#FortheRecords: “Lake Chad will disappear within 20 years…” – Full text of President Jonathan’s speech at UN Climate Conference in Brazil

by Stanley Azuakola

President Jonathan spoke at the United Nations Climate Conference which recently held in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. At that event, the president warned that without urgent support from the international community, Lake Chad might disappear completely in 20 years.

To prove his point, he cited the fact that the lake “has shrunk from about 25,000 sq kms in 1964 to less than 2000 sq kms today.”

Read the full text below:

Your Excellencies, Dear Delegates, Let me first congratulate the President of Brazil for her election as the President of this historic Summit and also appreciate her for the facilities and the warm hospitality the Government of Brazil has provided.  I also commend the Secretary General and staff of the United Nations for organizing this Conference, which marks the 20th Anniversary of the Earth Summit, also held in this beautiful city of Rio de Janeiro.

The presence of many world leaders at this Summit lends credence to the fact that global cooperation is imperative to ensuring sustainable development in our world.  In line with the chosen theme for the Conference, we owe an obligation to our peoples and coming generations to eradicate poverty and employ green economy in our sustainable development programme. For us in Africa, the Green Economy is an agenda for growth, wealth creation and employment generation.

We believe that the promotion of a Green Economy must be underlined by clear national objectives, social and economic development imperatives and the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). We are aware of the constraints posed to sustainable development in Africa by emerging challenges such as the global financial crisis, migration, rapid urbanization, the energy and food crisis, low resistance to natural disasters, desertification and the loss of the eco-system resulting from climate change.

A spectacular case in point is the Lake Chad in West and Central Africa which used to be the 6th largest Lake in the world. Unfortunately, this body of water, a major global resource has become endangered to the extent that it has shrunk from about 25,000 sq kms in 1964 to less than 2000 sq kms today.  At this rate, if nothing is done promptly to salvage the situation, this world heritage will disappear within 20 years. As a response to this great ecological challenge, a feasibility study on the Inter-Basin Water Transfer from the Ubangi River in Central African Republic (CAR) to Lake Chad has been embarked upon. Nigeria has committed US$5 million out of the US$6 million earmarked for the studies.  However, efforts to save the Lake exceed the capacity of the contiguous states because of the enormous resources required.

I, therefore, appeal to the international community to support this project which is a global responsibility. Concerned as we are about the sustainability of the environment, Nigeria promoted the Great Green Wall for Sahara Initiative as an integrated approach to check desertification and depletion of natural resources in the Sahel, from the West Coast to the Horn of Africa.

The goal of the Great Green Wall project is to develop a regional strategy and national implementation plan that would lead to selection of country and cross-border projects for financing by the countries. This noble project calls for donor support. In our sustainable development agenda, under our medium to long term National Plans, we have developed several sectoral initiatives, particularly in agriculture, petroleum, solid minerals, power supply, renewable energy, trade and investment, water and sanitation, which accord priority to environmental and wider development issues.

Our goal is simple:  Create more jobs and opportunities for our people to rise out of poverty, create wealth to ensure sustainable development. While we recognize that the developing countries have primary responsibility for implementing their own sustainable development agenda, there is no doubt that they need the support of the international community to achieve these objectives.

In effect, Rio+20 can only be seen to be successful if the thorny issue of the means of implementation is adequately addressed.  We must bridge the yawning gaps undermining the fulfillment of international commitments on sustainable development, especially in areas of finance, external debt, trade and investment, capacity building and technology development. I earlier referred to this Conference as historic because it marks a defining moment, both for humanity and for our planet.

Today, we have a unique opportunity to reshape the future and redefine the relationship between human advancement and environmental sustainability, by ensuring that we join, in a collective effort, to reduce the conflict between human development and environmental conservation. Twenty years ago at the ‘Earth Summit’, we made a number of pledges.  Today, twenty years later, it is evident, that there is still a lot more that we need to do. Working together to develop ‘green economies’, offers us a greater chance of a sustainable future. And that work must be intensified now. As our challenges are collective, both in nature and consequence, our responses must also be collective, for them to have the desired impact.  And because the circumstances that confront us are extraordinary, the kind of change that is needed must also be extraordinary.

To serve as a catalyst to advance this, Nigeria believes that the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in Nairobi, Kenya be strengthened as a more robust United Nations Agency dedicated to advancing environmental and sustainable development issues. Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, It is my hope, that the outcomes of this Conference will mark that turning point in history that we all can look back at another ten to twenty years from now, and say that this is where and when we met, took the right decisions and the right actions that shaped a better future. I thank you.

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One comment

  1. thank u very much for ur mission and ur vision toward africa continent thank u for planning a way to heal the world, when u travelled to RIO DE JANEIRO everybody was complaining about ur travelling to Rio+20 even me I complain to an extend we call u uncle jonah thank u once again

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