Environment & Climate ChangeNews

What Nigeria’s Climate Change Act Means

The new Climate Change Act provides the legal instrument for Nigeria’s approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing resilience to climate change-induced extreme weather events.

The climate change Act signed into law recently by Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari formalises the pathway for Africa’s biggest crude oil producer’s approach to the energy transition, climate change mitigation, and adaptation. 

The legislation, which was initially passed by the Parliament and adopted on Thursday, Nov. 18, by the President, provides the legal instrument for the mainstreaming of climate change actions, harnessing green economy opportunities, and the establishment of a National Council on Climate Change.  

Sam Oniugbo, the sponsor and coordinator of the Technical Committee that revised the Bill, and Chukwumerije Okereke, the Director of the Center of Climate Change and Development Alex Ekwueme Federal University, describe the Climate Change Act as a big deal for an oil-dependent nation that is also ranked as one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change in the world.

The bill’s passage allows the government to meet climate action obligations, including the ambitious commitment on net-zero emissions announced by the Nigerian President a few days earlier at COP26. 

At the end of the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26)  hosted jointly by the United Kingdom and Italy, parties agreed to the Glasgow Climate Pact to keep alive the goal to limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, and finalise the outstanding elements of the Paris Agreement.  The Climate Pact combined increased ambition and strengthening of efforts to achieve Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). 

Under the Nigerian government’s updated NDCs,  the country plans to unconditionally cut emissions by 20 per cent below the “business as usual” levels by 2030 with expectations to increase the target to 47 per cent further if the country gets “financial assistance, technology transfer and capacity building from the more advanced and more willing international partners.

Nigeria’s new Climate Change Act supports the process of achieving low Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions inclusive of green growth and sustainable economic development. It also provides the framework to ensure that Nigeria formulates programmes for achieving its long-term goals on climate change mitigation and adaptation and mainstreaming climate change actions in line with national development priorities.

A crucial component of the Act includes identifying risks and vulnerabilities, building resilience and strengthening existing adaptive capacities to the impacts of climate change, and the implementation of mitigation measures that promote a low carbon economy and sustainable livelihoods. 

The Act is also designed to apply to Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government of Nigeria alongside public and private entities. It sets the guideline for the establishment and operations of the National Council on Climate Change, which shall be vested with the powers to make policies and decisions concerning climate change in Nigeria.

The Act includes a provision for creating a Climate Change Fund to be maintained by the Council. The Fund will receive the budget appropriated by the National Assembly for the running of the Council, subventions, funding from International Organizations and funds due to Nigeria for meeting her NDCs commitments as well as the carbon tax and emissions trading and charges from private and public entities for flouting their Climate Change mitigation and adaptation obligations. 

The legislation allows the Federal Ministry responsible for Environment and National Planning to formulate the National Climate Change Action Plan in every five-year cycle and also to set up carbon budget for the country to keep average increases in global temperature within 2°C and pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and periodically revise the carbon budget, in line with Nigeria’s NDCs and to comply with Nigeria’s international obligations.

Although the Climate Change Act provides important institutional and legal backing for the country to move towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions and enhancing the resilience of the national economy and communities to climate change, the success of the Act largely depends on implementation and the realities on the ground.

An essential factor in Nigeria’s ability to attain gas emissions targets is also the elimination of gas flaring that releases carbon dioxide along with methane and soot into the atmosphere. A Sept. 2020 Reuters report spotlighted the impact of the crisis. According to the report, experts say the gas that Nigeria flares nationwide could be worth billions of dollars if captured and transported to be used as liquefied natural gas or for plastics or fertilisers.

Habiba Daggash, a researcher in energy systems transitions, in her earlier review of the country’s race to Net Zero, highlighted the need to take into account domestic complexities. She pointed out that the energy transition plan hinges on massive investment in low-carbon energy technologies, technological and behavioural change. 

Habiba added that “We must get on the path to decarbonisation with as much vigour as we can muster, but we must also recognise our limitations and create realistic pathways that prioritise the nation’s development.” 

Chukwumerije Okereke and Sam Oniugbo, in their analysis, lamented that “Nigeria is in a difficult place in terms of climate change. It is extremely vulnerable to climate change.”

The duo stated that “At the same time, it is also very dependent on oil for its foreign exchange earnings and therefore also vulnerable to the transition risks associated with climate change. Hence, nothing short of a bold institutional arrangement and action will save Nigeria from climate change. The Climate Act represents such a bold action and, if well implemented, gives Nigeria a fighting chance.”

They said the signing of the bill into law is very significant. “Still, plenty of work is needed to translate the bold action into concrete policies that will document the emission profiles of the key sectors of the economy, produce credible decarbonisation pathways for the country, strengthen the resilience of the country and unlock climate investment needed to secure the transition.”

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Murtala Abdullahi

Abdullahi Murtala is a researcher and reporter. His expertise is in conflict reporting, climate and environmental justice, and charting the security trends in Nigeria and the Lake Chad region. He founded the Goro Initiative and contributes to dialogues, publications and think-tanks that report on climate change and human security. He tweets via @murtalaibin

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