Legislative Agenda for Climate Change

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Stakeholders recently met in Abuja at a roundtable organised by the National Assembly Joint Committee on Climate Change to discuss feasible steps towards the implementation of the Paris Agreement, in order to mitigate against the effects of climate change in Nigeria. Damilola Oyedele writes

Developing countries like Nigeria have been said to be suffering the effects of climate change, much more than the developed nations whose advanced technologies contribute more to the destruction of the ozone layer. It is necessary to note that several archaic practices such as gas flaring and bush burning, which still occur in Nigeria, significantly destroy the environment.

Climate change threatens development across all sectors of national economy. It contributes to drought, floods, food and water scarcity, damages critical infrastructure. A culmination of these and other effects result in various forms of insecurity, such as the now rampant farmers/herdsmen clash.

Previous agreements for climate change, such as the Kyoto Protocol were not adequate for mobilising global action, which is the only way to protect and restore the environment.
The Paris Agreement, which was adopted last year, and open for signatures and ratification by states is expected to address the inadequacies of the Kyoto Protocol. 74 countries, excluding Nigeria have signed the agreement, while 19 others have ratified it. Nigeria withheld signature due to the need for internal consultations, but the country has pledged to work with other African countries, on the environment.

The agreement seeks to keep temperatures below two degree celsius, provide more than $100 billion in support from developed countries to their developing counterparts, and increase support for technology transfer and capacity building.

Nigeria’s Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) target emission reductions of 20-45 per cent by the year 2030, by working towards economy wide energy efficiency, efficient gas power stations, working towards ending gas flaring, climate smart agriculture, reduction of transmission losses, and renewable energy.

Crucial Roundtable
To this end, the Senate and House of Representatives Committees on Climate Change recently held a roundtable with climate impacted Ministries, Departments and Agencies of government, to discuss concrete and verifiable preparations towards the implementation of the Paris Agreement.
Participants at the one day meeting discussed the steps being taken to ensure Nigeria meets the targets it has set for itself, its preparations for 2016-2020, and in particular, how the National Assembly can assist the relevant MDAs achieve their mandates.

Participants at the conference included lawmakers, officials of the United Nations Development Programme, Ministry of Environment, and relevant agencies.

The Chairman of the House Committee on Climate Change, Hon. Sam Onuigbo, representing Ikwuano/Umuahia North/Umuahia South Federal Constituency, in his address said the roundtable was borne out of the need to create and cement partnerships which are critical to the climate challenge.

“I want to categorically say here that this 8th NASS is determined to do whatever it takes to help MDAs surmount our climate challenge. We in the NASS understand that dimensioning climate change risks to Nigeria’s economy would reveal opportunities to be harnessed for holistic and dynamic systems approach for supporting and sustaining gains already made by our economy,” Onuigbo said.

The lawmaker added that Nigeria cannot afford to lag behind in fight to secure the environment for future generations, and should not be out-paced in regional and international actions that are required to create sustainable and climate-friendly solutions.

“Consequently, it is absolutely necessary that you factor these ambitious NDCs and the President’s commitment into your 2017 budget proposals in order to accommodate some of the new challenges, especially as they affect the NDCs. Mainstreaming climate change into 2017 budgetary proposals is particularly necessary to plug likely gaps and to lay solid foundation for the actualisation of the overall aim of the NDCs. Essentially, we would be demanding accountability on this when the CI-MDAs come before our committee to defend their 2017 budgets.

“Let me be clear: The Standing Orders of the House of Representatives clearly empower the HRCCC to ensure legislative scrutiny and oversight over treaties and agreements that are likely to arise from coordinated efforts under the UNFCCC. The mission of the HRCCC has been to, through legislative intervention in line with the NASS Legislative Agenda, promote resource allocation to climate-friendly programmes that will enhance Nigeria’s resilience to climate impact across all the economic sectors,” Onuigbo added.

The Country Director of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Dr. Pa Lamin Beyai, called on Nigeria to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the Paris agreement.
He however noted that the potential can only be harnessed through legislation and effective oversights, that would facilitate successful implementation of national policies aimed at addressing the adverse effects of climate change.

“It would serve to ensure the efficient use of scarce resources that would lead to job creation, poverty reduction and prosperity that leaves no one behind, all of which are pillars of the green economy and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” he said.

“Thus it is crucial that the National Assembly be better equipped to appreciate the impact of climate change on the economy, the imperative of reducing ecological scarcity and environmental risks and why adequate budgetary appropriation for climate responses and activities is required,” Beyai added.

The Deputy Director, Climate Change, in the Ministry of Environment, Dr. Tarfa Yerima, speaking while he made a power-point presentation, harped on the need for an inter-ministerial cooperation for effective governance on climate change.

He listed some of the benefits which the country stands to gain from an effective implementation of the Paris agreement to include; increased productivity through crop intensification, halt of deforestation, improved management of water resources, reduced flaring emissions, recover energy for use in economy, improve mass transit, reduce congestion of roads, and reform of petrol and diesel sectors.

He called for the urgent restoration of Lake Chad, to save the estimated 20 million Nigerians who depend on its water and environmental resources, and the push for Nigerians to harness solar and wind energy as power sources.

Conclusion
As Yerima noted, Nigeria’s success in implementation of the Paris agreement would be measured by how its national policy actions comply with the agreement.
The first step however has to be the signing and ratification of the agreement, and legislation on climate change that would ensure funding and implementation.
Climate change standards and enforcement regulatory bodies have to work to ensure that carbon emissions are significantly reduced.