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Nigeria and Climate Challenges

Source: Oseloka H. Obaze&Chiagozie Udeh

Boko Haram, desertification and drought have combined to adversely decimate Nigeria’s Northeast region. Agricultural output has shrunken, falling below twenty-five percent of the regional capacity. Lake Chad is so desiccated that it can hardly support the eco-system around it. These latter challenges unlike Boko Haram are climate-related. Addressing them requires a national buy-in, proactive policy options and international support. Thus, the just concluded 22nd Session of the Conference of Parties (COP22) to the Kyoto Protocol in Marrakech, Morocco, was propitious. The speed with which many nations acceded to the Paris Agreementprovedthat climate change concerns were real. COP22 provided an opportunity to develop anacceptable framework for implementing the Paris Agreement.

Before COP22, discussions centered mainly on funding that would enable developing countries adapt to the effects of climate change. Contextually, the two weeks of negotiations in Marrakech was hardly fortuitous. One notable achievement of COP22 was the progress made on setting the timeliness and benchmarks for draftinga rules book for the implementation of the Paris Agreement. The rules will guide the actions of parties to the Paris Agreement, with 2018 set as the target date.Yet unchanged is the fact that since COP19 in Copenhagen, climate finance has remained contentious. The $100 billion Green Climate Fund (GCF) established in 2009 has received only $10 billion in contributions. The fund targeted to last until 2020, is grossly underfunded and underestimated as experts forecast that climate change funding will run into trillion dollars, for the Paris Agreement’s aims to be achieved. Developing countries confront a confounding paradox; the yet unrealized $100 billion will not suffice for addressing the ambitious Paris Agreement; yet the adaptation fund and streamlining the process from which developing nations can benefit, remains a challenge.

The continued refusal of some developed countries to accept responsibility for their contributions to the climate crises is stalling progress on the Green Climate Fund. Global North countries are non-committal, preferring to contribute symbolic, if not derisory sums. Explicably, Developed Countries -the heavy polluters- confront the ire of Developing Countries -the lesser polluters- that consider verbalized commitments as platitudinous. The latter insist that the $100 billion Green Climate Fund is grossly insufficient for fulfilling global adaptation needs; thus compelling a few developed countries topoint to the lack of enough bankable projects from the developing countries. Core funding issues aside, the challenge of benchmarking requisitedeadlines for most of the Paris Agreementtargets subsists. Invariably, most countries worry that absence of delivery deadlines for most of the agreement targets; will translate to laxity, if not non-compliance.

COP22 ended with nations hopeful of the delivery of the Paris Agreement. For the Global South nations, the present juncture is propitious for drawing on the now operational $3.1 billion South-South Cooperation Climate Fund launched by China in 2015 in Paris. China,remains constructively engaged,and underlined its commitment by hosting a South-South Cooperation Forum on margins of the COP22. Possible concerns about accessing the GCF were removed with Liberia and Nepal receiving $2.2 million and $2.9 million dollars respectively from the fund. Twenty other countries are in line to have their proposals approved with each getting up to $3 million. For its part, the GCF will approve projects worth some $2.5 billion soon.

Donald Trump’s rhetoric on climate change, prior to becoming the President-elect of the U.S.still elicits concerns. Fiji delegation’s emotional remarks at the closing plenary of COP22 encapsulated prevailing and shared fearsof most countries over the fate of the Paris Agreement during the Trump presidency. Such concerns were doused slightly by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who reassured the global community that the U.S.will not pull out of the Paris Agreement, and that Trump as President, will find it difficult to do so. Thankfully, Mr. Trump has admitted possible connectivity between human actions and climate change.

Impact of climate on Nigeria is still being grossly underreported and underestimated; with Nigeria’s overall climate change response still marginal. Yet Nigeria had a fair outing at Marrakech. Minister for Environment, Mrs Amina Mohammed, brought along at least three members of the National Assembly and two colleagues, Minister of Mines and Power, Mr. Babatunde Fashola and Minister of Agriculture Chief Audu Ogbeh. Such composition of the country’s delegation and collaborative approach adds to policy synergy and complementarity. It guarantees that Nigerian policymakers will not just understand the issues, but augurs well for fast-trackingthe domestication of agreed climate change policies in Nigeria. As the power and agricultural sectors are hugely affected by climate change, Nigeria’s multidisciplinary approach is commendable.

Whereas Nigeria hosted two side events in Marrakech and the Akwa-Ibom State Government hosted another, there were some inexplicable missed opportunities. Nigeria shouldhave led the African intervention, but for most part of the closing plenary, Nigeria’s four seats were vacant,leaving Mali to spearhead African intervention. Given her needs, Nigeria should have proactively sought international support for the funds forrecharging of Lake Chad - estimated at $16 billion. That didn’t happen. Nigeria appeared not too keen on taking advantage of the South-South Cooperation on Climate Change, especially via funds made available by China. Finally, Nigeria missed out of being part of the V40 Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF), a group of 40 countries considered to be most vulnerable to climate change. That grouping, which at the close of COP21 in Paris, had just 20 countries have expanded to a 40-nation group, without Nigeria.

Nigeria not to pursue remedial measures at its disposal in tackling climate change, will amount to gross oversight. There is need to adopt climate smart policies and engage much more assertively within the framework of the South-South Cooperation Forum. Such approach should be a signature modality of the Buhari government,if it desires to attract international support for its workon climate change. Nigeria’s power generation policy must shift towards promoting investments in renewable energy and reducing use of fossil energy. The FGN must continue to incentivize key players in this sector and spearhead investments in alternative energy. Finally, Nigeria should organize a post-COP national conference on modalities and structures for domesticating international agreements immediately and communicatesame to the 36 states to ensure broad compliance. Work should also start immediately to ensure that Nigeria is able to access the GCF within the next one year as she stands to receive close to $3 million. Nigeria must shift from her business-as-usual approach and show the urgency required in climate actions.

Obaze is MD/CEO, Selonnes Consult Ltd.;Udeh is a Research Associate at Selonnes Consult Ltd.