By Professor Chukwumerije Okereke
Nigeria was among the 190 countries that submitted their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) to the UNFCCC in the run up to the COP meeting in Paris in 2015. Nigeria’s INDC has since been subsequently converted into the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) following the country’s ratification of the Paris Agreement in May 2017. With a promise of 20% unconditional emission reduction and 45% conditional emissions by 2030 compared to 2010 based line scenario, Nigeria’s NDC can be considered quite ambitious.
However, in keeping with the provision of the Paris Agreement Nigeria, like most other countries are currently in the process of revising and updating the NDC. The process of revising the NDC in Nigeria is being supported by The NDC Partnership, which is an international initiative with members including countries, international institutions and non-state actors, through a programme called Climate Action Enhancement Package (CEAP).
The stated intention of the revision process is to enhance the NDCs, including by raising ambition as part of the Paris Agreement’s NDC update process, allowing countries to submit updated NDCs to the UNFCCC by 2020. For the avoidance of doubt, the CAEP which is providing the financial assistance to Nigeria makes it very explicit that resources will be made available only to developing countries that wish to raise the level of ambition in their updated NDCs. So, this is definitely not a free international finance that can be collected by countries that wish to only tweak their NDCs in a marginal way.
There are several good reasons while raising ambition is a desirable objective. For one, IPCC calculations have shown that the combined total of the current NDC commitments by countries is far below what is required to limit global warming to well below 2°C as stated in the Paris Agreement (IPCC 2018). Also, as the largest economy in sub-Saharan Africa, Nigeria has some incentives to provide leadership and help to drive a more ambitious global climate regime. In fact, Nigeria is one of the highest Green House Gas emitting countries in Africa with the nations’ first Biennial Update Report (BUR1) to the UNFCCC, which covers emissions for the period 2000-2015, showing that Nigeria emitted in 2014 around 492 MtCO2e.
Even though the absolute and the per capita emission may be low compared to developed countries, the above number still suggest the need for more ambitious mitigation effort. Another important reason for Nigeria to take ambitious climate change within its shores and encourage other countries to do likewise is because Nigeria is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change the world with massive exposure to heatwaves, sea-level rise, drought among many others. Already in the last few years the country has been witnessing flooding like never before with entire communities in Adamawa, Katsina, Niger, Kano, Bayelsa and many other states being completely submerged and washed away.
However, with all that said, there are also several reasons for well-meaning people to hold the current effort to raise ambition suspect. First, there has not been any detailed analysis and debate on the extent to which the original NDC has been implemented. Without robust data and clear understanding of the effort at mitigation so far, including tonnes of emission reduction achieved since the submission of the first NDC, it is hard to see what the criteria and justification on which the new ambition will be based. Second, the need to raise ambition was a global and national goal established (and correctly so) before the onset of the COVID-19 global pandemic which has hit the global economy very hard.
As a country, Nigeria has been hit hard especially given its heavy reliance on oil and gas which accounts for over 40% of GDP and 90% of foreign exchange earnings. With the general economic slowdown, and envisaged financial crisis occasioned by COVID-19, it is valid to ask whether raising ambition is really plausible and necessary for Nigeria. This is more so relevant given that the original NDC makes it clear that the overarching philosophy that underpinned that NDC was to reduce carbon emission while pursing socioeconomic development. Third, it has been noted that the funding of the revision of Nigeria’s NDC by the global NDC Partnership is clearly predicated on a commitment by Nigeria to raise its climate ambition. In the light of such a condition, it is probably valid to question the extent to which the goal of raising ambition is a genuine desire of the government as opposed to something imposed upon the government with the imperative of attracting funding from the global coalition.
In fact, with funding for the initial NDC coming from the French Development Agency, some has questioned how much of the original ambition was dictated by a national desire to scale-up climate action and how much of it was dictated by the desire of France to see a successful outcome of the Paris Agreement. It is great to see that the new revision process is being managed by a national coordinator who has vast experience of the Nigerian situation. It is also great to see that serious effort is being made to increase the participation of various groups of stakeholders in the revision of Nigeria’s NDC. The Hon Minister of State for the Environment, Chief Sharon Ikeazor, deserves special mention and praise for her effort to the engage with the youth, women, state ministries of environment across the country to mobilise their engagement in the NDC and climate action in general.
However, there is real fear that without significant improvement in the data and concomitant effort to monitoring, verification and implementation, the new NDC may end up either being a box ticking exercise that will not have significant implications for Nigeria’s climate action. There is also a danger that in trying to please the international funding body, Nigeria could take on climate target that it has no capacity to implement. Serious effort must therefore be made to establish a national climate registry and improve climate data gathering in Nigeria.
There is need for more transparency on the robustness of the data on which the original NDC was designed, the extent of implementation of the original NDC, the emission reduction achieved (or not) from the key sectors, and the implications for the new ambition intent for the revised NDC. Such an approach and analysis will need to be cast against the background of the national and global socio-economic implications of the coronavirus pandemic, and need for the new NDC to help stimulate a smart green recovery plan in Nigeria.
By Professor Chukwumerije Okereke
He is the Director of the Centre of Climate Change and Development at Alex Ekwueme Federal University Ndufu-Alike Ikwo, Ebonyi State, Nigeria. He is currently Coordinating Lead Author (CLA) for the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report (AR6)