Jonny Baxter: UK Working with Nigeria to Reduce Climate Change Impact, Promote Global Sustainable Future

As the United Nation’s Climate Change Conference known as Conference of the Parties, COP28, opens today in Dubai, the British Deputy High Commissioner in Lagos, Mr. Jonny Baxter, in this interview with Chiemelie Ezeobi, said the United Kingdom is working with the Federal Government of Nigeria, civil society organisations and climate change advocates to mitigate effectively and address the impacts of climate change, promote economic opportunities and drive international efforts to keep 1.5 degrees within reach

The UK government made some commitments last COP, how far have they gone in achieving that?

The UK government has made significant strides in fulfilling its commitments from the last COP. For example, we have helped operationalise the Loss and Damage fund and the Santiago Network for Loss and Damage, ensuring they both deliver effectively for countries that are particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change.

The UK has committed £5m towards the set up and development of the Santiago Network, which will catalyse technical assistance for Loss and Damage in vulnerable countries.

Last year in Sharm el Sheikh, the Foreign Secretary announced Propcom+, our flagship £95m sustainable agriculture programme for Nigeria, that provides a triple benefit to people, climate and nature.  Propcom+ is currently supporting several great initiatives, including Reduced Methane Emission Rice production, through a pilot with rice farmers in northern Nigeria that supports increased yields and incomes, improves soil quality, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

The UK is equally focused on achieving all our own climate commitments, decarbonising faster than any G7 nation, having cut emissions by approximately 48 per cent between 1990 and 2021.

Achievements include being the first major economy to legally set a net zero target by 2050, committing to a 2030 target to reduce emissions by 68 per cent, and having a legally binding emissions reduction target of 77 per cent for 2035.

Additionally, the PM announced that the UK will provide $2 billion to the Green Climate Fund at the G20, demonstrating a strong commitment to global climate action.

During our COP26 Presidency, the UK played a pivotal role in driving international efforts, leading to a substantial increase in the proportion of global GDP covered by net zero commitments, from 30 per cent to over 90 per cent.  Key agreements were reached, including those related to decarbonisation, the Paris Agreement rulebook, and commitments to climate finance.

In Nigeria, the UK remains committed to supporting Nigeria to become a higher-growth, more inclusive and sustainable economy, including utilising opportunities to support Nigeria’s ambitious climate mitigation targets and Energy Transition Plan.  

We welcome Nigeria’s existing climate commitments including the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) and net zero by 2060 target. We urge look forward to seeing the new administration’s plans to deliver these commitments.

Examples of some of the UK’s commitment in Nigeria can be seen through the UK Nigeria Infrastructure Advisory Facility (UKNIAF) and UK Partnering for Accelerated Climate Transitions (UKPACT) programmes, and the ongoing support for sustainable agriculture and forestry through initiatives like Propcom+.

For example, through UKPACT the UK is supporting the National Council on Climate Change (NCCC) facilitate the mobilisation of finance and resources for effective climate action, including help to establish a National Climate Change Fund. 

For example, the UKNIAF programme developed a USD 2 billion+ pipeline of climate smart Public Private Partnership projects. This includes transport schemes – the Lagos Waterways Ferries project and Bus Rapid Transit projects in several cities, as well as working with the African Development Bank on agriculture processing zones in two states.

What are the possible areas of commitment we should expect for COP28?

COP28 comes at a crucial moment, involving the first ever Global Stocktake of progress against the Paris Agreement. It must galvanise a step change in action and ambition.

Climate change and nature loss are existential challenges. The science is clear that urgent and rapid progress is needed to avoid the most damaging impacts of climate change. At the same time, the low carbon transition will be an engine for investment, growth, jobs, and exports as industries transform.

A priority for the UK is to ensure that COP28 delivers an outcome that puts the world on track to keep temperature rise below 1.5C, halving global emissions by 2030. We also need to build resilience to current and future climate impacts and halt and reverse global biodiversity loss by 2030. 

Urgently delivering on the $100bn goal and supporting our developing country partners remains a critical priority. We need action and cooperation from all actors to secure the finance required to transition to a low-carbon, climate resilient world.

This year, Climate Transition & Adaptation will be the focus, especially as it encompasses critical issues ranging from water and food security to youth empowerment, gender equity, trade dynamics, renewable energy, and resilient relief systems, how is the UK government keying into that?

The United Arab Emirates Presidency and all parties will drive forward an ambitious agenda across a range of critical issues. The science is clear that we must match rapid decarbonisation with swift, systematic adaptation action at scale to protect lives, societies and ecosystems from further shocks and loss. All countries must build resilience to future impacts and adapt and transform our societies and systems for a viable future.

The UK’s work on sustainable agriculture and forestry through Propcom+ supports food security, increases climate resilience and addresses gender equity.  We look forward to partnering with the Government of Nigeria to deliver policy measures on Agriculture, Forestry and other Land Use, such as alternate wet and drying rice production, agro-forestry, and mangrove protection and restoration. 

We continue to provide support across the climate spectrum, including for a just energy transition in Nigeria, through UKNIAF and UKPACT programmes.  For example, we support Nigeria’s goal to provide 30 per cent of energy through renewables by 2030, through development of sustainable business models that embed renewable energy generation to the grid.

The UK is delivering on our global commitment of £11.6bn, and, to support the most vulnerable who are experiencing the worst impacts of climate change, we will triple our funding for adaptation from £500m in 2019 to £1.5bn in 2025.  

COP always brings the world together at a critical moment for global transformative climate action, however, one of the areas that civil society organisations have nit-picked global commitments at COP is the lack of implementation afterwards. What do you think is the way forward?

Getting the world to come together on climate commitments is no mean feat, as we found out in Glasgow for COP26. But this is only the first step.  How we implement the agreements from COP will shape the future of the planet for generations. 

Key to this is mobilising the finance necessary to enable implementation.

Another key to supporting greater implementation post-COP lies in strengthening accountability mechanisms and fostering international cooperation. Regular progress assessments, transparent reporting, and active involvement of civil society in monitoring can enhance commitment follow-through.

This is why the UK is currently supporting civil society organisations in Nigeria led by the Centre for 21st Century Issues, to coordinate and collaborate ahead of and at COP28, including supporting an engagement strategy, a coordinated communications campaign, and capacity building activities. 

The UK is committed to working with our partners around the world, including Nigeria, to ensure that global climate ambition is translated into effective actions that support a prosperous, low carbon, future for us all. 

When it comes to financing climate actions for low-middle income countries (LMICs), one of the fears is not making the funds available but the diversion of such funds for other uses contrary to what they were disbursed for. Is giving more money the solution or ensuring they disburse judiciously the way to go?

Both the volumes of climate finance and the disbursement methods must continue to improve as the need for climate finance grows over the coming years and decades. 

Since 2011, our International Climate Finance has helped over 100 million people cope with the effects of climate change; provided almost 70 million people with improved access to clean energy; installed 3,600 megawatts of clean energy capacity; and reduced or avoided 86m tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions. 

We remain committed to spending £11.6bn on international climate finance, including £3bn to protect, restore and sustainably manage nature and tripling UK funding for adaptation to £1.5bn in 2025, to support the most vulnerable who are experiencing the worst impacts of climate change.

Climate finance provides co-benefits that extend far beyond climate change.  For example our sustainable agriculture work in Nigeria, through Propcom+, helps to not only mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to a changing climate, but strengthens livelihoods and improves nutrition, supporting food security and poverty alleviation. 

We are working to improve access to climate finance for countries most affected by climate change, like Nigeria, including by co-chairing the Taskforce on Access to Climate Finance. At COP28, the UK will launch a new Global Centre for Access to Climate Finance.

Through programmes such as UK Nigeria Infrastructure Advisory Facility (UKNIAF), the UK helps Nigeria improve access to climate finance streams, including support to create Nigeria’s Climate Change Fund. 

The UK committed $2bn to the Green Climate Fund’s second replenishment and aims to urgently accelerate support to the poorest and most vulnerable countries.  This includes greater support to countries, like Nigeria, which have yet to benefit significantly from the Green Climate Fund.

We are working with Nigeria to understand how we can best support the Government to better access the Green Climate Fund and other international sources of climate finance.

We welcome recent economic reforms and encourage successful implementation to help create an investment environment that welcomes external financing and supports climate objectives.

Talking about the big polluters, when and how can they be held more accountable beyond lip service?

Tackling climate change is a global problem and we need to work together to address it.  Events like COP28 are important, but we must move beyond ambition to implementation. 

The Paris Agreement is based on international cooperation and the will of the international community to hold each other to account.  Many countries have also developed national legislation, like Nigeria’s Climate Change Act, and the UK’s net-zero legislation, that regulate behaviours in country and enables governments to hold individuals and organisations to account for their emissions, including penalties in some circumstances for non-compliance. 

As the economy is de-carbonising, changing emitting behaviours also becomes more profitable and attractive.  Initiatives such as the Power Breakthrough goal help to make clean power the most affordable and reliable option for all countries by 2030. This can provide the real-world incentives to change high emitting behaviours.  

At COP28 we hope to see a clear demonstration that the oil and gas industry is ready to play a full part in the transition to a low carbon economy globally.

Global war between Russia and Ukraine surely have an impact on the climate and environment. How can that impact be mitigated, and role will your government play in that?

The Russian government continues to pursue its reprehensible war with Ukraine which is a clear breach of the UN Charter. Russia has been falsely blaming sanctions for driving up food and fuel prices while acting to obstruct exports and attacking Ukraine’s grain and export infrastructure. 

The UK is focussing on how to end the war in Ukraine, and to mitigate its impact in African countries. We all want to find a route to a just and sustainable peace in Ukraine, in line with the UN Charter. The best and quickest route to peace, and the end of the global impacts of the war, would be for President Putin to withdraw Russian troops illegally present in Ukraine and end its aggression against its neighbour.

We also strongly support Ukraine’s right to export grain and other products through its Black Sea ports. Ukrainian grain exports are crucial in ensuring global food security and the resilience of global grain markets. Since Russia collapsed the Black Sea Grain initiative, Ukraine has made remarkable progress in securing globally important export routes in the Black Sea.  It has denied Russia control of the western Black Sea, pushed back elements of the Russian navy over 300km from Sevastopol and destroyed 13-14% of Russia’s Black Sea combatant fleet.  

During a visit to Odesa this month, the Foreign Secretary David Cameron welcomed the launch of the Unity Facility which will provide affordable insurance supporting the export of grain and other critical food supplies globally from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports.

The UK has also contributed a total of £8million to President Zelenskyy’s “Grain from Ukraine” initiative, implemented by the World Food Programme to get Ukrainian grain to those who need it most. So far, our funding has supported the delivery of lifesaving grain to Kenya, and in 2024 it will see shipments of grain go to Nigeria. 

In addition, we have also provided £2 million to develop a Grain Verification Scheme, which will use cutting edge science to determine where grain has been grown and harvested – helping Ukraine to tackle Russian grain theft.

Do we expect to get to a point whereby sanctions are meted out to climate defaulters to deter them from polluting the environment heavily?

Many countries have developed, or are developing, a robust legal framework that regulates the costs and impacts of Greenhouse gas (GHG). Carbon pricing mechanisms can be utilised to capture the costs and impacts of GHG emissions by adding those costs to those of fossil fuels.  It is an approach to reduce carbon emissions using market mechanisms to transfer the costs of emitting to the users.  

Key carbon-pricing mechanisms including carbon taxes, emissions trading scheme and voluntary carbon markets.  In the UK we have the UK Emissions Trading Scheme, where a cap is set on the total amount of certain greenhouse gases that can be emitted by sectors covered by the scheme. This limits the total amount of carbon that can be emitted and, as it decreases over time, will make a significant contribution to how we meet our Net Zero 2050 target and other legally binding carbon reduction commitments.

The UK is supporting Nigeria through UK NIAF, to create Nigeria’s Climate Change Fund, which may utilise carbon pricing mechanisms to help fund implementation of climate initiatives in Nigeria.

Internationally, Article 6 of the Paris Agreement, provides the framework for trading carbon between countries, operating as an engine of international cooperation. It is what enables countries to work together to achieve faster, deeper cuts in emissions than they could on their own, while channelling finance to promote green growth, social and biodiversity benefits in developing countries.

Given the 2030 target (although some nations like Nigeria pegged theirs at 2050), do you think we are on course and given the fear that if the target isn’t met, the impact will be irreversible, how do we make post haste.

Every major report published this year shows progress on bringing global emissions in 2030 down compared to last year.  While we have made significant progress in bringing down projected warming (assessments find that if countries implement their mitigation commitments in full, warming can be limited to below 2° C), we know greater ambition and action is needed this decade to keep 1.5° C in reach.

Current policies put the world on track to reach average global warming of around 2.8ºC by 2100, with irreversible and lasting impacts. Current policies are not enough to meet countries’ 2030 pledges (NDCs) – but even if these pledges are met, warming is likely to exceed 1.5°C during the 21st century.  We need to see more countries – especially the major emitters – responding to the COP27 ask and coming forward with NDCs and Long-term strategies that are aligned with 1.5 degrees.

We have, however, seen a lot of progress since signing the Paris Agreement and the global transition is underway. Every fraction of a degree counts towards achieving the Paris temperature goal and reducing the worst impacts of climate change.

The UK was proud to provide support to Nigeria to strengthen and revise their climate targets (NDCs), and to get the Climate Change Act agreed in 2021, which sets a clear framework for Nigeria’s low carbon transition. 

Sadly, the world’s food supply is under threat while many nations are battling rising temperatures, increase in natural disasters with climate impacts already harming health, through air pollution, disease, extreme weather events, forced displacement, pressures on mental health, and increased hunger and poor nutrition in places where people cannot grow or find sufficient food, what is the way out?

We need to transition to a low carbon future, with emissions halved by 2030 and net-zero globally by 2050.  We will also need to adapt and become more resilient to the irreversible impacts of climate change we are already experiencing. 

Specifically, we must build resilience to current and future climate impacts, including by working with and through nature and promoting effective nature-based solutions (NbS).

The needs of the most climate vulnerable must be championed, and their efforts to adapt to the impacts of climate change supported.

Farmers are on the front line and highly dependent on seasonal rainfall making them increasingly vulnerable to the changing and unpredictable climate.

Physical climate vulnerability is compounded by low levels of resilience, driven primarily by high poverty and climate-sensitive livelihoods.

Food systems are the second largest source of climate emissions after energy, and account for around one-third of GHG emissions globally. Agriculture is the biggest drive of forest and biodiversity loss. These trends in turn intensify climate shocks and stresses and threaten food security.  We need to see a shift in policy, innovation and investment for sustainable land use that delivers for people, climate and nature.

At the heart of sustainable land use is water security. The UK recognises the climate crisis is a water crisis. On water security parties must drive forward an ambitious agenda of policy reform in this critical area. This includes commitments to support and champion the calls to action on water resilient food systems and water for net-zero.

We need to accelerate decarbonisation of key sectors globally, to close the emissions gap as soon as possible, guided by the science to keep 1.5C in reach. For example, enhancing international cooperation through the Breakthrough Agenda to deliver ambitious clean tech outcomes at COP28 in power, steel, cement, hydrogen, road transport, buildings and agriculture.

We also need progress on reform of the international financial system to unlock the trillions in climate and nature finance flows and scale up public and private finance including through Multilateral Development Bank reform to align operations with the Paris Agreement and become nature positive.   We need all countries to deliver on their commitments to mobilise finance for developing economies (including to reach the $100bn climate finance goal this year).  We must also deliver on the $20bn for nature finance by 2025.

This is why the UK has 5 key objectives for COP28: New commitments and action to keep 1.5 alive; Clear progress towards a clean energy transition, away from fossil fuels; Progress on delivering the finance to accelerate the transition; Progress on building resilience to climate impacts; and Progress on protecting, restoring, and sustainably managing nature.

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