President Muhammadu Buhari on September 24, 2019 in New York during the 74th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, announced plans by his administration to “reverse the negative effects of climate change in Nigeria”.
Indeed, Nigeria has long been known to be vulnerable to climate change and its adverse effects, especially on the health and livelihoods of Nigerians. For instance, desertification which is rapidly advancing southward and the possible submergence of the coastline along the Atlantic Ocean remain a disturbing threat.
But there is a lot more to the problems associated with climate change and global warming. Before the summit began, millions of people, in what was described as the biggest climate protest ever, took to the streets in about 185 countries to demand urgent actions to cut emissions and stabilise the climate.
Carbon emissions mounted to a record high last year, prompting warnings from the UN-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that the world has only about a decade left to act to cut emissions. For long, climate researchers have agreed that humanity could barely cope with a temperature increase of two degrees Celsius.
Nigeria, which accounted for 36 per cent of gas flaring worldwide, had committed to completely eliminate flaring at oil wells by the end of 2008. But as at 2009, the country’s petroleum industry was still burning 24 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually, equal to a third of the annual gas consumption of the European Union.
This translated to emission of 400 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, a figure which equalled the entire emission reduction programme submitted under the Kyoto Protocol.
In 2016, Nigeria signed the Paris Accord and ratified same a year later in order to cut carbon emissions by reducing dependence on fossil fuels and increasing renewable energy adoption.
Among other points, President Buhari had said in New York, that “…Nigeria is presently diversifying its energy sources from dependence on gas-powered system to hydro, solar, wind, biomass and nuclear sources…Nigeria is progressively working to realise 30 per cent energy efficiency and renewable energy mix by 2030…”.
Although there is no concrete evidence on ground to show that such a renewable energy revolution is taking place in Nigeria, recently the Nigeria Customs Service arbitrarily imposed a 5% duty and 5% VAT on solar panels coming into Nigeria. Already, batteries, needed for storage of solar energy, are suffering a 20% duty.
Yet, solar panels are supposed to be exempted from duties according to Nigeria’s Harmonised Systems, HS, Codes classification. These duties have hiked the cost of solar equipment, resulting in closure of many solar firms.
Agreed, Nigeria made some significant progress, reducing flaring by 18 percent since 2013 to less than 8 billion cubic meters in 2015, her gas flaring profile still makes her a significant contributor to global warming.
As Professor Charles Soludo said in a speech on October 1: “The world is not waiting for Nigeria. While electric cars are fast replacing petrol cars, many of our people are still building petrol stations.”
Nigeria must sincerely join the rest of the world in the quest for clean energy. We must look beyond the present to a future without fossil fuel.