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What Nigeria needs to defeat climate change

NIGERIA ratified the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) on August 29, 1994.  In 2004, it ratified the Kyoto Protocol and went ahead to produce the First National Communication on Climate Change. A year earlier, the need to draft the National Climate Change Policy document was conceived under the regime of President Olusegun Obasanjo. But it was not until 2012 that it came to light. Nigeria later modified the 2012 policy to the National Policy on Climate Change and Response Strategy (NPCC-RS).  It also subscribed to the 2015 Paris Agreement to meet the 1.5-degree goal. There are other policy documents such as Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), Long Term Visions and Strategies (LTV/LTS), and net-zero targets.

What is clear is that as a country, Nigeria is blessed with good policy papers. However, many of these papers are never truly implemented and are useless. One area experts believe the country has formulated worthy policies is climate change. The Nigerian government pledged to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases by 47% in 2030 and attain a net-zero carbon emission status by 2060.

The country joined world leaders in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt from  Sunday, November 6 to Friday, November 11,  2022, to fashion ways to beat this common enemy. Nigeria was not missing in action at the 27th edition of the Conference of Partners on Climate Change (COP 27). The COP followed the adoption of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to mitigate the negative impacts of climate change on our planet. At the conference, the country was not in a deficit of flaunting its policy documents on the climate change menace. 

Nothing less is expected of a nation that is the highest emitter of greenhouse gases in West Africa, with over 60 percent of emissions in the region. Figures from the government indicate that there were 247 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent (MtCO2e) emissions in 2010 and there were 347 MtCO2e in 2018. The oil-cum-gas sector contributes 36% of the emissions while other contributors are the transportation sector, grid and non-grid-connected electricity, agriculture, waste, and so on.

Experts have, however, looked at the pledges to battle climate change, and the verdict is out: there is no alignment between the country’s political will and economic realities, leaving an implementation gap. No thanks to weak financial, economic, social, and institutional conditions, Nigeria’s climate pledges are only good on paper. Little ambition has been demonstrated on mitigation, adaptation, and climate finance. When would the pledges be translated into concrete actions for a greener future for coming generations? 

This is dangerous at a time climate change is wreaking social and economic havoc on the country. The devastating flooding is an example of the dangerous impacts of climate change in Nigeria, a situation that dictates that Nigeria must join the rest of the world in building its capacity to battle climate change.

As a result of the implementation challenge, Nigeria, it appears, will continue to face the devastating effects of emissions of greenhouse gases in the form of perennial flooding, food security crisis, desertification, and water scarcity.

The failure to implement these policy documents has continued to affect the country and its people. This year alone, cities such as Lagos have been pounded by heavy rainfall and if the prediction of experts is accurate, the worst is yet to come.

The last major rains brought tragedies, including deaths and loss of property. Vehicles and their occupants were washed away and properties damaged beyond repair.  A weekend of rain in Lagos led to the death of 17 people in a boat accident. A bus fell into the canal and 12 occupants were miraculously rescued.

We could not prevent all these tragedies despite the fact that in March, the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMET) warned Lagos and other states of the troubles ahead. The Lagos State Commissioner for Environment and Water Resources, Mr. Tunji Bello, and the Special Adviser to the Governor on Drainage and Water Resources, Joe Igbokwe, during the state’s 2022 Seasonal Climate Predictions in Lagos, said there would be a high-intensity annual rainfall of 1,750mm with attendant socio-economic implications for residents.

We strongly believe it is time our leaders protected the country for our children and their future. Among other things, we must phase out global production and consumption of hydro-fluorocarbons, super-polluting chemicals that are hundreds of thousands of times more harmful than carbon dioxide. In tackling the climate crisis, we must avoid as much as half a degree Celsius of warming by the end of this century.

In addition, we must focus on conserving at least 30 percent of the land and waters by 2030 and reduce rising levels of pollution. We must also save the Atlantic Ocean by ending plastic pollution. 

The country must join the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People to conserve or protect at least 30 percent of the global ocean. A report showed that Nigeria generated an estimated 32 million tonnes of solid waste per year, one of the highest in Africa. Plastics constitute 2.5 million tonnes. The World Economic Forum projects that by the year 2050, plastics in the oceans will outweigh fish. 

Of the 260 million tonnes of plastics produced in the world each year, about 10 percent ends up in the ocean and 70 percent of this sinks and damages seabed creatures. Over 200,000 metric tonnes of plastic waste from land-based sources in Nigeria, according to estimates, is discharged into the Atlantic Ocean each year. 

Significantly, too, the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA), in a study, says 83 percent of the 4.8–12.7 million tonnes of land-based plastic waste that ends up in the ocean originates from Nigeria and nineteen other countries. Dredging endangered coastlines and clogging the drainage channels with nylon bags, Styrofoam cups, take-out packs, and other disposables show irresponsibility. 

Everything must be done to discourage plastic pollution. We shoud pass a law mandating stores to charge for plastic bags as is done in the United Kingdom and some European nations. Before the policy was introduced in 2015, the use of plastic bags in supermarkets in England was out of control. Over 7.6 billion carrier bags were given to customers in 2014. The introduction of the policy led to retailers taking 15 billion carrier bags out of circulation.

This is also the time to take seriously the diversification of our economy. Our dependency on oil is not helping the climate crisis. Fossil fuels are not clean energy and what is needed to fight climate change is clean, renewable energy such as solar energy. A visit to the Niger Delta will show the twin evils of gas flaring and oil production.

Since we have no other home, Nigeria must walk the talk and save our land. The time is now!

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