Environment at top of agenda at UK/Nigeria forum

Environmental issues were at the top of the agenda at the first meeting of the UK/Nigeria Bilateral Forum, held in London by President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria and UK Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott.

Discussions at the forum covered oil pollution, gas flaring, desertification, waste management and climate change. According to a joint statement by both country’s Environment Ministers, Michael Meacher and Sani Zango Daura, both sides are committed to moving towards ratification of the Kyoto Protocol by 2002.

“Potential areas for future co-operation and dialogue within the broad area of climate change include: reduction of gas flaring through private sector led projects; exploring ways to provide efficient public transportation; and capacity building,” said the Ministers.

The Ministers also recognised the need to integrate natural resource management into poverty alleviation policies in order to tackle desertification. “We need to address such issues as agri-forestry; shelter belt and woodland management; grazing control systems; and the preservation of protected areas,” said the Ministers.

Co-operation will be needed between the two countries in order to counter the problems of oil pollution and gas flaring, said the statement. The Ministers also agreed to explore ways of levering investment for development of a local or regional infrastructure, which would add to the environmental benefits of reduced gas flaring.

“This forum signals a new phase in bilateral relations between our two countries,” said Prescott, opening the forum. “It is also about how the UK and Nigeria can work together on some major multilateral issues.”

“We in developed countries must recognise our responsibility to take the lead,” said Prescott. “But we will only beat climate change through a truly global solution. That is why we must make the negotiations in The Hague this year a success. I will do all I can to ensure this success. As Chair of the G77, Nigeria will play a key role in those negotiations.”

The theme of the second Bilateral Forum is expected to be education.

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