Re-imagining Nature-based Solutions in Nigeria

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The British High Commissioner, Catriona Laing recently hosted a high level virtual dialogue on ‘Nigeria for Nature’, a climate change event to sensitise the general public on the benefits of a healthy ecosystem, writes Chiemelie Ezeobi

To sensitise Nigerians on the benefits of a healthy ecosystem, the British High Commission in Nigeria, in collaboration with Wilton Park recently held a virtual high level dialogue on Nature-based solutions in Nigeria. Themed “Re-imaginingature-based solutions in Nigeria’, the dialogue was hosted by the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing.

Over 100 participants from Nigeria including from federal and state governments, Civil Society Groups, Non-Governmental Organisations and International development partners, took part in the virtual dialogue.

Dialogue

According to Wilton Park, the dialogue brought people together from across Nigeria to discuss the relevance of nature-based solutions for building resilience to climate change, debate the major challenges around the implementation, governance and financing of nature-based solutions and how to overcome them, and examine how various stakeholders can work together for successful, sustainable nature-based solutions in Nigeria.

The dialogue also reflected on the role of nature-based solutions for climate adaptation and resilience in the lead up to COP26 and beyond (26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties), and what it will take to scale them up.

Frontline against Climate Change

They noted that “Natural systems are on the front-line of the fight against climate change, both because they are impacted by climate change, and because they have high potential for delivering multiple ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration, livelihoods enhancement, regulation of air, soil and water quality, and pollination.

“Nigerian ecosystems (such as mangroves in the Niger-Delta and savannahs in the north) are constantly under threat from climate change, impacting the wellbeing and resilience of the millions of citizens whose livelihoods depend on farming and fisheries. This risks undermining economic development, pushing millions further into food insecurity and poverty.

“If Nigeria is to meet the Paris Agreement, there needs to be a full-scale transition of its energy systems, and a transition in the way the land and ocean resources are managed. Agriculture, deforestation, and energy are the main contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in Nigeria, but these sectors also have the highest mitigation potential.

“The UK recognises that healthy ecosystems underpin global food and nutrition security, and can provide direct livelihoods for millions in Nigeria, including citizens that are highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. In the lead-up to COP26 in November 2021 and beyond, we will seek to ensure that finance, capacity building and co-operation are available to unlock nature’s potential to help increase ambition for climate mitigation and adaption, and that this is reflected in an enhanced commitment to implementing nature-based solutions at all levels.

“Nigeria has shown leadership on biodiversity and has signed up to the Global Ocean Alliance, Commonwealth Clean Ocean Alliance, High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People, and the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature. However, more innovation and cooperation are required in transitioning to sustainable agriculture and land-use, improving ocean resilience and coastal sustainability, and scaling-up of other existing initiatives and mechanisms, recognised under the Paris Agreement.

“Through this meeting, we aim to develop and consolidate an effective community of practitioners and actors to promote the design, development and upscaling of nature-based solutions in Nigeria.”

Key Discussions

The two-day event themed ‘Re-imagining nature-based solutions in Nigeria’ was hosted as part of efforts to sensitise the general public on the benefits of a healthy ecosystems, which underpins global food and nutrition security, and can directly improve livelihoods for millions in Nigeria, including citizens that are highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

According to the high commission, discussions centred on the relevance of nature-based solutions for building resilience to climate change from different perspectives. The major challenges around the implementation, governance and financing of nature-based solutions and how to overcome them. It also examined how various stakeholders can work together for successful, sustainable nature-based solutions in Nigeria.

Key takeaways from the dialogue include: the need for better monitoring of protected areas; critical role of traditional leaders and women’s groups in ecosystem restoration; expansion of clean cooking to reduce deforestation; scaling-up education and sensitisation on the environment; private-sector engagement for sustainable management of nature; explicitly linking Nigeria’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) and nature; and the centrality of sustainable livelihoods to nature-based solutions.

Nigeria has been very forward leaning on nature based solutions to climate change joining the Global Ocean Alliance and the Commonwealth Clean Ocean Alliance in 2019 and signing the Leaders Pledge for Nature in 2020. President Buhari made a statement of high ambition at the Biodiversity Summit in September 2020 setting out a range of measures he wished to introduce e.g. establishment of two Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

However, more innovation and cooperation are required in transitioning to sustainable agriculture and land-use, improving ocean resilience and coastal sustainability, and scaling-up other existing initiatives and mechanisms, including those recognised under the Paris Agreement. The ambition of this conference was to explore how to take these actions to the next level.

The introductory session on the first day included remarks from Catriona Laing CB, British High Commissioner to Nigeria; a video welcome from Lord Zac Goldsmith, the Minister of State for Pacific and the Environment, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, London; and an opening presentation on ‘Natural climate solutions as a critical contribution to climate mitigation in Nigeria’ by Dr Mohammad Mahmood Abubakar, the Honourable Minister of Environment. Sir Nicholas Kay, UK COP26 Regional Ambassador for Sub-Saharan Africa gave the closing remarks for the dialogue on both days.

The Dasgupta Review of the Economics of Biodiversity, which was launched on 2 February was highlighted by several speakers. The review calls for urgent changes in how all societal actors “think, act and measure economic success” to protect and restore natural capital, and use that capital sustainably. Estimating the total cost globally of subsidies that damage nature to be at least 4 to 6 trillion dollars per year, the Review highlights that subsidies and other nature-negative investments currently far outweigh the financial flows that support nature.

The dialogue provided the opportunity to promote a renewed and scaled-up efforts to halt desertification, deforestation and restore ecosystems, and encourage commitments to adopting nature-based solutions in Nigeria’s policies and programmes, including those delivering Nigeria’s NDC.

UK Government’s Capacity Building

In the lead-up to COP26 in November 2021 and beyond, the UK Government will seek to ensure that finance, capacity building and co-operation are available to unlock nature’s potential to help increase ambition for climate mitigation and adaption, and that this is reflected in an enhanced commitment to implementing nature-based solutions at all levels.

The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing said: “2021 is a pivotal year for addressing the interlinked climate and biodiversity crisis. The upcoming Convention of Biodiversity (CBD15) on 17-30 May 2021 and Conference of the Parties (COP26) on 1-12 November 2021 will be seminal moments in the fight against climate change and protecting our natural heritage. These are global efforts but we must all do more at the national, state and local level to promote nature. And by doing that we protect livelihoods, our health, ourselves.”

Nigeria’s Commitment

The Honourable Minister of State for Environment, Dr Mohammad Mahmood Abubakar said:

“Nigeria is committed to implementing nature based solutions at all levels to address environmental challenges that threaten the well-being and resilience of the citizenry, and by extension, sustain and improve livelihoods, thereby brightening the prospect of lifting 100million Nigerians out of poverty over a ten year period, as promised by President Muhammadu Buhari. This, no doubt, resonates robustly with our strategic stakeholders and should continue to attract elevated endorsement in the lead up to COP 26 in November 2021 and afterwards.”

Presentations

According to the Press Public Affairs Officer, British Deputy High Commission, Lagos, Ndidiamaka Eze, the virtual event held on February 18 and 19, 2021.

She noted that through the Nigeria for Nature project, the British High Commission is building awareness of natural assets through initiatives such as tree planting, supporting innovative recycling schemes to reduce pollution, and creating innovative socio-economic opportunities in Nigeria, adding that much of primary forest has been lost.

“Between 2000 and 2005, the country lost 55.7 per cent of its primary forest – giving it the highest deforestation rate in the world over that period. From 2010 to 2019, Nigeria lost 86,700 hectares of tropical forest, releasing the equivalent of 19.6 MtCO2.

“On day one, Hassan Bukar (Director-General, National Agency for the Great Green Wall), Ama Moses (National REDD+ Coordinator), Abbas Suleiman (Director, Federal Department of Environmental Assessment) and Rasak Adekola (Acting Director, Federal Department of Forestry) gave the opening presentations. Some desertification frontline states, REDD+ states, coastal states and states with high deforestation rates participated. Julian Wright (West Africa Senior Climate Change and Natural Resources Advisor, Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office) made a presentation on key areas for collaboration.

“On day two, key speakers included Sean Melbourne (Head of Climate Change and Energy, West Africa, Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office); Dr Muhtari Aminu-Kano (Nigerian Conservation Foundation): Liana Vetch (World Wildlife Fund for Nature); Rasak Adekola (Federal Ministry of Environment); Engineer Shehu Bello (Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development); Mukaila Babarinde (Federal Ministry of Water Resources); Leye Kupoluyi (Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry Representative from ‘Nature Means Business’ Coalition); Richard Nzekwu (International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD-Nigeria); Muyiwa Odele (United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); Olumide Ojo (Oxfam Nigeria); Samuel Ogallah (Solidaridad Network); David Terungwa (Global Initiative for Food Security and Ecosystem Preservation (GIFSEP); Dr Ibrahim Choji (National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies), and Dr Rabiu Abdulsalam (Federal College of Land Resources.

“NGO Representatives that made presentations on day two included Prof Bala Dogo (Care and Action Research); Alade Adeleke (Environmental Management and Development Trust); Tine Agernor (Eunice Spring of Life); and Gloria Bulus (Bridge That Gap – Hope for Africa).

“FCDO representatives who made presentations on ‘How will nature-based solutions be funded?’ were Steven Gray (Regional Head – West Africa, UK Export Finance) and Ina Porras Economics, Climate and Environment Adviser, Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office. Other intiatives under the British High Commission-funded ‘Nigeria for Nature’ Project include Communitrees, Waste to Resource Empowerment Programme, and Cash4Trash Recycling Hubs.”