By Hon Sam Onuigbo
The world is in an unprecedented time as it grapples with the scourge and consequences brought upon it by COVID-19 pandemic. This pandemic has exacerbated the existing socio-economic and environmental challenges faced by the world and more importantly in developing countries.
The virus has continued to spread – and the spread has entered multiple phases across the globe as it wreaks havoc on global economies with a huge effect on African countries.
Many countries especially in Africa have embarked on economic recovery plans to recover better and create a buffer that will stimulate rapid economic growth and recovery across all sectors. I am delighted that Nigeria, through the leadership of the President has also put forward a bold economic plan for recovery in the form of the Nigerian Economic and Sustainability Plan (NESP).
Before COVID-19 shocked the world, the Nigerian government had in place, the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) which was targeted to run between 2017 and 2020. The plan was meant to provide a buffer to the already fragile economy and highly constrained fiscal space. The ERGP highlighted a number of initiatives and projects that were consistent with the effort to tackle climate change and other environmental issues in the country.
These include the Great Green Wall initiative to address land degradation and desertification, and support communities adapting to climate change; implement environmental initiatives, and continuation of the Ogoni Land cleanup while reducing gas flaring. It also sets a target to raise a Green Bond to finance environmental projects while establishing one forest plantation in each state. The ERGP also planned to rehabilitate all forest reserves and national parks to enhance eco-tourism as it establishes a functional database on drought and desertification while encouraging and promoting the development of green growth initiatives.
Although COVID-19 may have slowed down economic growth, it is still important that action on climate change and other environmental issues are not reversed as the country charts a course for economic recovery. The world has coined the term “build back better” as a means of making the point that governments around the world should use the opportunity of rebooting their economies from the impact of Covid-19 as a means to also take action on climate change and put their economies on the path to long term sustainability.
I am delighted that the government has demonstrated vision and leadership in this regard. It is heartwarming to see that many of the key projects in the Nigerian Economic and Sustainability Plan have the potential, if implemented in a good faith, to enhance green recovery in the country. These include the mass agricultural programme, road construction using indigenous materials, mass housing Programme, the 5million Home Solar Power, SME/MSMEs Support, Survival fund, Promoting domestic gas utilization and digital technology and social intervention programme. On the other hand, it should be stressed that climate change also has multi-dimensional security implications and that the failure to address these security issues will hinder our ability to build back better.
The Nigerian government is also working very hard to revise and enhance its national climate change pledge through the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC). Through an ambitious NDC, the government will continue to demonstrate leadership in determination to tackle climate change which, like the Covid-19 can be a major constraint to economic growth. Connecting the NDC with the National Economic and Sustainability Plan will help to maximize the synergies and ensure that our recovery plan also helps us to meet our Paris Climate Accord Obligations.
I am delighted that in the recently Launched “2021 Macroeconomic Outlook Report” by the Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG) – a non-profit, non-partisan private-sector-led think tank with a mandate to promote and champion the reform of the Nigerian economy into an open, globally competitive economy, it has been identified that renewable energy sector is one of the key sectors that can act as enablers for the intended recovery. Other sectors include manufacturing, construction, trade, education, health, and professional services with ICT.
The Leadership of the (Federal) House of Representatives has also shown dynamism and commitment to work with the Executive branch of the government to promote legislation and policies that will facilitate the recovery along the lines that are just, equitable and sustainable in the long run. It is very important therefore that our international development partners recognize the commitment of the government, enormous work before us, and make available substantial resources that can help developing countries to scale up their effort to put climate change at the center of green recovery. It should be remembered that while Africa is one of the vulnerable continents to climate change it has contributed the least to the problem. It is therefore in the interest of equity and global solidarity that the industrialized countries do their bit to help us respond and adapt to the impact of climate change.
Rep Sam Onuigbo, a former Chairman, House Committee on Climate Change is the Vice President (Africa) GLOBE International and also Chairman, Climate Parliament Nigeria Chapter.