By Lucky Ihanza
Fifty years ago, precisely on April 22, 1970, when people around the world celebrated the first Earth Day to raise awareness about mankind’s role in protecting our natural world, it is on record that over 20 million Americans ventured outdoors and protested in favour of a more eco-conscious society. Although this is the 50th anniversary – which is worth rolling out the drums for – the day may sadly be taking a back seat as COVID-19 – the disease caused by the novel coronavirus that has so far affected over 2.5 million people and with over 177,000 deaths according to Johns Hopkins University, is taking the centre stage. With most jurisdictions all over the world implementing physical distancing measures to reduce further spread, the earth seemed to have fared better within the lockdown regime. For instance, National Geographic reports that the unprecedented societal disruptions caused by coronavirus have triggered a sharp but temporary fall in fossil fuel consumption and carbon emissions.
Climate change remains one of earth’s most uphill task with serious global concerns as regards how to overcome it. Little wonder that the theme for this year’s World Earth Day is CLIMATE ACTION, Goal 13 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This is apt on many fronts: apt because it mirrors the current global challenge faced by all of humanity – climate change; apt because Greenhouse gas emissions are more than 50 per cent higher today than in 1990; apt because global warming is causing long-lasting changes to our climate system, which threatens irreversible consequences if nothing is done; apt because weather and climate patterns around the world are already shifting because of human-caused climate change; apt because as an SDG, it aims at mobilizing US$100 billion annually by 2020 to address the needs of developing countries to both adapt to climate change and invest in low-carbon development. And according to the UNDP, this is a task that must be treated with “urgent and ambitious collective action.”
Stable electricity is vital to the economic and social welfare of a nation. With close to 1 billion people around the world not connected to electricity, bridging this energy gap has been in the front burner for leaders around the world, especially in developing countries. As today is set aside to raising awareness about the most challenging issues humanity is facing and finding the creative and sustainable solutions to overcome them, one question comes to mind: how do we provide Earth’s energy need and still maintain an eco-conscious Earth? That’s where Climate Action comes in, with the adoption of renewable, sustainable, reliable and affordable energy. This has become non-negotiable – a position that was stressed during the 2018 UN General Assembly meeting. The reasons are not hard to find: in terms of boosting electricity access, renewable energy sources are the least expensive options. They reduce air pollution, cutting carbon dioxide emissions worldwide; reducing exposure to unsafe cooking methods and indoor pollution, while aligning with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, improving human lives and protecting the environment.
Nigeria boasts of the largest population in Africa with the continent’s greatest Gross Domestic Product (GDP) according to the International Monetary Fund. However, 95 million (55%) do not have access to power supply from the national grid, according to a report, while those who are privileged with grid-connected electricity, are constrained with inconsistent power supply or prolonged blackout occasioned by installed capacity of 12,522MW for power generation (being largely dependent on hydropower and fossil (gas) thermal power sources), but with 3,879MW actually in operation. Since the current infrastructure cannot provide and sustain electricity distribution to over 95 million people in Nigeria, renewable energy is undoubtedly the ideal solution. Certainly, the nation possesses the economic and environmental advantage to be a major player in renewable power sources such as solar – with over 2,600 hours of sunlight per year. Hence, Nigeria has an elaborate plan in that direction, including huge investments in that sector as well as through the Rural Electrification Agency.
It is against this backdrop that Diamond Development Initiatives (DDI), a not-for-profit development service provider, with support from U.S. African Development Foundation (USADF) and its partners, has championed the cause of empowering Nigerian renewable energy companies in providing off-grid, renewable, sustainable, reliable and affordable power to underserved and unserved communities in Nigeria, through the USADF’s Off-grid Energy Challenge Initiative. So far, 31 off-grid energy companies have been developed and scaled-up to accelerate the use of proven off-grid energy technologies to reach communities not currently covered by existing grids. In bridging this energy gap, DDI has maintained the ideals of participatory and bottom-top development, ensuring that benefitting communities are actively involved throughout the process.
With almost all grantees as direct beneficiaries and users of renewable energy, and with the commitment of its funders and partners as well as the Federal Government’s resolve through the Rural Electrification Agency, to expand the scope of its renewable energy coverage, DDI is positive that Nigeria is on its way to contributing to its attainment of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, improving human lives while ensuring an eco-friendly environment and a better Earth for all of us.
As the whole world comes together – albeit at home – to commemorate the 50th anniversary of World Earth Day, DDI felicitates all its donors, partners and grantees who are all partners in progress in the global drive for Climate Action. Happy 50th World Earth Day!