At a time when anxiety, uncertainty, and desperation fill the air, Nigeria is busy writing her name in history books of climate action. Standing on a backdrop of consequential, intentional, and ambitious moves, Nigeria comes to COP26 with her strongest foot ever seen in years. This year alone, the Nigerian government passed a climate change bill, revised its National Policy on Climate Change (NPCC), raised its NDCs (Nationally Determined Contribution) target, developed a National Action Plan on Gender and Climate Change (NAPGCC), and established a National Youth Climate Innovation Hub to harness climate innovation ideas from young Nigerians as well as include youths in the decision-making process.
In a statement released shortly after passage of the Bill by the Senate, sponsor of the Bill and President of GLOBE Nigeria, Rep. Sam Onuigbo stressed that after the Promise of Paris, it is now time for concrete ambitious actions by governments and organizations – “In 2021, a little over five years after the Promise of Paris, Climate Change conversations have shifted to clear-cut verifiable and ambitious actions to tackle Climate Change,” Onuigbo stated in a statement released in Abuja on the 13th of October 2021.
Taking the lead as the giant of Africa, Nigeria has gone over and beyond to serve as a role model for other African nations as we walk the talk on climate action. In fact, Nigeria has asked developed countries to honour the pledge of $100 billion annually to support climate action in developing countries, and the President, Muhammadu Buhari, has confirmed his attendance at the summit, where he will participate in the World Leaders Summit (WSL) and High-Level segment scheduled for Monday 1st and Tuesday 2nd November 2021, during which he will make a national statement highlighting Nigeria’s climate plan.
Addressing a press conference in Abuja on Wednesday, 27th October 2021, on the position Nigeria would be presenting at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 26), the Minister of State for Environment, Sharon Ikeazor said: “We require the developed countries to honour the word given made back in 2009 of mobilizing $100 billion per year by 2020 to support climate action in developing countries.” She further stressed that considering that Africa is at the receiving end of climate change impacts, the focus should be on strengthening the ability of developing countries to adapt to the impacts of climate change.
This comes only a few weeks after the vice-president, Yemi Osinbajo, visited Imperial College London to discuss Nigeria’s transition to clean energy and identify potential opportunities for collaboration in this area between the College and Nigeria. During this visit, the vice-president addressed the two different existential challenges facing a developing country like Nigeria – extreme poverty and global warming. He shared concerns around reducing the carbon footprint of the country while asking the hard question: “How do Nigeria deal with extreme poverty and at the same time meet its climate change objectives?”
In searching for a response to this question, I came across a recent speech by the Minister of Environment, Sharon Ikeazor, at the 15 National Council on Environment (NCE) which focused on the appraisal of emerging challenges and the opportunities in the environment sector. According to her, part of the obligation of the Nigeria delegation to COP26 is to improve on the nation’s adaptation strategy to climate change, prioritize developing countries in the Paris agreement, and mobilize funds to mitigate the challenge of climate change in the country. She noted that, “The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP 26 meeting scheduled to hold in Glasgow later this month, would be an opportunity showcase our achievements and address the Agenda items for discussion that are of immediate importance to Nigeria, which includes: Mobilising finance to address climate change, scaling up adaptation by strengthening our ability to adapt to climate change impacts and Finalising the Paris Rulebook – focusing on Article 6.”
No doubt, the Nigerian government’s ability to build a climate-resilient society and ensure COP26 delivers for its people depends heavily on favourable negotiations and support from developed countries like the UK. Nigeria’s updated NDC will see her cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent unconditionally and 47 percent conditionally by 2030. To make this commitment a reality, Nigeria will definitely need the expertise, financing, and negotiating favour of developed countries like the UK.
On the flipside, in spite of all these positive moves, Nigeria still has a lot of questions begging for answers. Answers that Nigerians hope will be generated at this year’s climate talks. In all sincerity, I will only be playing the devil’s advocate if I deny the fact that the Nigerian government has shown a rare display of leadership and service by taking the lead in the fight against climate action, but the truth remains that there is more to be done than has been done. In reality, Nigeria still wallows in heavy consumption of coal, fuel, and gas, more than 13 million fuel-powered cars ply our roads every day, 85 million people still do not have access to electricity, and the effects of the climate crisis are becoming more evident and harder to ignore by the day.
The 6th Assessment Report (AR6) released in August 2021 warns of dire increases in extreme weather events (heatwaves, drought, floods, and many others) unless immediate, rapid and large-scale reductions in greenhouse gas emissions were put in place. The COP26 President, UK MP, Alok Sharma, on the other hand, hopes to deliver a COP26 that “keeps the 1.5C goal alive”. In all of this, my take is that ideas are good, negotiations are beautiful, but if in the end they fail to address the root cause and/or provide a solution to the resultant effects we are experiencing, it will be better we just stay mute (now) and save the planet from the extra emissions exhausted in planning and executing these conferences. Tick-tock, tick-tock; the clock is ticking.
Borokinni Joshua, an environmental journalist and development campaigner writes from Lagos, Nigeria
This story was produced with the support of Climate Tracker