RENEWABLE ENERGY AS AN OPTION TO SOLVING CLIMATE CRISIS?
Climate change is unarguably the biggest environmental issue of our time. Broad scientific agreement now exists that continued accumulation of heat-trapping “greenhouse” gases in the atmosphere is contributing to changes in the global climate. Climate change is global in its causes but its consequences are far more reaching in developing countries particularly Nigeria.
Despite the low contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions, Sub-Saharan Africa's vulnerability to the effect of climate change is more pronounced than most of the other regions of the world. It is unarguably vulnerable to the vagaries of the climate, as the scope of the impacts of climate variability over the last three or four decades has shown. This was corroborated also by a research conducted on “The Cost of Adaptation to Climate Change in Africa” funded by the African Development Bank. It concluded that “Africa is arguably the most vulnerable region in the world to the impacts of climate change. The majority of both bottom up and top down ('integrated assessment') studies suggested that damages from climate change, relative to population and GDP, will be higher in Africa than in any other region in the world.
Climate change no doubt portend serious challenges for Nigeria to achieve its development targets. This is more complicated given that Nigeria's status as a fossil-fuel dependent country has a large climate sensitive economy. Developing an appropriate climate change response strategy that focuses both on mitigation and adaptation becomes unavoidable. As greenhouse gases (GHGs) have been proven to be the major drivers of climate change, it becomes imperative that Nigeria considers appropriate climate mitigation actions even as it does similar thing to eases its adaptation. According to a Special Report on Renewable Energy Sources and Climate Change Mitigation authored by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), it concludes that GHG emissions associated with the provision of energy services are a major cause of climate change. National inventories to estimate the annual emissions of GHG have been undertaken in Nigeria. An emissions profile by sector indicates that carbon dioxide emissions have been dominated by the energy sector (for which gas-flaring, electricity generation and transport sectors constitute the most significant sources).
A recent Harvard report highlights that phasing out fossil fuels and replacing them with renewable energy could save millions of dollars in health costs. The report was published in the journal Nature Climate Change , looked at regional health costs from burning fossil fuels, and the potential savings that could be made through implementing renewable energy and efficiency projects. The research looked at different energy efficiency and renewable energy installations currently in operation at six different locations in the US. Among the findings were that wind farms alone, built near Cincinnati and Chicago produced $210 million in annual health benefits. Similarly, energy efficiency projects implemented in Cincinnati produced over $200 million in benefits annually. For lead author, Jonathan Buonocore, “This study demonstrates that energy efficiency and renewable energy can have substantial benefits to both the climate and to public health, and that these results could be a big player in a full benefit-cost analysis of these projects.”
In August, Islamic leaders followed Uganda's lead by issuing a Islamic declaration on Climate Change, calling on Muslims around the world to work towards phasing out greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and a 100% renewable energy strategy. This declaration was endorsed by the Grand Mufti's of Lebanon and Uganda, along with prominent Islamic scholars and teachers from 20 countries, at a symposium in Istanbul in August. Since accelerated climatic changes are expected to lead to potentially large impacts across Africa, including Nigeria, in the future. Nigeria as a matter of urgency need to step up its efforts to mitigate climate change. One of the great options available for climate change mitigation is switching to renewable forms of energy.
There are multiple means for lowering GHG emissions from the energy system, while still providing desired energy services. Renewable energy, in the form of energy produced from solar, wind, sustainable managed hydro, geothermal and biomass resources, offers the potential to significantly displace the need for polluting fuels. There exists huge opportunities and benefits in Renewable energy that Nigeria as a country is yet to tap from. Aside from being an effective means to address climate change mitigation, it will also address sustainable and equitable economic development, energy access, secure energy supply and local environmental and health impacts.
Renewable energy penetration in Nigeria is still very low, the only source of renewable energy in the country is hydro-powerand biomass; wind and solar energy have only been deployed in minuscule amount. Solar energy in Nigeria is majorly used in urban areas for street lighting, while in rural areas it is used for irrigation project and water pumping. However, with wide developmental deficits, Nigeria needs to focus on achieving a high growth, resilient socio-economic system with low carbon output. Increasing and embracing the use of renewable energy will assist the country to meet some of its development needs. Renewable energy provides an opportunity for Nigeria to generate adequate energy from a mix of sources for rapid socio-economic development without significantly increasing the country's GHG emissions. The huge opportunities in embracing renewable energy, however, must come with attendant reform of its energy sector. Incentives to encourage investors must be provided and as well as a policy framework to encourage the deployment of renewable energy technology must be put in place.
With the great challenge of climate change and other developmental challenges, Nigeria can achieve a lot through switching its energy source to renewable energy. Apart from greatly reducing the impact of climate change, it brings job, investment income and will put Nigeria in the competitive edge.
Written by Oladipupo Ajiroba, a member of Leak Times Editorial Board and a Nigerian Sustainable Development Expert currently based in Toronto, Canada.