Climate Joy Week #8: Nigeria to Ban Single-Use Plastic Bags, England to Ban Plastic Straws and More…

Climate Joy Week #8: Nigeria to Ban Single-Use Plastic Bags, England to Ban Plastic Straws and More…

Welcome back to yet another edition of our Climate Joy series! 

This week, we bring good news for the environment from one of the most unlikely places; and by this we refer to Nigeria where the government is moving against single-use plastic. We also bring news of electric cars from Armenia and clean energy in the US. So, join us then as we take the brief happy trek through these places, in celebration of the little victories we continually win. 

1. Nigeria Passes a Bill to Ban Single-Use Plastic

The Climate Joy series for this week starts with news from Africa. The lower house of the Nigerian legislature, last week, passed a bill banning single-use plastic throughout the country. The bill is for an Act to come into force which would amongst other things, prohibit the use, manufacture and importation of all plastic bags used for commercial and household packaging. While the bill not been signed into law yet, no objections are expected from the Senate or from the office of the Presidency. The bill prescribes a punishment of up to three years in jail or a fine of N500,000 (US$1389) or both for anyone that fails to provide customers with paper bags in the place of plastic. 

This legislative move is generally deemed a good one, but it hasn’t necessarily been welcomed with blind enthusiasm by some Nigerians. It has been described by a good number of young Nigerians as a ‘high-handed approach’ to the issue of plastic pollution, especially with regards to the prescribed penalties. It is believed to be mere sabre rattling especially from a government that’s not famous for enforcing such policies because the government has not put any concrete measures or incentives in place to encourage the production or use of alternatives. 

Be that as it may, let’s chalk this down as progress and a step in the right direction by the Nigerian government. Hopefully, more African countries are encouraged and will follow suit.

2. Armenia Ramps Up Efforts to Encourage Electric Vehicles

In an effort to reduce air pollution, the Armenian government, a few days ago, announced a program to convert the government fleet of vehicles to electric, beginning with the cars of the cabinet members. The Minister of Environment in a recent interview stated that the country is the first to take this step in the world. The program kicks off with about twelve cars for the ministers but is expected to increase the numbers to include the President.

Electric vehicle (EV) ownership in Armenia is very low with just thirty-three EVs imported in 2018. The government aims to turn this around by issuing policies including a bill that proposes the removal of import duties on electric cars. It is optimistic that an increased number of EVs will be accompanied by solutions to the infrastructure challenges that has stalled the adoption of EVs in the country. 

3. England to Ban Plastic Straws, Stirrers and Cotton Buds

In England, the government has confirmed that from April next year, plastic straws, drink stirrers, and cotton buds with plastic stems would be legally banned from sale and use in the country. The ban, which has been in the works for over a year now, is aimed at reducing plastic litter and limiting to the barest minimum other environmental impacts of plastic waste. 

To better appreciate the significance of this legal action, it’s necessary for you to know that each year the United Kingdom uses roughly five billion plastic straws, more than 300 million plastic stirrers and close to two billion plastic-stemmed cotton buds.

The law makes an exception for people with a medical need or disability, for whom plastic straws and other materials will be available upon request. Furthermore, registered pharmacies will be permitted to sell plastic straws, over the counter or online, but restaurants, pubs and other catering establishments will not be allowed to display plastic straws or provide them automatically. 

This comes at the heels of the UK being the first country to declare a climate emergency. Some great environmental things happening in this corner of the world!

4. Maryland Commits to Clean Energy

In the United States of America, Maryland has committed to generating 50 percent of her electricity from renewable sources by 2030 and this is the thrust of a bill which was passed into law last week Friday. In a funny political twist, the bill became a law without Governor Larry Hogan’s signature who has allowed the bill to go forward, even though he is opposed, declaring that “this bill is not clean enough, not smart enough, nor does it create the intended jobs within Maryland.”

In a further twist, the Governor, who is a Republican isn’t opposed to climate action or the adoption of clean energy energy. Rather, he expresses concerns over the cost of the bill and whether or not it would preserve jobs in the state. This concern isn’t unfounded especially as the bill allows subsidies for producers of green energy, including some that generate pollutants, like trash incinerators and paper mills. The Governor despite his concerns went further and pledged to push legislation next year for a 100 percent clean energy by 2040.

According to Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, “this is the strongest bill ever passed in Maryland to fight global warming and now stands as a national example.” Let’s hope that more follow the state of Maryland’s lead.

And that’s a wrap for this week’s edition. See you back here next week and until then, share this article and let’s inspire others around the world in the fight to preserve our natural environment.

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