Sunday Magazine

Climate change: Saving Nigeria, earth from destruction

The COVID-19 lockdowns around the world brought about rapid and unprecedented improvements in air quality in some parts of the world but not enough to halt climate change caused by global warming. The shortlived fall in emissions of key air pollutants in 2020, especially in urban areas, was not uniformly spread across all regions, hence, the recently concluded Glasgow Climate Change Conference in Scotland entered into a pact with member nations for a reduction in all types of pollutants on the Earth. CHIJIOKE IREMEKA reports

 

How Nigeria can fight climate change through nature –Experts

• Glasgow Pact to keep temperature within 1.5C to prevent climate catastrophe

• COP26, mere ‘carbon trade fair’ by countries responsible –Environmentalist

• Ambient air pollution causes estimated 4.2 million deaths –WHO

• ‘Pollution reasons for stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, chronic respiratory diseases’

 

Scientific evidence is conclusive that the earth is warming and climates are changing with serious and potentially damaging consequences, aggravating the environmental issues such as deforestation and land degradation, freshwater shortage, food insecurity, air and water pollution. This is despite reduction in the emission of key pollutants and causes of greenhouse effects during the COVID-19 lockdown where many city dwellers saw blue skies instead of the polluted clouds, according to the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).

 

By a way of definition, the greenhouse effect is the process by which radiation from a planet’s atmosphere warms the planet’s surface to a temperature above what it would be without this atmosphere, where active gases in a planet’s atmosphere radiate energy in all directions.

 

Climate change on itself refers to long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns. These shifts may be natural but since the 1800s, human activities have been the main driver of climate change, primarily due to the burning of fossil fuels (like coal, oil and gas), which produces heat-trapping gases.

 

Sunday Telegraph learnt that as greenhouse gas emissions blanket the Earth, they trap the sun’s heat. This leads to global warming and climate change. The world is now warming faster than at any point in recorded history.

 

It was further learnt that as the Sun’s energy reaches the Earth’s atmosphere, some of it is reflected back to space and some is absorbed and re-radiated by greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, Ozone and some artificial chemicals such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).

 

 

The absorbed energy warms the atmosphere and the surface of the Earth. This process maintains the Earth’s temperature at around 33 degrees Celsius warmer than it would otherwise be, allowing life on Earth to exist. Moreover, manufacturing activities and industries produce emissions, mostly from burning fossil fuels to produce energy for making things like cement, iron, steel, electronics, plastics, clothes and other goods.

 

Mining and other industrial processes also release gases. It was also learnt that clearing of forests to create farms or pastures, or for other reasons, causes emissions, since trees, when they are cut, release the carbon they have been storing. Since forests absorb carbon dioxide, destroying them also limits nature’s ability to keep emissions out of the atmosphere.

 

According to the Federal Ministry of Environment’s National Policy on Climate Change, designed by the Department of Climate Change, the climate is changing and observed changes over the 20th century include increases in global average air and ocean temperature.

 

Others like rising global sea levels, longterm sustained widespread reduction of snow and ice cover, changes in atmospheric and ocean circulation as well as regional weather patterns, which influence seasonal rainfall conditions are sources of concern.

 

The Department of Climate Change stated that the changes are caused by extra heat in the climate system due to the addition of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.

 

The additional greenhouse gases are primarily due to human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas), agriculture, and land clearing. Sunday Telegraph further learnt that these activities increase the amount of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

 

The pattern of observed changes in the climate system is consistent with an increased greenhouse effect. Other climatic influences like volcanoes, the sun and natural variability cannot explain the timing and extent of the observed changes. Analyses of a range of climate scenarios indicate the most severe risks of climate change can largely be mitigated if greenhouse gas emissions are reduced to the point they are no longer accumulating in the atmosphere.

 

Speaking on the possibility of reduction in the greenhouse effect, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) said if the industries, especially countries that are heavy greenhouse gases emitters will show some commitment to ending the atmospheric pollution; the world will suspend climate change as has been observed during the COVID- 19 lockdown.

 

According to the WMO’s Air Quality and Climate Bulletin, South East Asia saw a 40 per cent reduction in the level of harmful airborne particles caused by traffic and energy production in 2020. China, Europe and North America, according to WMO, also saw emissions reductions and improved air quality during the pandemic’s first year, saying that humancaused emissions of air pollutants fell during COVID-19 lockdown, but meteorological extremes fuelled by environmental and Climate Change triggered sand, dust storms and wildfires that affected air quality.

 

The WMO’s Chief Atmospheric Environment Research Division, Dr. Oksana Tarasova, said although the clean air development had been welcome for many people with breathing difficulties, the absence of harmful micro particles left the path clear for naturally occurring Ozone. He noted that emission reduction was

not evenly given, saying, “despite such an unexpected experiment with atmospheric chemistry, we noticed that in many parts of the world, even if you take down the transport and some other emissions, air quality would not meet the requirements of the World Health Organisation (WHO).”

 

For WHO, ambient air pollution accounts for an estimated 4.2 million deaths per year due to stroke, heart disease, lung cancer and chronic respiratory diseases. It said: “Around 91 per cent of the world’s population live in places where air quality levels exceed WHO limits.

 

While ambient air pollution affects developed and developing countries alike, low- and middle-income countries experience the highest burden, with the greatest toll in the WHO Western Pacific and South-East Asia regions.

 

“Policies and investments supporting cleaner transport, energy-efficient housing, power generation, industry and better municipal waste management can effectively reduce key sources of ambient air pollution,” the world body said. Furthermore, the Federal Ministry of Environment said the increases in extreme climatic events as well as more changes in the weather patterns, may further threaten the means of livelihoods in the face of local and global inaction.

 

The Ministry noted that agriculture and food security, water resources, public health, and settlements sectors are particularly vulnerable to climate change whereas coastal regions erosion and desertification-prone areas in the southeastern and northern parts of the country respectively, are most vulnerable regions. More so, while everyone is vulnerable, the Federal Ministry of Environment held that the most vulnerable groups are farmers, fishermen, the elderly, women, children and poor people living in urban areas.

 

Glasgow Climate Pact

 

Thus, saving the earth from the worst onslaught of Climate Change and greenhouse effects was the major reason for the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference held at the SEC Centre in Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom, from 31 October to 13 November 2021.

 

Commonly referred to as COP26, the 26th 2021 UN Climate Change Conference saw member countries enter into a new global agreement – the Glasgow Climate Pact – aimed at reducing the worst impacts of climate change. The Pact will set the global agenda on climate change for the next decade.

 

The conference was the first since the Paris Agreement of COP21 that expected parties to make enhanced commitments towards mitigating climate change. The Paris Agreement requires parties to carry out a process colloquially known as the ‘ratchet mechanism’ ‘ every five years to provide improved national pledges. The result of COP26 was the Glasgow Climate Pact, negotiated through consensus of the representatives of the 197 attending parties, and owing to late interventions from India and China that weakened a move to end coal power and fossil fuel subsidies, the conference ended with the adoption of a less stringent resolution than some anticipated.

 

Nevertheless, the pact was the first climate deal to explicitly commit to reducing the use of coal. It included wording that encouraged more urgent greenhouse gas emissions cuts and promised more climate finance for developing countries to adapt to climate impacts. It was agreed that countries will meet next year to pledge further cuts to emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) – a greenhouse gas which causes climate change.

 

This is to try to keep temperature rises within 1.5 C – which scientists say is required to prevent a climate catastrophe. Current pledges, if met, will only limit global warming to about 2.4C. For the first time at a COP conference, there was an explicit plan to reduce use of coal – which is responsible for 40 per cent of annual CO2 emissions. However, countries only agreed a weaker commitment to phase down rather than phase out coal after a late intervention by China and India.

 

The agreement pledged to significantly increase money to help poor countries cope with the effects of climate change and make the switch to clean energy. There’s also the prospect of a trillion dollar a year fund from 2025 – after a previous pledge for richer countries to provide $100billion (£72billion) a year by 2020 was missed.

 

While some observers say the COP26 agreement represented the ‘start of a breakthrough,’ some African and Latin American countries felt not enough progress was made. World leaders agreed to phase-out subsidies that artificially lower the price of coal, oil, or natural gas. No date has been set but the world’s biggest CO2 emitters, the US and China, pledged to cooperate more over the next decade in areas, including methane emissions and the switch to clean energy.

 

China had previously been reluctant to tackle domestic coal emissions – so this was seen as recognising the need for urgent action. Leaders from over 100 countries with about 85 per cent of the world’s forests promised to stop deforestation by 2030. This is seen as vital, as trees absorb vast amounts of CO2. Similar initiatives haven’t stopped deforestation, but this one’s better funded. It’s, however, unclear how the pledge will be policed but most commitments made at COP will have to be self-policed.

 

Sunday Telegraph learnt that COP26 was the moment countries revisited climate pledges made under the 2015 Paris Agreement. Six years ago, countries were asked to make changes to keep global warming well below 2C and aim for 1.5C. The goal is to keep cutting emissions until they reach by net zero mid-century.

 

Next year’s COP27 summit will take place in Egypt. On the side of Nigeria, responding to climate change in the country falls into two broad classes of action – mitigation and adaptation, according to the Federal Ministry of Environment’s National Policy on Climate Change designed by the Department of Climate Change.

 

While mitigation refers to measures that may either reduce the increase in greenhouse emissions (abatement) or increase terrestrial storage of carbon (sequestration), adaptation refers to all the responses that may be used to reduce vulnerability.

 

In line with this objective, a stakeholders’ initiation workshop on the Second National Communication (SNC) took place in December 2009, and is being finalised but the National Adaptation Strategy and Action Plan (NASPA) has been concluded. According to the Federal Ministry of Environment, Nigeria has a Climate Change Department (CCD), created to implement the Climate Convention and protocol activities and coordinates the activities of the Interministerial Committee on Climate Change.

 

Nigeria already has several policies and strategic initiatives which if properly implemented, can serve as adaptive as well as mitigative climate change measures, the Ministry said. It noted that these initiatives and policies, including the oasis rehabilitation in the National Action to Combat Desertification and the National Policy on Drought and Desertification can be taken as anticipatory adaptation measures and plans.

 

“This can be fine-tuned into policy options for climate change response in the country. This comprehensive policy and response strategy will enable these policies to translate into meaningful inter-sectoral activities for sustainable environmental management,” it said in a report.

 

It noted that climate change is having a large impact on Nigeria, saying that sharp increases in extreme heat are affecting the many millions of people without access to air conditioning or electricity and changes to precipitation threaten Nigeria’s largely rain-fed agricultural sector. In the last decade, according to the Federal Ministry of Environment’s National Environmental, Economic and Development Study (NEEDS) for Climate Change in Nigeria, the country was the world’s 17th biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in 2015, the second highest in Africa after South Africa.

 

Sequel to this, Nigeria signed the Paris Agreement, an international deal aimed at tackling climate change. It has validated the agreement in 2017 and has pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent by 2030 with the condition of 45 per cent of international support.

 

The most promising mitigation options in the Nigeria’s energy system are the introduction of compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs at a negative incremental cost of $58/ ton CO2, with 5.155m ton CO2 reduction capacity and introduction of improved kerosene stoves in households, at a cost of $21/ ton of CO2 reduced (6.122 m ton CO2 reduction capacity).

 

Others are fuel-oil to natural gas fuel substitution in the cement industry at $18/ton (7.49m ton CO2 reduction capacity); improved electrical appliances ($16/ton) and wood-stoves ($3/ton) in the residential sector (9.566m ton CO2 reduction capacity); and introduction of efficient motors in industry at $15/ton (10.738m ton CO2 reduction capacity).

 

“As the impacts of disasters, land degradation and water scarcity become more intense and devastating, it has become critical to address the impacts of climate change on migration, displacement and health,” stated António Vitorino, Director General of IOM. “These issues are interconnected but have been addressed in a siloed manner for too long. We must address them together.”

 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) noted that climate crisis is already affecting every inhabited region of the globe, with dire consequences for individuals and global public health such as rising cases of malnutrition due to soil and drinking water salinisation and pollution, land degradation, reduced viability of crops, desertification, and other slow consequences.

 

“More frequent and more severe breathing conditions due to rising air pollution; a greater incidence of water-borne diseases such as cholera and typhoid due to increased flooding; weakened and overstretched health systems as storms, heavy precipitations, floods, heat waves, droughts and other extreme weather events become more frequent and people’s health needs increase, particularly in low- and middle-income countries,” it added.

 

 

“Now more than ever, resilient and migrant inclusive health systems are needed to address the impacts of climate change, including with the intersection of public health emergencies such as COVID-19,” highlighted Professor Ibrahim Abubakar, Chair of Lancet Migration and Dean of University College London, Population Health Sciences. However, a Nigerian environmentalist and the Executive Director of Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) Nnimmo Bassey, described COPs 26 as a mere ‘carbon trade fair’ appropriated by countries and corporations responsible for carbon emissions. His position was premised against expectations of expediting climate actions based on justice, especially with regards to Africa that contributes a relatively negligible 3 per cent to the carbon emissions.

 

 

The environmental activist gave the verdict as a post-COPs action, saying that COPs 26 was not the space for negotiations based on climate justice. “Those who contribute more to climate change should do more to cut it. But that did not play out, making COPs26 an absolute failure,” he lamented.

On Net Zero, Bassey pointed out that it does not actually mean zero emission, but just a case of ‘whatever you do, show us how it’s solved.’

“It’s just business and the world accepts it because it makes life easy for politicians, let the people mobilise,” he added. Corroborating Bassey, Director of Programmes, Corporate Accountability and Public Participation Africa (CAPPA), said the people should mobilise. “If the Global North and big corporations won’t listen to the people directly being (negatively) impacted by their carbon emissions, the people should mobilise.

 

“If COPs won’t listen to us, we should start organising from the grassroots. That was what we did with Counter-COPs. This time, the people’s voice will count and not be taken over by corporations that are engaged in commodification of the climate. “It deepens engagement and not leaves it for those inflicting the wounds and suggesting the medicine. Net Zero is mathematical fraud.”

For Ogunlade Olamide, also of CAPPA, “We are on the right path — making all the noise. We cannot leave it all to foreign suggestions that don’t consider African realities.”

 

He noted that the foreign solutions are resulting in confusion in Nigeria, saying, “For example, while the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) puts the country’s emissions cut at 2050, the Federal Government says 2060, while the hurriedly passed Climate Change Act says 2070. “Even CSOs representatives in the Climate Change Council will be nominated by the minister and approved by the President.”

 

Legislation

 

On the local level, in line with this, the Nigerian Senate on October 13, 2021, passed the climate change bill. The bill currently awaits the assent of President Muhammadu Buhari to become a law.

 

Sunday Telegraph learnt that once the bill receives the president’s assent, it will mean that the Nigerian government and key players in the sector will have legal backing for the implementation of climate change policies and programmes. It would cause organisations and individuals to become more responsible and accountable for their actions and activities that affect the climate.

 

Also, it will provide a framework for achieving low greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). Nigeria, by this bill, intends to impose fines on private and public entities who flout their climate change mitigation and adaptation obligations. It would also adopt carbon taxation and emissions trading, which would limit the emissions of polluting industries and require them to pay a fee for every ton of carbon dioxide they emit.

 

The bill also provides for the country to address climate change “using naturebased solutions such as REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation; the role of conservation and sustainable management of forests; and the enhancement of forest carbon stocks) and environmental economic accounting.”

Nature-based solutions

 

On the nature-based solutions, or natural climate solutions, are practices adopted to enable the ecosystem to naturally remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This can be achieved by restoring, conserving, and better managing the ecosystem. Such practices include forestry practices, regenerative agriculture, restoration of coastal wetlands and marine ecosystems. These, Nigeria said, collectively have a mitigation potential of 89 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year.

 

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