Lagos — In the weeks before the world environmental gathering COP27 in November, Nigeria faces a number of crucial tasks to prepare for the robust engagement that is required for Africa’s ‘big brother’.
The 27th edition of the Conference of Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Egypt in November is the fifth COP climate meeting to be held on the continent. Previous hosts have included Morocco (2001 and 2016), Kenya (2006), and South Africa (2011).
According to a UNCTAD 2021 report, climate change constitutes an existential threat to the lives and indeed livelihoods of some 490 million people living in extreme poverty across Africa. As the African nation with the largest population, Nigeria bears a major chunk of the continent’s climate impacts in many areas.
The country’s extensive coastline, stretching approximately 853km, has been receding due to overlapping waves that swallow the shores of the Atlantic Ocean in southern region. With sea level already projected to rise by about 65cm by the turn of the century, a further erosion of shorelines will deepen the challenges the country must deal with. Rivers are drying up while desertification is taking its devastating tolls across the arid zone of the far Northern region.
Loss of biodiversity and fatal floods that ravaged farmlands and cities are other issues confronting the world’s most populous black nation. Similarly, degradation of tropical forests, depletion of floras and fauna due to illegal deforestation as well as criminal wood logging, have all been on the increase. At the same time, deforestation is being exacerbated by the prohibitive cost of cooking gas and kerosene and the virtual absence of alternative clean energy for use by the poorest inhabitants.
Climate change is also having an impact on agriculture and the quest for food security in Nigeria. It is a cynical irony that a population of over 200 million people is being fed largely by rural peasant farmers using traditional hoes and cutlasses as their major implements. By default, such farmers who are not agro-tech savvy, can only cultivate crops that are subject to the vagaries of unstable climatic conditions.
When rainfall is excessive or drought is extreme, farm produce harvests are abysmally poor, resulting in a disequilibrium between demand and supply, and causing galloping inflation on food prices.
For a country that is in dire need of industrialisation, irregular power supply is a major disincentive for manufacturers and other entrepreneurs currently at the receiving end of climate impacts. And with barely 3,500 MW of electricity generation available nationwide, factories and businesses are weighed down by the quest for alternative energy sources. It is estimated that over 60 million Nigerians rely on generators powered by fossil fuel for about half of the electricity required in their homes and businesses – and at a huge cost of $14 billion yearly.
The impact of waste is no less serious. Nigeria produces 32 million tonnes of solid waste yearly with plastic waste constituting 2.5 million tonnes, and making the country one of the highest producers in Africa.
Nigeria’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emission footprint, which is estimated at 126.9 million tonnes as at 2020, is yet another danger. As a party to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Nigeria ratified the Kyoto Protocol in 2004 and followed it up with a National Policy on Climate Change aimed at building an environmentally resilient society.
In 2012, Nigeria was admitted as a voluntary member of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition with the mandate to reduce climate pollutants in ten high-impact sectors of the global economy. In 2019, in collaboration with the Coalition, Nigeria adopted a National Action Plan to Reduce Short-Lived Climate Pollutants.
President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 committed Nigeria to the Paris Agreement and presented the country’s pledge to conditionally reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent by the year 2030. The Nigerian voice again resonated last year at the COP26 in Glasgow, where Buhari announced a 2060 net-zero emissions target. In November 2021, he signed the Climate Change Act which commits the federal government to measurable action plans for climate change mitigation and adaptation.
As Nigeria prepares to engage other state and non-state actors at Cop27, Buhari must ensure harmonisation of the country’s environmental policies and actions and the on-boarding of all critical stakeholders in energy transition, climate financing, renewable energy, biodiversity, waste management, and the media.
The creation of the National Council on Climate Change, (NCCC) and the appointment of veteran environmentalist, Dr. Salisu Dahiru, as pioneer Director General, are steps consciously taken. It is hoped that this step will now accelerate the country’s climate actions and convert the age long motion into fast paced movement.
Ahead of the COP27, Nigeria’s crucial tasks must include to set a robust agenda for, and coordinate Africa’s strategic response to, the global climate debates especially the blame game on culpability for green-house gas emissions, the tardiness in pegging the global warming at 1.5 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the dilemma over green and blue hydrogen options, and the resistance in redeeming the annual US$100 billion pledged to Africa to finance climate mitigation and adaptation, among others. The top industrialised nations who are known to be culpable for GHG pollution must be held accountable for climate change impacts being experienced in Africa today. Nigeria is duty bound to lead the charge.
Aliu Akoshile, an environmental journalist, is ublisher and editor-in-chief of Nature News.