UNGA: Nigeria’s Commitment on Climate Not Late in Coming

President Muhammadu Buhari

By Glory Oguegbu

There is no country that is not experiencing the drastic effects of climate change. In Nigeria, droughts in the north have become rampant due to increased temperature, desert encroachment on arable lands leading to low crop yields causing a growing threat of famine. Flooding in the south and coastal areas due to extremely unstable rainfall patterns leading to infrastructure damage, loss of lives and properties etc. These calls for serious deliberations on steps to take to combat climate change as a Nation.

The UN Climate Summit was held last week at the United Nations Headquarters. It was a gathering of world leaders and climate enthusiasts. Launched in 2018 by the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who was aware that global efforts to tackle climate change are running off-track – a fact underlined by the dire warnings in the IPCC 1.5°C report. He declared a summit where leaders will only get to attend and speak if they have actual plans in line with 1.5°C reduction. Nigeria was ably represented by President Muhammadu Buhari where he listed Nigeria’s action plans to the menace.

Fresh or drinkable water or access to it will be highly impacted by climate change. Flooding will contaminate fresh water beds with dirt and trash and in coastal regions, excessive flooding will damage already weakened sewage and underground infrastructure and cause sewage to seep into fresh water. Contaminated water will lead to an increase in poor hygiene and spread of water borne diseases.

Additionally, a structure for waste management will help to see that more waste isn’t dumped illegally into the oceans polluting water bodies and that waste is not dumped in landfills where it is burnt and adds dangerous greenhouse gas – Methane and Carbon dioxide into the atmosphere aiding global warming. It is promising to learn that Nigeria plans to mitigate this challenge through issuance of green bonds. Specifically, President Muhammadu Buhari said during his speech that Nigeria would issue a Green Bond for irrigation and construct multi-purpose dams for power, irrigation and water supply and strengthen solid and liquid waste management systems to attract more private sector investors.

To achieve these projects, Nigeria intends to expand the scope of its Green Bonds and issue more of it to accommodate sustainable projects. Green Bonds which are tax exempt will be invested into projects which promote climate and environmental sustainability. More specifically projects aimed at energy efficiency, pollution prevention, sustainable agriculture, fishery and forestry, clean transportation, sustainable water management and the cultivation of environmentally friendly technologies. This is a call to members of the public to invest into a collective good for all of Nigeria and achieve a climate resilient nation.

Youths have a great role to play in the Climate discourse. Several young people are part of think tanks in universities, have set up green clubs in secondary schools, have formed organisations through which they are already leading change for climate action across Nigeria through programmes and projects that promote a waste prevention and management, climate change awareness. Unfortunately, most of these youth-led initiatives are clustered around few geographic locations of Nigeria and as a result, there is still low awareness of climate change amongst Nigerian youths spread across other parts of the country. President Buhari talked about working with youths to plant 25 million trees. Well, this is not a bad one, but the energy of the young people can additionally be channeled towards other focus areas of climate action like education and climate smart entrepreneurship to improve climate knowledge and green businesses. Few days ago, I shared the heart-wrenching video of the speech delivered by 16-year-old Climate Activist, Greta Thunberg, where she challenged the UN to be accountable. I got several responses from young people asking what climate change is and some saying that climate change is a hoax and even berated the group’s admin for letting me post the video. Well, that made me realise the huge need for more youths to be educated. And I quickly referred them to our Climate Literacy series (Embed link https://twitter.com/climatesmartnig) which contextualises and simplifies climate change to the ordinary Nigerian hosted on twitter by Climate Smart Nigeria (Embed link https://twitter.com/climatesmartnig).

You might ask how planting 25 million trees will do anything for the changing climate. Climate change is happening because of excess carbon dioxide that exists in the atmosphere through activities of man such a burning fossil fuels through electricity, transportation etc. All proposed solutions for climate action – from electricity generation, to transport, food, etc– have one thing in common: to prevent future emissions. But what about the carbon already existent in the atmosphere? They do not take away the carbon that’s already in the atmosphere. That’s where trees come in – they take carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and use it in a process called photosynthesis, which allows them to grow storing that carbon in their leaves and other parts. I wrote about this in detail in an article – How Trees Combat Climate Change (embed link https://medium.com/@GloryShirley/do-trees-really-help-combat-climate-change-798343c29dc0).

In the energy sector, Nigeria is already making demonstrable impact through the Rural Electrification Agency. The agency through their energising economies, energising education and solar programmes have impacted over 457, 470 persons and created over 5000 jobs. More can be done in the area of capacity building for the renewable energy industry. In the last decade, there has been a surge of opportunities in the solar sector in the form increased funding and investments. More youths can be trained and equipped with the skill to serve the market through own solar businesses or serve as a competent labour for the industry to employ. Training institutes like Renewable Energy Technology Training Institute (embed link www.retti.com.ng) already doing this can be supported to provide more capacity for youths.

President Buhari reiterated plans to lead efforts to restore the lake Chad basin. The lake Chad plays an important role in the ecosystem providing water to more than 30 million people living in the four countries surrounding it (Chad, Cameroon, Niger, and Nigeria) on the edge of the Sahara. It is the largest lake in the Chad Basin and the second largest wetland. But climate impacts such as drought has led to its shrinking by 90 per cent since 1968. This has untold effects such as conflict over water, migration, low agricultural yield leading to famine, economic unrest etc. If we must solve the climate menace, efforts must be tripled to regain the lake chad. It’s great to learn about Nigeria’s plan to support this.

President Buhari’s speech triggered positive responses from environmentalists across the country. Nigeria is keeping its part of the Paris Agreement unlike some major polluting countries that couldn’t provide actual plans for reducing their carbon footprint, when called upon during the UN Climate Summit. It’s almost unbelievable that the presidents and prime ministers of the world’s largest emitting economies stumbled when called upon, signaling just how difficult the work of removing CO2 will be compared to setting targets.

Great move by the way, Nigeria.
*Oguegbu is executive director at Climate Smart Nigeria and founder/CEO, Renewable Energy Technology Training Institute