Buhari and Nigeria’s climate challenge ahead of COP27

Against all odds, Africa will host the 27th edition of the now famous Conference of Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which debuted in 1992 in Berlin, Germany. The COP27, scheduled for Egyptian The Sharm el Sheikh Peninsula in November this year marks the fifth time Africa has hosted the climate summit, previously hosted by Morocco (2001 and 2016), Kenya (2006) and South Africa ( 2011). According to a UNCTAD 2021 report, climate change poses an existential threat to the lives and livelihoods of some 490 million people living in extreme poverty in Africa. As Africa’s big brother, Nigeria bears some of the continent’s climate impacts in many areas. For example, the country’s vast coastline, which extends for approximately 853 km, has receded over the years due to overlapping waves that swallow the shores of the Atlantic Ocean in the southern region. With sea levels set to rise by about 65cm by the turn of the century, further erosion of coastlines will only exacerbate the environmental crisis facing the country.

On another level, rivers are drying up as desertification takes its devastating toll in the arid zone of the far north. Biodiversity loss and deadly floods that devastated farmlands and cities are other challenges facing the world’s most populous black nation. Likewise, the degradation of tropical forests, the depletion of flora and fauna due to illegal deforestation and criminal logging are increasing. However, it should be noted that the problem of deforestation in Nigeria is exacerbated by the prohibitive cost of cooking gas and kerosene, and the virtual absence of alternative clean energy for use by the poor masses. The impact of climate change is also tellingly grim on agriculture and the quest for food security in Nigeria. It is a cynical irony that a population of more than 200 million people is largely fed by rural farmers who use traditional hoes and machetes as important tools. Such farmers who are not agrotechnical savvy can only grow crops by default that are subject to the vagaries of unstable climatic conditions. Of course, when rainfall is excessive or drought is extreme, agricultural crop yields are abominably poor, resulting in an imbalance between supply and demand, causing galloping food price inflation.

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For a country in dire need of industrialization, an erratic power supply is a major barrier to manufacturers and other entrepreneurs currently dealing with climate impacts. And with just 3,500 MW of electricity generation, factories and companies embedded in Africa’s leading economy are burdened with the search for alternative energy sources. It is estimated that more than 60 million Nigerians depend on fossil fuel-powered generators for 48.6 percent of the electricity needed in their homes and businesses, at a whopping cost of $14 billion a year. The impact on environmental waste is no less severe as Nigeria produces 32 million tons of solid waste per year, with 2.5 million tons of plastic waste, making the country one of the largest waste producers in Africa.

Yet the challenges of some climate impacts pale into mild threats in light of the existential peril inherent in Nigeria’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which are estimated to be 126.9 million tons in 2020. Frankly, Nigeria is always in motion. to keep pace with global climate change advocacy. As a party to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, it ratified the Kyoto Protocol in 2004 and was soon followed by a national climate change policy aimed at building an environmentally friendly society. The nation’s importance was further materialized in 2012 when it was admitted as a voluntary member of the UN Environmental Coalition on Climate and Clean Air, endowed with the mandate to reduce climate pollutants in ten high-impact sectors of the global economy. President Muhammadu Buhari took a decisive step in 2015 when he pledged Nigeria to the Paris Agreement and presented the country’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) with a pledge to conditionally reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent by the year 2030. Nigerian voices echoed again last year at COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, where President Buhari announced a target for 2060 net-zero emissions. He then signed the Climate Change Act in November 2021, which commits the federal government to measurable action plans for climate change mitigation and adaptation.

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As Nigeria prepares for a strong engagement with other state and non-state actors at the fifth global climate summit in Africa, President Buhari must ensure a seamless harmonization of the country’s environmental policies and actions, and the onboarding of all key stakeholders on in the fields of energy transition, climate finance, 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 taken consciously. It is hoped that this move will now accelerate the country’s climate action and turn the centuries-old movement into a rapid one. Ahead of COP27, Nigeria’s critical tasks should be to set a robust agenda for and coordinate Africa’s strategic response to the global climate debates, especially blaming GHG emissions, slowing down setting global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, the dilemma over green and blue hydrogen options, and the resistance to redeeming the $100 billion annual pledge to Africa to support, among other things, climate mitigation and – to finance adaptation. The major industrialized countries known to be responsible for greenhouse gas emissions must be held accountable for the impacts of climate change experienced in Africa today. Nigeria is obliged to lead the attack.

  • Akoshile, an environmental journalist, writes at eic@naturenews.africa
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