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WHAT DELTA'S UP TO IN ITS GREEN STRATEGY - ODILI

By NBF News
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The phrase 'Going Green' maybe a cliché, but, and this is the key part, it has become as well a fundamental part of our existence for those who take the pains to understand its ramification and can take advantage of it. And this is where policy makers have a critical role to play. Poor understanding of the impact of climate change, poor design of mitigation and adaption strategies is an open invitation to the inevitability of economic and social crisis.

Slightly over four years, Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan announced his vision of 'building Delta without Oil,' which is anchored on his three-point agenda of: 'peace and security, human capital and infrastructure development.' The idea is that the administration must design sustainable policies and programmes that would prepare the state and her dynamic people for a new economic structure not based on oil revenue. The thinking was that at a broad level, the government must undertake gigantic infrastructure projects that will act as economic triggers in ensuring sustainable development of the state, in the short, medium and long term-but mostly in the long term.

It is in this light that the airport in Asaba was initiated, expansion of Osubi airport runway, the Ughelli-Asaba dualisation, the IPP at Ogharefe, the Warri Industrial Park, the Koko Free Trade zone, the Youth Empower through agriculture (YETA), specifically designed to encourage new generation of farmers. This vision took account of the geographical location of Delta, which is considered strategic and could make the state an economic hub-a nerve centre that straddles the western and southern part of the country in a value chain of development.

In undertaking these investments, the intention of government is to use proceeds from oil to jumpstart a development that will spiral anticipating the inevitable decline of oil as the most prized international commodity, such that its shock were that to happen in future would not adversely affect the fortunes of the state and her people.

That is one aspect of the thinking. The other, is that in designing his programme for the people of the state, Governor Uduaghan was fully conscious of opportunities in sustainable resources that have not been exploited at all. To harness these opportunities you have to popularize the technology, build new skill sets and create awareness of its significance to stimulate buy-in by all.

That's not all. He was also unhappy with the harm reckless oil exploration has done to the environment. Being from an oil producing community, he could tell, first-hand, the damage inflicted on the local economy of the communities. As chief executive involved in managing crisis in the state during the difficult days of Niger Delta agitation, he was aware of how much damage to the environment was responsible for the violence that erupted.

The often overlooked factor in that crisis is that beyond the justifiable reason to agitate due to lack of development in the oil bearing communities, the fragile oil infrastructure vulnerable to slippages either due to age or third party interferences left a legacy of destruction and poverty. The violation of the environment meant that the way of life of the communities anchored on agriculture varnished and without alternative, life was grim and with that violence.

Armed with these experiences it was easy for the administration to quickly articulate a roadmap on green economy. Although still work in progress, Governor Uduaghan has taken significant steps towards actualising his vision for the state that would tap into alternative energy that is environmentally sustainable and friendly. Governor Uduaghan has since embracing alternative energy sought partnership wherever possible, either locally or at international level. His passion and interest has literally made him a climate change ambassador, respected and highly regarded for his understanding of issues.

His involvement in the international arena has increased the level of awareness of the dimension of the challenges that we face and, just as well, opened opportunities of assistance for the state. The point being made is that since 2008 Governor Uduaghan has been actively involved in global dialogue on combating climate change and building consensus on green issues. Uduaghan joined the Global Governor's Summit on climate change then led by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, which has morphed to R20 regions of climate action. R20 is a group of sub-national government committed to combating climate change, building climate resilient projects and reduction of global emissions to 1990 levels by year 2020.

In November 2010, 60 parties-academic institutions, NGO's, corporations, international financial institutions, sub-regional governments-signed R20 summit declaration committing themselves to work together and to support each to promote green economy, create green jobs and combat climate change.

Actually, one of the core aims of R20 is that its members understand that across the world there are different levels of developments, challenges and opportunities in tackling climate change and promoting green economy, hence the necessity for a more collaborative approach which encourages cooperation and support in building capacity and promoting investments between the more advanced sub-national economies and the emerging ones.

Delta, as one of the emerging economies, stands to benefit from these initiatives and engagements. And so far, there are talks in that direction to secure as much support as possible towards building a solid green economy in the state. Uduaghan, as vice chairman, Africa and Middle East, is not slow in seeking partnerships that can help the state build its green economy profile and opportunities. Indeed, one of the first opportunity that was seized at the inception of this international exchange was the partnership between Delta state and UNDP on Territorial Action on Climate Change (TACC). TACC enables UNDP partner with a territory to adopt strategies to combat Climate Change. That work is on-going. We are also at the definition of project specific engagements for the state.

It should also be said that one of our outstanding successes in our partnership with California with Schwarzenegger is the commitment we received from Chevron oil company to commit to end gas flare by the end of the year in the state.

Other initiatives we have taken are our partnership with General Electric (GE) to explore environmental resilient projects based on renewable energy options; our partnership with International Energy Agency (IEA) to conduct analysis on low carbon and energy mix portfolio; our partnership with World Chambers of Commerce and International Chamber of Commerce (ICC-WCF) to promote Low Carbon Economy (LCE) for SME's in Delta state. In fact, in 2010 in partnership with ICC-WCF international experts from diverse backgrounds were in Asaba to brainstorm with SME groups in Delta on the opportunities in green economy.

The step we have taken so far is derived from our understanding that to combat Climate Change involves adopting new energy sources, technological change, political will and economic realities. It is actually true that as a nation our contribution to carbonization of the atmosphere and thus Climate Change is quite minimal-we are ranked 46th in the world for carbon emissions-the sad truth however, is that unlike other developed nations we are most vulnerable to its devastating impact.

It is therefore in our interest to raise awareness and adopt public policies that encourages best practices that address the problem. A major step towards mitigating global warming would be to increase the efficiency of energy utilization, promote the development of alternative fuels with low carbon emissions, improvement in our land use, adopting building code that is environmental friendly and proper management of waste.

Delta State Government, I want to say, has not been slow in adopting some of these measures. We have embraced the use of solar energy as an alternative source of energy. It may interest you to know that Delta State is coming up with a Solar Village in Burutu LGA that would be entirely powered by Solar Energy. Also, between the periods of 2010 till date, over 10,000 stands of solar street lights were installed in various towns and villages in Delta State; over 23 motorized borehole/water reticulation projects in 23 communities in the state were converted to solar powered system. Most traffic lights in the state are powered by solar panels and there are several other solar projects in our Hospitals and Schools. These are positive steps but we are far from our target.

To conclude, I want to say that as the partnership and initiatives His Excellency is committed to evolve, the adoption and wide use of renewable energy would become a critical component of our public policy, just as we encourage other best practices that are environmentally sustainable.

• Being text of speech delivered by Mr. Paul Odili, Project Lead, Delta State, Green Economy Initiative, at the Niger Delta Youth Small Business Conference with the theme: 'Clearing the path for small business growth; benefits of doing sustainable business in a green economy.'