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Osinbajo redefines social justice implications of climate change beyond reduction of emissions

Beyond the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions globally, efforts being undertaken to address climate change must also take into consideration its implications on social justice…

Beyond the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions globally, efforts being undertaken to address climate change must also take into consideration its implications on social justice and inequalities, especially for the poor and vulnerable in developing economies.

This was the submission by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at a Public Lecture he delivered on “Africa and Climate Justice” at Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada on the last leg of his 3-day official working visit to the North American country.

Buttressing his point on the concept of Climate Justice as a just and equitable transition to clean energy, Prof Osinbajo stated that “the notion of climate justice insists that in addition to discussions on greenhouse gas emissions and the need to reduce them, we also recognize that climate change is an inherently social issue with important social justice implications.”

Continuing, he argued that, “we need to reframe our climate action paradigm from merely a technical effort to cut emissions, to an approach that places people and addressing social inequality at the centre of our efforts.

“This is based on the reality that while climate change is already affecting every inhabited region across the globe and no place on earth will be immune to its effects, the impact will be different across key regions and groups.”

The VP pointed out that it is the “poor and vulnerable, largely in developing economies,” who “will be first to suffer and worst hit by the effects of climate change even though they are the least culpable for the climate crisis.”

According to him, “the point that must be made is that it is unfair that while many global north countries recognize the need for a wide range of options and different paths to net-zero for themselves, the same courtesy is not necessarily extended to Africa.”

The Vice President added that “clearly, limiting the development of domestic gas projects, which is a critical energy transition pathway for Africa, violates enshrined principles of equity and justice, and poses dire challenges for African nations, while making an insignificant dent in global emissions.”

He further observed that despite contributing to barely 3% – 4% of global emissions, which is the least of any global region to emissions, “climate change as a threat multiplier is more evident in Africa than in any other region.”

Prof. Osinbajo then referenced current estimates which posited that Africa was warming faster than the global average and experiencing greater increases in the rise of sea-level.

“The Sahel region has recorded vegetation loss leading to a sharp rise in conflicts between farmers and herders. Southern Madagascar is experiencing what the United Nations is calling the world’s first climate change-induced famine.

“In Nigeria, we are currently grappling with the catastrophic effects of floods that have affected about 34 States of our 36 States, displacing over 1.4 million people, destroying over 100,000 hectares of farmland and causing about 600 deaths. The African Development Bank estimates that African economies are already between 5 – 15% smaller because of climate change,” he observed.

With agriculture providing the largest number of jobs for many developing countries, “reduced crop productivity will worsen unemployment gaps on the continent and result in grave socio-economic consequences,” Prof. Osinbajo submitted, adding that “parallels of these multiplier effects can be drawn in other sectors from health to shelter and security.”