The 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP27), underway in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, opened with sombre speeches reflecting the mood of the people on the host continent, Africa.
The climate change crisis manifested in catastrophic flooding in Nigeria, deadly drought in Somalia and raging cyclone Idai that tore through Madagascar, Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe.
The UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, said, “Humanity has a choice: cooperate or perish. It is either a climate solidarity pact or a collective suicide pact.”
Speaking to over 100 world leaders reunited for the first official plenary of the climate conference, the UN chief insisted that the proposed pact would see all countries making extra efforts to reduce emissions; wealthier nations and international financial institutions providing assistance to emerging economies; ending dependence on fossil fuels and the building of coal plants; providing sustainable energy for all and uniting to combine strategy and capacities for the benefit of humankind.
He reiterated that a “clear, time-bound roadmap” for loss and damage that delivered “effective institutional arrangements for financing” was a priority.
The major issue for Nigeria would be how to de-fossilise its energy source; and transition from dirty and deadly fossil fuels to clean and sustainable energy.
The Nigeria Energy Transition Plan, a pathway to reducing carbon emissions, requires $1.9 trillion up to 2060 to be implemented; and that raises the question: where will the funding come from?
Already, Nigeria’s Minister of Environment, Barr Mohammed Abdullahi, prioritised climate finance and partnership building during his pre-COP speech, but there are concerns by experts that the big polluters are backsliding on commitments to slash global emissions by 45 per cent by 2030, compared to 2010’s levels.
Reducing emissions is key to tackling the climate change crisis generally, and it is a precursor to a commitment to meeting the targets of the 2015 Paris Agreement – limiting warming to 1.5°C above late-19th century levels.
The Ecologist, a United Kingdom-based publication, quoting the Global Carbon Budget 2022, said “Global carbon emissions in 2022 remain at record levels – with no sign of the decrease that is urgently needed to limit warming to 1.5°C, according to the Global Carbon Project science team.”
Some predictions warn that current trends will see carbon pollution actually increase by 10 per cent at the end of the decade, and a 2.8°C increase.
This scenario paints a bleak picture for Nigeria, especially for a country with a culture of profligacy in handling public funds and haphazard planning and implementation of policies.
The manner in which the country, which depends largely on fossil fuels for its revenue, handled the Ogoni cleanup, has raised suspicions that it is ill-prepared to tackle de-fossilisation and the emerging climate crisis.
However, Barr Abdullahi, who is the head of Nigeria’s delegation to the COP 27, said, “We are focused on ensuring that we bring the issue of loss and damage to the fore, and we are already making progress in this regard, because during the pre-Cop engagement, the COP 27 President, Sameh Shoukry, highlighted flood-related issues with particular reference to Nigeria and Pakistan, among other nations.
“Already, the issue of flooding is linked to loss and damage, and that is of priority to us as a nation.”
He said that the Nigerian delegation would also focus on the African carbon market initiative as it tried to kick start the framework for carbon trading, adding that similar attention would be given to the issue of debt for climate swap aimed at calling the attention of developed countries on the impact of their industrialisation on the developing countries and the need for them to mitigate the impact on the continent of Africa and Nigeria in particular.
He further said, “In addition, Nigeria, as the leader of the PAN African Agency for the Great Green Wall, will focus on climate finance to support its activities in the Sahel Region, particularly in the most endemic northern states described as the frontline states where there is fast approaching desert encroachment and, of course, wetland drying up. These and others are huge issues that we will be focusing on.”
Professor Abdullahi Bashir, a climate change expert from the Modibbo Adama University of Technology (MAUTECH), Yola, Adamawa State, said accountability and transparency were key in driving and implementing a robust climate change agenda for Nigeria.
He said, “Accountability and transparency is very important, not only because of donor funds but for the sake of ourselves. Nigeria needs to provide a good framework for accountability and it should be transparent in a manner that whatever money is spent in relation to mitigating or adapting to the effects of climate change can be seen.
“The most prioritised areas should be given more attention, and the priority should be right; not buying cars and building offices in the name of climate finance, whereas people needing intervention, are left unattended to.”
Meanwhile, the Global Initiative for Food Security and Ecosystem Preservation (GIFSEP), with the support of 350 Africa in partnership with the Activists for Climate Justice Coalition, has urged Nigerians to vote for only candidates that understand climate change issues.
Team Lead of GIFSEP, David Terungwa, said, “Climate action is critical to the survival of democracy and for sustainable development. We are worried! We are so worried that climate change is under-represented in the campaigns for the 2023 general elections so far.
“Climate change issues are too important to be left in the hands of deniers. And that is why we are calling on citizens, especially those in communities impacted by climate change, to ensure that they collect their PVCs and look beyond empty campaign promises and other forms of inducement to vote for candidates that understand climate change issues and have a climate action plan.”
The recent floods in Nigeria have ravaged communities, killing over 600 people, displacing over two million others, while farms have been washed away, thereby threatening food security.
Ahead of the conference, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, while welcoming parties, said, “Egypt will spare no effort to ensure that COP27 becomes the moment when the world moved from negotiation to implementation and where words were translated to actions, and where we collectively embark on a path towards sustainability, a just transition, and eventually a greener future for coming generations.”
Now, Nigerians anticipate that the conference will be a chastening and awakening for authorities to religiously implement the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), and that, the National Council on Climate Change will implement policies of the council to engender a sustainable and livable environment.