"Today, peace faces a new danger: the climate emergency, which threatens our security, our livelihoods and our lives. That is why it is the focus of this year's International Day of Peace. And it's why I am convening a Climate Action Summit." - UN Secretary-General António Guterres
Each year the International Day of Peace is observed around the world on 21 September. The General Assembly has declared this as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples. The United Nations Member States adopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals in 2015 because they understood that it would not be possible to build a peaceful world if steps were not taken to achieve economic and social development for all people everywhere, and ensure that their rights were protected.
The Sustainable Goals cover a broad range of issues, including poverty, hunger, health, education, climate change, gender equality, water, sanitation, energy, environment and social justice. Sustainable Development Goal 13 "Climate Action" is a call for immediate action by all to lower greenhouse emissions, build resilience and improve education on climate change. Affordable, scalable solutions such as renewable energy, clean technologies are available to enable countries to leapfrog to greener, more resilient economies.
2019 Theme: "Climate Action for Peace" draws attention to the importance of combatting climate change as a way to protect and promote peace throughout the world. Climate change causes clear threats to international peace and security. Natural disasters displace three times as many people as conflicts, forcing millions to leave their homes and seek safety elsewhere. The salinization of water and crops is endangering food security, and the impact on public health is escalating.
The growing tensions over resources and mass movements of people are affecting every country on every continent. Peace can only be achieved if concrete action is taken to combat climate change. On 23 September, the United Nations convened a Climate Action Summit with concrete and realistic plans to accelerate action to implement the Paris Agreement.
The Summit focused on the heart of the problem - the sectors that create the most emissions and the areas where building resilience could make the biggest difference - as well as provide leaders and partners the opportunity to demonstrate real climate action and showcase their ambition.
That climate change is linked to insecurity is no longer in doubt.
That is why Climate Action is necessary to ensure peace around the world especially in parts of the world where climate change has created instability, crisis and forced migration.
In looking for such places, look no further than Sub-Saharan Africa.
Ten years ago the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned that Lake Chad, once one of the world's largest water bodies, could disappear in 20 years due to climate change and population pressures, resulting in a humanitarian disaster. The lake - surrounded by Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria - has shrunk by 90 per cent, going from 25,000 square kilometers in 1963 to less than 1,500 square kilometers in 2001.
The 30 million people living in the Lake Chad region are being forced into competing over water, and the drying up of the lake could lead to migration and conflicts, FAO had cautioned. Fish production has recorded a 60 per cent decline, while pasturelands have been degraded, resulting in a shortage of animal feed, livestock and biodiversity.
The agency collaborates with the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC), founded in 1964 which brings together countries in the region regularly to discuss regulation and control of water use.
President Muhammadu Buhari has been rallying Lake Chad Basin Countries leaders to see how the lake could be saved or recharged because of its vital economic importance to the countries surrounding it. Already Nigeria is suffering from insurgency lead by Boko Haram terrorists and its ISIS partners fueled largely by lack of economic opportunities as fishing and farming activities becomes endangered due to the impact of climate change.
The UN agency has also warned that climate is a critical factor in the activities of herdsmen and farmers in Nigeria. The changing climatic condition, generally referred to as global warming, is no doubt taking a toll on the survival of herdsmen and farmers business. The desert encroachment from the Sahara towards the Sahel region and other associated climatic conditions have continued to affect the livelihood of herdsmen as they push further south in search of available space, pitching them against farmers and host communities.
The continued movement of herdsmen southwards in search of pasture for their animals has pitched them against farmers, eventually leading to conflict and destruction. For example, farming along the Benue River accounts for over 20 000 tons of grain annually. This same area is also fertile ground for herdsmen to feed their cattle. Thus, farmlands within the riverbank areas are the most affected by the movement of the herdsmen - resulting in a number of clashes.
To address the challenge posed by climate change, especially to halt desertification, the federal government established The Great Green Wall Agency. In 2013 the Federal government established the Great Green Wall Agency to tackle desertification. This was in response to the 2007 African Union Great Green Wall Initiative that aimed at encouraging member states to plant 8 000km of trees along the Southern Sahel to counter the effects of desertification along that area.
How effective this agency has been in greening the Sahel region of Nigeria remains to be seen. However, if the increasing conflict between farmers and herders are anything to go by, it is safe to say that much more need to be done to green the Sahel and reduce herders migration to the south with its accompanying consequences.
Israel is largely a desert, yet its government and people have through the application of science and technology turned it into a green land and made it self sufficient in food production. We could copy from Israel and create food security in the country and also help in halting the spread and impact of climate change.
In Southern Nigeria coastal erosion, flooding, gully erosion all exacerbated by climate change has sacked many communities. In Niger Delta, the rising sea level and pollution of the environment by the activities of multinational oil companies and sabotage by restive youths had threatened peace in the region and is still a challenge.
This column is therefore lending its voice to the United Nations call for Climate action. It is a call that should be embraced by all in order to save our planet and at the same time ensures world peace.