Ending Open Degradation: a Post Covid-19 and Climate Change Solution

According to David Boyd, the independent UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and  the environment, up to 70% (percent) of emerging infectious diseases such as COVID-19 are crossing from the wild to people and transformative actions are urgently needed to protect the environment and human rights.


Failure of a global effort to step up climate regenerative action thereby continuing on the current climate change trajectory could force up to 100 million people into extreme poverty by 2030.


Africa is the most exposed region to the adverse effects of climate change despite contributing the least to global warming. The region is already disproportionately feeling the impact related to a changing climate. Devastating cyclones affected 3million people in Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe in the spring of 2018. GDP exposure in African nations vulnerable to extreme climate patterns is projected to grow from $ 895 billion in 2018 to about $ 1.4trillion in 2023 – nearly half of the continent’s GDP.  If fairness was the only goal, the impetus to act would lie solely with developed economies. The big emitters in the developed nations must rapidly step up their domestic climate actions.


Consequently, Boyd added that countries should take urgent action to protect the environment and stop climate disruption and degradation which leads to biodiversity loss, toxic environmental pollution and diseases that jump from animals to humans. Additionally, open defecation could also lead to transmission of diseases from urine and faeces. This is why The Nigerian government has come up with plans to eliminate open defecation by the year 2025.


There has also been a rapid increase in the spread of the Covid-19 through uncontrolled activities of humans such as in the construction environment where infected particulate matters are wildly blown in the air and are inhaled into the lungs. UN chief Antonio Gutterres said in his message that “nature is sending a clear message. We are harming the natural world, to our own detriment”. He noted that habitat degradation and biodiversity loss were accelerating climate disruption and it is getting worse. To care for humanity, we must care for nature”.


This is why the Paris Agreement is an energy revolution. Water resource engineering with the abundance of solar, wind and geothermal resources give African countries a comparative advantage in renewable and sustainable energy solutions. In the energy revolution, Africa’s mostly ore and gas-rich-countries should be leading the energy revolution.


Beyond the energy sector, the agricultural and forestry sectors- inclusive of the food and land use systems- are integral to Sub-Saharan Africa’s economies accounting for 70 percent of livelihoods and almost one-quarter of regional GDP,  Okonji-Iweala (2020), Eme (2012), Eme (2015) and Jackson (2012). This presents opportunities for green investment in renewable energy, smart housing, green public procurement and public transport funded by the principles and standards of sustainable production and consumption. The UNEP warns that failure to capture the highlighted green investment opportunities together with return to business as usual, will result in inequalities arising from worsening degradation of the planet at a time when one million animal and plant species are on the brink of extinction.