Dr Andon N’Guessan Simon@ANA

Interview- Dr. Andon N’Guessan Simon: “awareness must be raised about the environment as was the case with COVID-19”

Doctor in Environmental Sciences from the University of Quebec, Andon N’Guessan Simon is a teacher-researcher at the Geography Department of the University Péléforo Gon Coulibaly, Côte d’Ivoire. In this interview with ANA, he discusses the implementation of the COP 21 recommendations and the issues at stake at the current COP 26 in Glasgow. 

By Issiaka N’Guessan, in Abidjan

What assessment can be made of the implementation of the COP 21 recommendations?

COP 21 was the moment of awareness, when scientists had to develop strategies based on meteorological data and climate change to see its impact on society and the environment. With regard to COP 26, the sequence differs: there is now unanimity on the need to act. We all agree on the fact that the climate has many repercussions on the environment and on the health of populations. We must now take effective decisions that must be applied because time is running out. As an indication, the average global temperature has increased by 0.74 ° C between 1906 and 2006. But from 2006 to 2015, it has risen by 1.5 ° C, meaning that in less than 8 years, we have almost doubled the temperature increase recorded in a century. It is therefore urgent to take decisions.

What are the effects of this global warming in Africa?

In the specific case of Côte d’Ivoire, the sea level rise could make some places such as Lahou-Pkanda in the south disappear, while in the northern region, climate variations are already shifting the rainy seasons, which effectively affects crops, even though our country is an agricultural country. The increase in temperature in the cities is linked to the destruction of trees and no measures are taken to replant. In general, over the continent and depending on the region, there are phenomena of flooding or drought, which are all climatic problems that our countries are facing.

Without China, one of the biggest polluters in the world, what can we expect at the end of the COP 26 in Glasgow?

Based on the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), published last August, the most important element to act on is the decision of the major powers to invest in the countries of the South for reforestation. No other decision from them will do as much to reduce greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon dioxide. I expect that this decision can be taken this year because we are in a global village, where even if the choices are not always unanimous, everyone has so far agreed on the need to apply the decisions recommended by the Kyoto Protocol (signed in 1997). There are certainly problems in the negotiations concerning the CO2 threshold to be emitted between countries, but in the end, a solution must be found this year.

Can Africa’s voice be heard on the international scene? 

Since we are in a tropical environment and the dense forest is the one that absorbs the CO2 emitted by developed countries, Africa necessarily has its place and I think it is essential. Rigorous decisions must be taken so that the multinationals that are destroying the forest and against which our countries are quite weak can pay to respect the Polluter-Pays Principle. This is a global problem for which major decisions must be made in order to protect our resources.

You took part in an international conference on public policies on pesticides in the South. What is your assessment of this meeting?

The participants agreed that pesticides are an element that contributes to agricultural production and as such, they are necessary. But at the same time, it is necessary to make sure that the populations that use them can be sensitized in order to avoid being infected and affected by the effects of these products. A number of recommendations have been made in this regard and they will be presented to our leaders so that they can integrate them into their development strategy so that we can all be protected. 

Faced with the challenges of a rapidly growing population, particularly in Africa, do sustainable agriculture and the use of organic products match up?

Organic farming using organic inputs is, in absolute terms, the most recommended farming approach. It is what everyone wants in principle, but it requires a lot of resources.  The above-mentioned conference therefore proposed that farmers could be introduced to making their own compost – since they weed their fields – and that those who raise livestock could also use poultry litter. To save time when weeding, however, farmers are increasingly inclined to use chemicals. This is one of the problems we are facing and all this has been taken into account in the different recommendations submitted to the decision-makers to be taken into account.

Reinforced by the COP 21 in Paris, the UN Green Climate Fund is still not leveraged enough by African countries. Should this be a source of concern?

Many structures that could potentially benefit from this type of scheme are not informed. In practice, you have to apply to projects that are launched and most of the time, discussions are conducted in English. Therefore, files often have to be translated before receiving funding. That said, we are in the process of setting up a project related to certain trees useful to farmers so that they leave these woody plants in the fields, especially in the north of Côte d’Ivoire, and we hope that this initiative will receive funding. I got the information and was able to apply during a round table. Therefore, relations, especially external, in a way, contribute a lot to obtaining information.

Since COP 21, have the public authorities encouraged researchers to apply and to propose subjects that States will later submit to funding institutions?

Few NGOs receive funding or are aware of the existence of such mechanisms. As far as research is concerned and for Côte d’Ivoire, the funding is not substantial enough to help researchers go far enough in their studies. However, environmental problems are long-term problems. The State has certainly set up structures, but they should be managed in an integrated manner in a common fund, because their terms of reference overlap, and this is not sufficiently efficient.

In the end, has the population fully realized the extent of the climate change now underway and does it accept to implement scientists’ recommendations? 

In fact, it is the media that talk about climate change and environmental problems. The populations themselves are just making the observation. Awareness is not really raised. The farmers know well for example that the period of cultivation has changed because of climate change, and they have therefore developed a form of local resilience. But most of the time, they are not helped. Just as awareness was raised around the COVID pandemic, the same should be done for the environment so that people are better informed to better act for the environment.

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