Minister of State for Environment, Dr. Iziaq Salako made the call on Monday while giving his opening remarks at the coordination meeting held in Abuja of ECOWAS Marine Biodiversity of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ).

He said: “Our oceans require strong protection that can only be achieved through a new treaty for the conservation and management of marine life in the high seas. This treaty must ensure that human activities are managed to prevent significant adverse impacts, with vigorous oversight mechanisms and provisions to establish fully and highly protected MPAs in the high seas.”

He admitted that: “With the adoption of the high-seas treaty last June, we are one step closer to achieving our goals. In September this year, at the High Ambition for the High Seas event on the sideline of UNGA, Nigeria joined other 22 countries to symbolically sign a commitment to ratify the BBNJ treaty. We must now rally to ratify the new high-seas treaty promptly so it can come into force.”

Salako added that: “We are proud that through Nigeria’s rallying efforts, the 55 member States of the African Union have reached a consensus to support ratifying at the earliest feasible date, the new high-seas treaty, as enshrined in Addis Ababa Declaration adopted at the 19th ordinary session of Africa Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN). Three months since the 19th AMCEN, we should move from saying earliest feasible date to a more specific period for Africa to ratify the BBNJ treaty. ECOWAS can lead the way in this direction.”

He said: “I’m honored to welcome you all to Nigeria as we once again gather to find solutions to the biodiversity and climate crisis that is gripping our planet, our subregion not exempted.“They are part of the same crisis, and we cannot solve one without solving the other.”

The status of the world’s oceans today is a clear indication of this dire interaction, he stressed, noting that: “Our oceans are under threat today more than ever before with sea level rise, temperature increases, acidification, pollution, biodiversity loss, unsustainable exploitation of marine resources, depletion of fish stocks, the near disappearance of coral reefs, and the destruction of fragile ecosystems.

“The urgent need to address this threat has led Nigeria and its sister ECOWAS member nations to unite and call on the international community to be more ambitious in its response.

“Our appeal for an ambitious global response to the biodiversity crisis is urgent and focused.

“Through the urgent appeal, we had identified several measures as essential, including the global designation of 30% of land and oceans areas as protected by 2030, the conclusion of a robust new high-seas treaty, the establishment of highly and fully protected areas covering 30% of the global ocean which prohibit environmentally damaging activities, and a global commitment towards immediately halting human-induced extinction of wild species, among others.”

The Minister acknowledged that today, only 7% of the world’s oceans are protected, adding that there are no comprehensive legal mechanisms in place to protect the high seas and the deep seabed areas, the shared international areas of oceans that lie beyond national jurisdictions and that include almost 70% of the global ocean.

Salako said: “The meeting you are attending today provides a pathway to support ECOWAS countries in reaching this important goal. Prompt ratification of the high-seas treaty and effective engagement in its implementation is an urgent priority for the preservation of our oceans.

“We have a shared responsibility to act and protect the oceans because we all share in the benefits provided by our oceans and because we all share in the harm that comes when degraded coastal and marine ecosystems threaten the physical, economic, food security of local communities, and multinational businesses. Failing to protect our oceans would be catastrophic.”

Salako, reiterated that if the challenge is not addressed, the impacts for people will be profound, while expressing optimism, he said: “It is my sincere hope that you can work together in the next few days to make swift, real progress towards setting a path for prompt ratification of the high-seas treaty in our region and on our continent.

“We must act to protect our oceans now, and we must be bold if we have any hope of preserving our planet for our people and our future generation.”

The Minister advocated that member states should lead the way together for nature, adding that government through the Ministry is committed to ratifying BBNJ treaty in line with the focus of President Bola Tinubu to pursue development by unlocking the energy and natural resources of the nation in a sustainable manner.

Earlier, Director, Environment Department, ECOWAS, Moussa Leko, noted that the meeting is a natural follow-up to other coordination meetings organized by ECOWAS to support its members states in their joint efforts promoting ambition for the world’s response to the biodiversity crisis at CITES and at CBD.

He said: “Having carefully reviewed the outcomes of both the CBD CoP15 meeting, and the CITES CoP19 meeting, I can directly see that West Africa is a leading voice for biodiversity protection globally. Not only that, but our region is demonstrating collaboration, expertise, and strength in its advocacy for our natural heritage.”

He noted that: “The ambition of ECOWAS countries has been instrumental in securing positive outcomes from the CITES and CBD meetings and we see our positions clearly reflected in the decisions adopted by the global community. For this, the ECOWAS Commission owes you a sincere debt of gratitude. You are worthy biodiversity ambassadors for our wonderful West African region.”

He, however, added that: “The task upon us today is to ensure that the vital ECOWAS Appeal to the Global community, calling for an Ambitious Global Response to the Biodiversity Crisis continues to be heard loud and clear. This appeal represents a fundamental truth, which is that we must take robust action now, to protect our planet.

“We must urgently protect biodiversity in order to preserve ecosystem services vital to human well-being, and the livelihood of our local communities. Losing these services or standing idle while our communities go impoverished and hungry would result in an unimaginable future. It cannot be considered an option.I encourage you to continue expanding your coordination to ensure our region is provided all the tools it needs to implement an ambitious Global Biodiversity Framework and an ambitious CITES agenda.

“We are ready to strengthen and expand our protected areas, we are ready to protect and recover our wild species. We are ready to act to protect our biodiversity, our ecosystem services, our magical and unique environments.”

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