Opinion

Climate Change – Good move to talk about it

By: Waakhe Simon Wudu

South Sudan recently held a highly powered oil and power conference that drew hundreds of players in oil and energy investment sectors and other trade related areas. While the event as well sought to woo investors into the oil industry in the Country, a talk on addressing the problem of climate as an issue by the top country’s leaders who attended the event was a good gesture in tackling the already global-considered problem.  

Oil production and exploration in South Sudan is much linked to the environment. However, little has ever been done in efforts to fight environmental damage emanating from oil production, a practice that is responsible for climate change.

Much talk in the Country’s public domain has centered on war and economy considering their visible activity and immediate or associated effects with man’s life. However, nationwide, all need to understand that paying little attention to the issue of climate change brews another worrying problem whose effects on eco-system are another life-taking.

During the conference, some of the top country’s politicians – the First Vice President, Taban Deng Gai and the Minister of Petroleum, Awow Daniel Chuang – reflected in their key note speeches the issue of climate change whose problems result from impacts of oil production and called for consideration of measures to prevent the negative effects of climate change on the eco-system. This is absolutely a good pointer in the right direction considering the global campaign to fight the rising challenges of climate change.

Gai made what I termed as good calls to fight climate change during the conference. His authoritative voicing on the issue should be strongly captured by the media, activists and all actors on environment and climate change in the attempts to mitigate the rising problems.  

He told international and national players operating in the oil regions across the Country to be aware about the rising challenges of climate change emanating from human factors – more so activities taking place in the oil production areas.

“I believe that we all can agree that our main goal should be to provide stable and sustainable future for energy for the sake of future generation for the Republic of South Sudan,” Gai told hundreds of delegates from South Sudan, Africa Middle East, America and Europe at the forum in Crown Hotel.

Gai called on players with the environment to use the “opportunity through cooperation, innovation and modern technology transfer […] to transform the global challenges of climate change.”

Those are well placed words and policy statement from a second highest government leader in the Country that need to be taken with great treasure. Little do South Sudanese politicians recognize and consider the issue of climate change as a growing threat to the eco-system. If they do so, recognize, no reasonable measures to mitigate the problem have been taken and put into action. Yet climate change is already an issue and is now consuming our lives. It is time that the campaign on the matter is exhaustively discussed in all relevant fora.

Petroleum Minister Chuang’s pin on the efforts to tackle years-long devastating and escalating effects of oil production on the environment is another welcoming move.

“This year also we are moving on forward to have our first environmental audit; we are going to have it next month [November], we are going to announce it and the team is ready we are going to open up for international companies that will be interested to conduct an environmental audit so that we will all to reduce the impact of environment. And of course this also will be an opportunity,” Chuang told the investors at the oil conference.

“As the results of environmental audit comes then they will now recommend corrections and of course the mitigation measures […] because we want to create environment that is conducive for our people to live in the oil field and at the same time we want to live in harmony with the environment,” Chuang said.

The great policy statements from the two national leaders, which try to blend forward debate on climate change at the national level across the Country, however, need to be evidenced with pro-active-significant and practical steps that should be considered as realistic thoughts to tackle the challenge of climate change and its effects.

It would be of reasonable effort to see the pronouncements of First Vice President Gai accompanied with consistent track of campaign and decisions that relate further the calls to fight challenges of climate change. Most often politicians are good public speakers that make them look relevant in their obligation to provide services to the citizens. It is my hope that Gai’s speech do not remain at Crown Hotel.

As well, public display of the measures on the environment audit as explained by Minister Chuang will be reasonable convincing steps to portray his attempts to demonstrate great national interest and courageous move to addressing the environmental damages in the oil producing States that lead to climate change.

Already activists and lawmakers have released reports revealing horrific effects of environmental damage in the oil producing States. Attempts to address the problem would be a blessing.

Oil, in South Sudan, is the Country’s major lucrative economic activity that have attracted bigger international companies drilling it but with little or no adequate environmental protective measures being taken. It earns over 90 per cent of the Country’s national revenue.

The campaign on addressing the issue of climate change at the oil conference by the two leaders signals a gesture towards achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goal or SDG thirteen which advocates on climate change. SDG 13 demands that “to address climate change, we have to vastly increase our efforts. Much is happening around the world – investments in renewable energy have soared. But so much more needs to be done. The world must transform its energy, industry, transport, food, agriculture and forestry systems to ensure that we can limit global temperature rise to well below 2°C, maybe even 1.5°C.”

In December 2015, the world took a significant first step by adopting the Paris Agreement, in which all countries committed to take action to address climate change.

The greater part of the oil region in South Sudan with production ongoing in it and the oil sold in the international market falls within the Country’s Sudd wetlands, a region that has been internationally designated with special status. The designation of the region, not only protects the eco-system in the area, but also has put South Sudan in the international world map – an exposure that creates potential for tourism. Little or no attempts to protect the wetlands sooner than later by the national government shall drag it into devastating negative effects of climate change. This will in turn cost the Country unprecedented loss in the future.

The author can be reached via email: waakhewudu@gmail.com

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