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What Nigeria must do to win at COP26

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Image Credits: Sani Ahmad Usman, Oliver Clarke/PXHERE.

The 26th session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of the Parties, popularly known as COP26, takes place between 31st October and 12th November 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland.

It is happening at a time when the world has just experienced one of the warmest years on record. The year 2020 reached temperatures that were about 1.02°C warmer than average. These kinds of extremes, driven by climate change, are being felt intensely across Africa.

Nigeria has just signed up to a pledge also signed by 60 odd countries led by the United States and the European Union to cut methane gas emissions by 30% by 2030. 

This is coming a tad reluctantly it may seem, as evident in the pronouncement by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Mr. Timipre Sylva, in January 2020, who while justifying the country’s pursuance of gas as an alternative source of energy, is quoted as saying, “Climate change is not really a big issue for us.”

Venue of the COP26. The Clyde Auditorium and SSE Hydro from across the River Clyde (outside the STV Building) in Glasgow during a very chilly blue hour.

Methane is the second-biggest cause of climate change after carbon dioxide. The gas has a higher heat-trapping potential than CO2 but it breaks down in the atmosphere faster, meaning deep cuts in methane emissions could have a rapid impact on slowing global warming.

Africa’s participation in the COP26 discussions is vital. Even though Africa, including Nigeria, contributes just 4 percent of global total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, its socio-economic development is the most threatened by the climate crisis.

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For instance, while the effects of the climate change crisis persist like food insecurity, population displacement and water scarcity, more than half of African countries are experiencing climate-related conflicts.

In Nigeria, although the millions of displaced persons from the North East of Nigeria is as a result of insurgency, the remote cause of these displacements can be traced to the steady drying up of Lake Chad which was a major source of livelihood for many young populations surrounding the area. The youths in this area were quite easily absorbed by the insurrectionist Boko Haram, and subsequently, ISWAP. 

It can be said clearly that Nigeria and its neighbours have adapted poorly to the effects of this climate change even though discussions on greenhouse gas emissions and particularly the receding Lake Chad had been on the table since the 1970s. Measures like reforestation, irrigation, education, and women and youth empowerment have been left too little or too late.

Africa is indeed the most vulnerable continent to the effects of climate change due to its low adaptive capacity, as a result of financial and technological limitations, and an over-reliance on rain-fed agriculture. The continent is also witnessing a higher rate of warming than the global average of 0.15°C per decade between 1951 and 2020. Given the observed global warming, it is projected that the continent will experience an increase in hot extremes and more frequent and intense rainfall extremes.

Even then, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) adaptation costs in developing countries have been put at $70 billion with the figure expected to climb to $300 billion by 2030 and $500 billion by 2050.

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The UN has posited that individual adaptation goals by affected countries would be set at the Glasgow summit with strategies for achieving such goals clearly spelt out.

The conditions for achieving such goals include:

  1. Developed countries, accepting climate responsibilities, particularly their cumulative GHG emissions, to developing countries. Also, developed economies leading with clear targets for reaching net-zero emissions by 2050.
  2. Based on the commitments and obligations under Article 4 of the UNFCCC, developed countries, mobilising and providing adequate climate finance resources and transferring environmentally sound technologies to African countries.
  3. Without prejudice to the COVID-19 crisis, a massively scaled-up and more progressive multilateral response is required to address the climate crisis, with finance being at the heart of it. At COP26, countries must agree on a finance architecture, including an agreement on the continuation of long-term climate finance (LTF) under the UNFCCC. This should be in addition to the launch of a new finance goal under the Paris Climate Agreement.

It behoves African countries to remind developed nations of the need to complement local adaptation efforts with global emission reductions; the concentration of carbon dioxide being on an upward trend, despite a dip in 2020 as a result of economic slowdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

G20 countries are a serious instance of climate abusers as they account for 80% of greenhouse gas emissions with China alone emitting nearly 25% of the global emissions, closely followed by the US.

Despite emitting the least greenhouse gases, African countries have sought to mitigate the effects of climate change. On average, by 2019, African countries were already spending about 5% of their annual GDP to support adaptation and mitigation initiatives, exceeding their contributions to climate change. In addition, regional organisations such as the African Adaptation Initiative are doing their best to build Africa’s resilience in the agricultural sector.

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To complement Africa’s adaptation efforts, there should be an increase in international support for its adaptation and mitigation programmes and initiatives. 

Despite the fact that we are close to a climate emergency, there have been reductions in official development assistance by developed countries which are weakening the capacity of poor countries to fight the climate crisis.

But the climate crisis requires the same attention and resources directed at COVID-19. Just like the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change has no border. For Africa, the pandemic presents a unique opportunity for a green recovery. 

The African Group have used the occasion of the virtual UN Climate Change subsidiary bodies sessions (SBs), which took place from 31 May to 17 June 2021, to synergise their positions on a range of issues. Additional SBs in or before Glasgow may be necessary to enable prioritisation of the agenda items on adaptation, technology transfer, among others.

Africa will host the COP27. This will take place in November 2022 in Egypt. It is imperative that Africa leverages heavily on COP26 for deep impact as this will provide the continent with the necessary impetus to prepare for the subsequent COP.

  • Nkanu Egbe is the Publisher/Editor of Lagos Metropolitan

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