COP26: Reviewing Nigeria’s Position On Gas Defunding, African Agenda


All road leads to Scotland, the United Kingdom, where over 30,000 official attendees — will be meeting indoors, huddling intense talks, for hours and hours a day, from Sunday to November 12 and potentially longer in what will be the largest summit ever hosted in Britain to discuss arguably the biggest issue defining our existence at this age – Climate Change.

This article is an analysis of what is expected of the Nigerian government as far as climate change is concerned. But before that, it is important to explain that majority of the commitments being made in Glasgow would directly affect our daily lives, especially because Africa has been identified as one of the regions negatively affected by climate change despite contributing very small to global emissions.

Background: Climate Change in Nigeria

According to the Institute of Development Studies, For some time now, Nigeria’s climate has been changing, evident in increases in temperature; variable rainfall; rise in sea level and flooding; drought and desertification; land degradation; more frequent extreme weather events; affected freshwater resources and loss of biodiversity. The durations and intensities of rainfall have increased, producing large runoffs and flooding in many places in Nigeria.

Rainfall variation is projected to continue to increase. Precipitation in southern areas is expected to rise and rising sea levels are expected to exacerbate flooding and submersion of coastal lands. Droughts have also become a constant in Nigeria, and are expected to continue in Northern Nigeria, arising from a decline in precipitation and rise in temperature. Lake Chad and other lakes in the country are drying up and at risk of disappearing.

Temperature has risen significantly since the 1980s. Climate projections for the coming decades reveal a significant increase in temperature over all the ecological zones. This rapid review synthesizes evidence on the impact of climate change in Nigeria (geographic, sectoral, demographic and security impacts) and responses to address it (i.e. climate change mitigation and adaptation, adaptive capacity and capacity development).

In Lagos Nigeria, residents have been experiencing flooding for many years now – A report on Urban flood risks, impacts, and management in Nigeria estimated that the flooding in Lagos is responsible for the loss of around $4 billion per year. According to Muhammadu Muhammed, head of the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), the devastating impact of the 2020 flooding killed 68 people, affected 35 states including FCT, 320 LGAs and over 129,000 people.” Also, a PREMIUM TIMES investigation in 2020 also showed evidence of how a community in Ayetoro, Osun State is under threat of being washed away as a result of flood and rising sea levels.

So with all of this, it is important to understand what the Nigerian government has been up to in the global conversation on climate change.

In July 2021, the Nigerian government submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (referred to as the UNFCCC or the Convention), its updated Nationally Determined Contribution (NDCs) which are national commitments. The UNFCCC provides the foundation for multilateral action to combat climate change and its impacts on humanity and ecosystems. According to the submitted NDC, Nigeria recommits to its unconditional contribution of reducing carbon emissions by 20 per cent below business-as-usual by 2030, while it increases its conditional target to 47 per cent as against the 45 per cent captured in the 2015 NDC. With this, Nigeria’s role at COP26 becomes important to analyse.

Who will be representing Nigeria at COP26?

Nigeria’s delegation to the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26 will be led by Mohammad Abubakar, Nigeria’s minister of environment. The Nigerian government, like that of other countries, has made commitments towards reducing Green House Gas (GHG) emissions and has also increased its conditional contribution.

Nigeria has also asked developed countries to honour the pledge of $100 billion annually to support climate action in developing countries.

At a press conference on Wednesday in Abuja 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.”

Ms Ikeazor while lamenting that developing countries especially those on the African continent bear the brunt of carbon dioxide (CO2) emission, noted that: “Recent announcements, including President Joe Biden’s pledge to double US climate finance, have brought developed countries closer to honouring the pledge.”

She, however, said more needed to be done to restore credibility and strengthen trust between developing and developed nations.

The minister noted that “considering that Africa is at the receiving end of climate change impacts, our focus will be to strengthen our ability to adapt to climate change impacts.

“Also, another important element for discussion at COP26, is the question of how to deal with economic and non-economic harms caused by climate change impacts which cannot be avoided through adaptation or mitigation, known as ‘loss and damage’. As we look towards the firming up of increased finance for adaptation, we also look forward for progress in the operationalization of the Paris Agreement’s ‘Global Goal on Adaptation’.

She disclosed that: “The Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Britain and Northern Ireland, His Excellency Boris Johnson has invited Heads of States and Government to participate in the World Leaders Summit (WSL) and High Level segment scheduled for Monday 1st and Tuesday 2nd November 2021, during which the World leaders will have the opportunity to make national statements.

Osinbajo’s position on Energy Transition

In recent times, Vice president Yemi Osinbajo has echoed his position loud about global plans to defund the gas sector. In a strongly-worded article for New York-based Foreign Affairs magazine, he criticised the propulsion from rich countries to divest from fossil fuels.

The article, titled, “The divestment delusion: Why banning fossil fuel investments would crush Africa” was published on August 31.

Mr Osinbajo used the article to react to the decision of seven European countries, including France, Germany, and the United Kingdom in April 2021 when they announced that they would halt public funding for certain fossil fuel projects abroad.

In his words: “A little less than one year prior, Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, the largest in the world, sold out of positions in major mining and energy companies because of environmental concerns. And in 2018, Ireland became the first country to pledge to entirely divest from fossil fuels”.

Mr Osinbajo said after decades of profiting from oil and gas, a growing number of wealthy nations have banned or restricted public investment in fossil fuels, including natural gas. Such policies often do not distinguish between different kinds of fuels, nor do they consider the vital role some fuels play in powering the growth of developing economies, especially in sub-Saharan Africa.

He argued that although all countries must play their part in the fight against climate change, a global transition away from carbon-based fuels must account for the economic differences between countries and allow for multiple pathways to net-zero emissions.

“For countries such as my own, Nigeria, which is rich in natural resources but still energy poor, the transition must not come at the expense of affordable and reliable energy for people, cities, and industry. To the contrary, it must be inclusive, equitable, and just–which means preserving the right to sustainable development and poverty eradication, as enshrined in global treaties such as the 2015 Paris climate accord,” he said.

After his August article, On Thursday at a virtual panel discussion on ‘A Just Transition: Balancing Climate Mitigation with Africa’s Development’, organized by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change ahead of the COP26 summit in the United Kingdom, Mr Osinbajo again called on developed nations to favour Africa regarding energy transition and climate change.

“We need to just change the direction of the conversation especially as it affects Africa and then talk in concrete terms about what the implications of net-zero emissions by 2050 or whenever will mean for Africa and the world.”

Mr Osinbajo further maintained that Nigeria already has an energy transition plan with a budget of about $400 billion which would be used to support facilities that would support and implement the transition and finance green projects within the country.

“We drew up an energy transition plan and we are probably one of the few developing countries to have drawn up a plan and try to cost the plan. This is why we have a figure of $400 billion.

Mr Osibajo’s position on energy transition is not the only voice from Africa on the topic. It appears a lot of other African leaders are being bolstered by Nigeria’s big stand on climate justice to echo the same sentiment on the future of Africa.

For instance, on Friday, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said he does not plan to attend United Nations-sponsored climate talks in Glasgow because the country will be holding municipal elections but be will send representatives to the gathering.

But while responding to a delegation of officials from rich nations in South Africa earlier in the week to discuss ending fossil fuel in South Africa, Mr Ramaphosa said that pledges made to assist poorer nations in dealing with climate change need to be honoured first.

“We want your more developed economies that have been responsible for the greatest emissions in the world, to be the ones who will live up to the offers they have made in the past,” he said. “Once they do that, we will then be able to navigate our own transition.” he was quoted as saying by Bloomberg.

Similarly, there appears to be a continental and international rally in support of Nigeria’s advocacy to halt plans to defund gas projects, just as the global community moves towards the 2050 net-zero emissions target under the United Nations Climate Change agenda.

During a meeting last week between Nigeria’s Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, and a delegation of the continent-wide Africa Development Bank, AfDB, the latter threw its weight behind the clamour.

The Vice President for Power, Energy, Climate, and Green Growth at the African Development Bank, Kevin Kariuki, had led a delegation to pay the VP a visit on October 21 and expressed the bank’s commitment and support for a just energy transition.

His words: “First thing I would like to mention is that you have inspired us a lot in the recent past, through your strong and very well-articulated position on the issue of gas as far as Nigeria and Africa is concerned.

“You clearly stated that gas must be seen to be a transitional fuel for Africa, which is a position that our bank also supports because we do understand that Africa needs to increase its energy access, and you can’t increase energy access without utilising some of the resources and energy sources that we have. I believe that this position you have taken was also supported and stated by the Bank’s president (Mr. Akinwunmi Adesina) during the ministerial retreat.”

Also in a recent article by The Conversation, it was argued that focusing on limiting the emissions of the world’s poorest countries while emissions continue to rise in industrialized countries is clearly misdirected. The authors argued that given stark inequalities in energy use and emissions, this could instead entrench poverty and widen inequality induced by worsening climate change, while simultaneously accomplishing very little to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.

“Together, the U.S., U.K., European Union, Japan and Russia have almost the same population – 1.1 billion people – as sub-Saharan Africa, but 35 times more gas-fired power plants in operation or under development, and 52 times more coal plants.”

When it comes to carbon dioxide emissions, sub-Saharan Africa is collectively responsible for barely half a per cent of all global emissions over time, while the U.S., UK, EU, Japan and Russia are responsible for more than 100 times that amount, or about 57 per cent, the article noted.

With COP26 remaining a few hours to start, all eyes on the negotiations and how the conversion will swing as it is now clearly a battle between developed countries who have contributed more to the climate crisis and developing countries that have not created the problem but are clearly at the receiving end of the disaster that comes with climate change.

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