Ahead of COP26, Ekanem I. Braide shares her perspective on the priorities for action and the role of science

Science and innovation are key to tackling climate change, says Braide, but massive community engagement is also necessary to bring about change.

This article is part of the ISC’s Transform21 series, which features resources from our network of scientists and change-makers to help inform the urgent transformations needed to achieve climate and biodiversity goals.

On 28 October 2021 – on the eve of the COP26 climate talks – the UK Government Office for Science released a statement by senior scientific advisors from around the world, calling for science and technology to be at the centre of efforts to limit warming and mitigate climate change.

We spoke to Professor Ekanem I. Braide, President of the Nigerian Academy of Science, who’s a signatory of the statement, to find out more.

The Nigerian Academy of Science is a Member of the ISC.

What is the central message behind this statement that all those on their way to COP26 today need to understand?

Changes caused by human activities have triggered climate change. These have led to soil erosion, pollution (water, air, land), loss of biodiversity and desertification. Growing population has also mounted pressure on the earth resulting in excessive land utilization, increase in use of non-renewable energy and depletion of raw materials. To achieve ideal green and blue economy, countries must protect the environment by promoting reduced carbon emission, reduced pollutants, energy renewal, resource efficiency as well as preventing loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services.

What policies are being implemented in Nigeria? And what more needs to be done?

In Nigeria, there are many regulatory policies around environmental degradation. These include regulations on effluence limitation, Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), management of hazardous waste, national environmental standard as well as pollution abatement in industries and facilities generating waste. However, enforcement of regulations has been difficult even with private sector industries. Difficulty in compliance among citizens is related to poverty. Therefore, growth in employment and improvement in household income will have a positive impact on desertification because poverty forces citizens to cut down trees for wood fuel and also make it difficult for them to desist from indiscriminate disposal of non-degradable waste.

The Statement by International Scientific Advisers ahead of COP26 calls for ‘intense’ international collaboration on research and innovation. What are some of the priorities?

Science and innovation are key to tackling climate change. Scientists have developed innovative strategies for reduction of demands for energy in all sectors as well as improvement of efficiency of energy utilization. The Nigerian Academy of Science has over the years, promoted research on development of mitigation and adaptive technologies related to climate change. Renewable energy options have been developed to replace high carbon fossil fuels in Nigeria. Unfortunately, many Nigerians cannot afford these products so there is need for more research to produce affordable options. Above all, there is an urgent need to conduct massive community engagement and risk communication so communities understand and own the problem of climate change. Then, they will at least appreciate the need for, and participate actively in, afforestation and other affordable mitigation activities. This will reduce the need for regulations which are even difficult to enforce.

The Nigerian Academy of Science notes that climate change and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are interlinked. The Academy therefore, benchmarks her activities against the SDGs and works hard at contributing to the achievement of the SDGs (including SDG 13) in Nigeria. We in the Academy are also conversant with the 2019 Paris Climate Change Agreement and other regional and national climate change agreements.

To adequately address climate change, the Nigerian Academy of Science requires more funds for research as well as massive community engagement and risk communication. The Academy looks forward to collaboration with other Science Academies in developing more mitigation and adaptive technologies and is also willing to learn from other Academies strategies adopted for increasing uptake of research output by industry and securing commitment of government, at all levels, to translate policy to practice.

Ekanem Ikpi Braide

Ekanem I. Braide is a professor of Parasitology/Epidemiology, and the 19th President of the Nigerian Academy of Science. She was a member of the national committee that achieved the eradication of guinea worm in Nigeria, and in July 2010, was honoured by the President of Nigeria with the award of Officer of the Order of the Federal Republic (OFR) for her contribution to disease control in Nigeria.

Professor Braide served as Vice Chancellor, Cross River University of Technology (CRUTECH) Calabar, Nigeria (2004 to 2009) and as Pioneer Vice Chancellor, Federal University, Lafia, Nigeria (2011 to 2016). She is currently the Pro-Chancellor of Arthur Jarvis University, Akpabuyo, Nigeria.

Photo by Jeremy Bezanger on Unsplash.

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