Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Ambassador Sanders' Remarks at Youth Environmental Leadership Program Workshop

U.S. Ambassador Robin Reneé Sanders
Opening Remarks
Youth Environmental Leadership Program (YELP) Workshop
Nigerian Salzburg Seminar Alumni
THEME: Environmental Leadership for Youth
VENUE: Valencia Hotel, Abuja
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
9:40 - 10:30AM

It is a pleasure for me to be with all of you this morning. As future leaders, you have an important role to play in shaping the direction of your country.

The U.S. Mission is pleased to partner with the Nigerian Salzburg Seminar Alumni in staging this workshop focused on developing your capacity to understand important environmental issues confronting Nigeria and skills that you will use to be effective leaders and advocates.

I am aware that your group has four objectives in Nigeria: 1) to improve cultural awareness and societal understanding; 2) to use dialogue as a means to promote justice and reconciliation; 3) to foster education and leadership that is responsive to local, national, and global needs; and, 4) to build inclusive decision-making institutions that are informed by citizens’ viewpoints, scientific research, as well as public and private sector inputs.

There is a Nigerian proverb that says: ”A man can not sit alone to plan for prosperity”. The proverb acknowledges that progress and prosperity require collective action, and a country's people are its most important resource. We support this position which is why a substantial portion of U.S. development assistance in Nigeria is focused on INVESTING IN PEOPLE.

Today's workshop is one of many activities we support specifically focused on developing youth like you. Good governance, sustainable economic growth, environmental protection and poverty alleviation all go hand in hand.

Like many other nations, Nigeria is pursuing a strategy of economic growth and development that aims to reduce poverty and improve the lives of its citizens. You know that certain actions can have negative environmental impacts such as increased greenhouse gas emissions, and stresses on water supply which can contribute to desertification.

Sadly, sand dunes from the Sahara are being swept southward pushing nomadic herdsmen into adjacent grass and woodlands. The tension between farmers and herdsmen over limited resources has prompted repeated conflicts and violent confrontations.

Woodlands have been decimated and soil once held together by dense vegetation has been rapidly eroded leaving vast, gaping, gullies across the country. Over the past 20 years, Nigeria has lost 3.7 Million Hectares of forest and farmland to erosion and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture estimates that 35 million metric tones of soil are washed away annually (source: IRIN).

To mitigate further negative environmental impacts, economic growth needs to take place in a sustainable manner- one that preserves, protects, and honors the environment for future generations.

Progress in the long run will only be assured by adopting policies that improve energy security, alleviate poverty, protect and preserve biodiversity, reduce air pollution and greenhouse gases, and provide for the sustainable utilization of scare natural resources.

The United States has long been at the forefront of environmental protection and our environmental legislation continues to serve as a model for other countries. We were among the first countries to establish a dedicated government office (the Environmental Protection Agency) specifically to address environmental issues and regulate industrial activities that were having negative environmental impacts.

The United States continues to play a leadership role on environmental issues at home and internationally. Since 2001, we haves provided substantial funding ($37 billion) for climate-related science and technology including international assistance and incentive programs. And, since 2002, we have launched 15 bilateral and regional climate change partnerships including playing a key role in the September 2007 United Nations inaugural conference of 17 Major Economies on Energy Security and Climate Change.

I am pleased to report that our efforts have had a very positive impact upon environmental issues while supporting economic prosperity. From 2000-2005, the population of the United States grew by 5%. and GDP grew by 12%. while our greenhouse gas emissions increased by only 1.6%. Moreover, the latest estimates show that from 2005-2006 our economy grew 2.9%,but our energy-related carbon dioxide emissions decreased by 1.3%.

Environmental problems are global in nature but their impact, and their solution, begins locally with each of you. Environmentalists regularly tell us to: “Think globally…act locally”. You MUST do that! It is the charge you have as Nigerian environmentalists.

I am confident that this workshop will provide you with a greater understanding of the environmental issues facing you, your communities, and Nigeria. I am equally confident that you will also leave here with the skills you need to address and resolve these issues in ways that promote human dignity, support economic development, while respecting the environment in which you live.

We must work together on this, and as future leaders of this country, you ARE agents of change and we are your partner in these efforts.

Thank you.