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ANALYSIS: COP26: Nigeria’s plan to cut carbon emission to net-zero by 2060 is short on details

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Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari at COP26. 

On the second day of the world leaders summit of the ongoing United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP26, in Glasgow, UK, President Muhammad Buhari made a commitment that Nigeria will cut its carbon emission to net-zero by 2060.

While acknowledging the importance of COP26 in the midst of obvious changes in the climate, Mr Buhari said that climate change is not about the problem of the future but about what is already happening.

“Desertification in the north, drought in the centre, pollution in the coast are enough evidence for all to see, Nigeria is committed to net-zero by 2060,” he said on Tuesday.

Nigeria’s commitment

While addressing world leaders, Mr Buhari said Nigeria has developed a detailed energy transition plan and roadmap based on data and evidence and that with Nigeria’s transition plan, gas will play a key role in transitioning the country’s economy across sectors and the data and evidence show Nigeria can continue to use gas until 2040 without detracting from the goals of the Paris agreement.

Earlier on Monday, Mr Buhari joined French President Emmanuel Macron, Prince Charles, and the Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani at a COP 26 side event entitled “Accelerating land restoration in Africa, the case of the Great Green Wall (GGW) initiative.”

The Nigerian leader used the occasion of his address to appeal to fellow leaders to continue to make concerted efforts at land restoration.

‘‘I am optimistic that Africa’s ambition of restoring over 100 million hectares of degraded landscape for productive agriculture is achievable,’’ he said.

President Buhari also pledged Nigeria’s unalloyed commitment to expanding the achievements of the GGW programme in Africa from the enviable status attained under the leadership of President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani of Mauritania.

‘‘Together we commit to the transformative process of restoring the African degraded landscape and ultimately the continent’s environment,’’ he said.

But while the president’s statement and commitments at COP26 have attracted commendation from different quarters including American billionaire Jeff Bezos, who heaped praises on the president for his leadership role in restoring degraded lands in the country and commitment to restore 4 million hectares, climate experts and activists have raised questions on how realistic Nigeria’s commitment is.

In an interview with PREMIUM TIMES, the Director of Centre for Climate Change and Development at the Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ebonyi State, Chuks Okereke, said it is good news that the president pledged a plan to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2060 but the question is where the numbers came from. He said the details are not in the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) submitted by the Nigerian government.

“I think on the positive side we could appreciate the bold announcement and the president’s intent to ensure that Nigeria joins the global green transition. However on the other hand we should question the intention to implement and the source of the data given that this ambition is not in the NDC and the long term vision document recently prepared by the government.”

The president had informed the audience that Nigeria’s revised nationally determined contribution has additional priority sectors, water and waste, nature-based solution, adaptation and resilience, vulnerability assessment, clean cooking, gender and green job assessment, as well as a bottom-up renewable energy transition pathway to 2030.

Buhari’s statement not in sync with the submitted NDC

According to the NDC submitted in July 2021, Nigeria committed to an unconditional contribution of reducing carbon emissions by 20 per cent below business-as-usual by 2030, while it increased its conditional target to 47 per cent as against the 45 per cent captured in the 2015 NDC.

The updated NDC also includes an enhanced contribution by the waste sector, which was not included in the 2015 NDC due to a lack of reliable data.

Mr Okereke said that the president’s announcement is in contrast to what is in NDC, which raises many questions. The professor said he will be looking forward to the detailed plans available to achieve the goal.

We need a shift from the current model

Reacting further to the president’s speech, Edwin Ikhuoria, ONE Campaign’s Africa Executive Director said the Nigerian government’s commitment contained the needed language but was loaded with ambition that requires strategic shifts from the current development model.

“Substantial emphasis on the need for international cooperation, support, and technology transfer almost portends a hazardous reliance on partners to achieve results. If the world ever needed solidarity, now is the time to make it happen. Otherwise, these words are just mere statements that were loaded with potential excuses,” he said.

Apart from experts’ opinions, an article by climate scorecard in August 2021 concluded that if Nigeria were to achieve a goal like becoming carbon neutral, what would be an obstacle, apart from government incompetence, is the nature of the developing economy and the country’s overdependence on fossil fuels.

“The country’s economy is closely tied to oil and gas exports. Profits from petroleum exports currently account for 86% of Nigeria’s total export revenue” (Carbon Brief) Additionally, Oil and Gas collectively provide 70% of Nigeria’s revenue. Thus, as a developing economy, Nigeria relies heavily on the production of non-renewable resources. The economy needs all the support it can get so it is very unlikely that Nigeria will slow down any of its oil production. This will make it very hard for the country to become carbon neutral by 2050.” the article concluded.


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