UNEA 6 – How Minister Of State for Environment, Salako Showcased Nigeria to the World

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By Olufemi Idowu-Adegoke

The United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) is the world’s highest level decision-making body on the environment, with a universal membership of all 193 UN Member States. Created in 2012, as a result of decades of international efforts ­initiated at the UN Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm in 1972, which was aimed at creating an effective system of international environmental governance. The assembly meets biennially to set priorities for global environmental policies, develop international environmental laws, and serve as the governing body of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

The Sixth Session of the Assembly (UNEA-6) with the theme “Effective, Inclusive, and Multilateral Actions to Tackle Climate Change, Biodiversity loss and Pollution”, was held from Monday 26th February to Friday 1st March, 2024 in Nairobi, Kenya.The meeting was attended by more than 7,000 participants from 182 UN Member States, including 170 Ministers, 17 High-Level officials, Environmental Conventions Executive Directors/Secretaries, MultiStakeholder Groups, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), Community Based Organizations (CBOs) and other Environment Stakeholders.

UNEA 6 ended on Friday, 1st March, 2024, with 1 ministerial declaration, 1 decision, and 15 resolutions. The resolutions covered wide ranging areas including sound management of chemicals and waste, sustainable lifestyles, fostering national action to address global environmental challenges, combating sand and dust storm, environmental aspects of minerals and metals, circularity of a resilient, low carbon sugar cane agroforestry, international efforts to combat desertification and land degradation, just to mention a few.

The delegation of Nigeria was led by the Minister of State for Environment, Dr Iziaq Adekunle Salako, who appears to be carving a niche as the international environmental ambassadorTinubu’s administration. This writer was able to sight the report of Nigeria’s participation at the assembly which clearly showed an intensive and strategic high level engagement showcasing the leadership position of Nigeria in the African continent especially in the ECOWAS subregion.

Nigeria has been at the forefront of promoting Nature Based solutions (NBS) as an important approach to addressing socio- environmental challenges like climate change, biodiversity loss, and disaster risk reduction. NBS refers to “actions to protect, sustainably manage, and restore natural or modified ecosystems” including afforestation, mangrove restoration, urban greening, wetlands management, agroforestry and so on are less technology intensive and sits better with the traditional livelihoods of the people. This approach offers a cost-effective pathway to address global environmental, economic, climate, and societal challenges.

In the spirit of promoting NBS, the Nigerian delegation at UNEA 6 was very visible at events that speak to this important strategy of addressing the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution . Nigeria co-chaired with Costa Rica the intergovernmental consultation on NBS and at.UNEA 6. The report of the consultation was presented with the Nigerian minister of State for Environment playing a leading role as a keynote speaker. On the same day, Dr. Salako participated as a panellist in a high-level side event put together by the Global Environment Facility with the theme “Scaling up investment in Africa to tackle the triple planetary crisis.” At each of these events, Minister Salako showcased Nigeria’s contributions to address the global environmental challenges citing specific examples like the afforestation and mangrove restoration by the National Agency for Green Wall and the Hydrocarbon Pollution and Remediation Project.

Since the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity held in Montreal Canada in 2022, Nigeria has been demonstrating leadership in mobilising the ECOWAS subregion and African to work in unison for the implementation cum adoption of some of the targets of the conference especially the Kunming-Montreal Biodiversity framework which aims to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030 and the Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdictions Treaty.

It is generally agreed that in order to address biodiversity loss, there is the need to increase investment in nature protection by between 500 and 900 billion USD per year. For this reason, a commitment was made at COP15, in Montreal, to deliver at least 20 billion USD per year in international biodiversity finance to developing countries by 2025, and at least USD 30 billion a year by 2030. Unfortunately, the world is currently completely off track to achieving this commitment.

Against this background, Nigeria at COP28 in Dubai last December led 3 other countries, Samoa, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, to launch a Ministerial Alliance for Ambition on Nature Finance (MAANF). The Alliance would work to champion the importance of meeting a central financial pillar of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework: the commitment to increase international biodiversity finance to developing countries. At UNEA 6, Minister Salako, as the Chairman of MAANF, was able to convene the first meeting of the alliance with 9 other countries participating. It was a kudos and thumbs up for Nigeria as the pathway for achieving the objectives of the alliance was presented and debated.

The Minister of State for Environment delivered the national statement of Nigeria on behalf of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu GCFR on the 4th day of the UNEA 6. The national statement was used to demonstrate the nexus between the renewed hope agenda of the current administration, the 8 presidential priorities, and environmental sustainability. It highlighted the commitment of Nigeria to a low carbon, climate resilient, high growth circular economy that is gender sensitive and equitable. Nigeria, through the well crafted and well delivered statement, was able to demonstrate progress being made in her nationally determined contributions, the energy transition plan, the net zero emission target, and the circular economy roadmap The Nigerian Sovereign Green Bond, the first in Africa, was put forward as an innovative climate financing mechanism being successfully implemented in the country. The statement also highlighted the leadership role being played by Nigeria in the ECOWAS subregion and the African continent to mobilise countries to adopt and implement multilateral environmental agreements like the Kunming/Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (KMGBF) and the Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdictions Treaty.

The UN Science Policy Business Forum on tracking financial flows to nature based solutions was another high level side event of UNEA 6 where Nigeria was able to put itself forward and convey its irrevocable commitment to nature based solutions. In similar vein, the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People and the CITES side events on sustainable forest management where Salako participated as keynote speaker and panellist presented the opportunity for Nigeria to be showcased as a responsible and important member of the global environmental movement working alongside others to implement multilateral environmental agreements to tackle the triple planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution.

A lot more still needs to be done by Nigeria considering her position as the most populous black nation on earth and the largest economy in Africa. UNEA 6 was an opportunity for stocktaking, showcasing our strengths, exploring new opportunities and partnerships, and projecting for the future. It is hoped that Nigeria will continue to invest massively in climate actions, biodiversity restoration and conservation, the 4Rs of waste management, and pollution control in order to play her part in the healthy preservation of our planet.

Olufemi Idowu-Adegoke, Special Assistant to the Minister of State for Environment, wrote from Abuja

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