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By Udeme Akpan, Energy Editor

When Seplat Energy Plc, Nigeria’s foremost indigenous energy company, started in 2021 at the Seplat Energy Summit, where it transitioned into an energy company as a result of the global move towards decarbonisation and protecting the climate for a sustainable human living, many would have thought it was rhetoric.

But months after the announcement, the company in a bold move to assert its willingness to not only protect the environment but also provide a means to ensure food security has announced a sustainably initiative to plant five million trees in five years, out of which 75 per cent will be economic trees.

Seplat, the first Nigerian company to complete a dual listing on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) and the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NGX), announced the “Tree4Life” initiative as part of its commitment to address the effects of climate change, which is not only sabotaging the Nigerian economy but also prevents it from reaping the inherent benefits of the global energy transition agenda.

To accomplish this, the company declared that it will plant one million trees every year, with 75 per cent of them being economic trees, with the goal of planting 5 million trees in five years to combat climate change and carbon emissions. These are all part of efforts to ensure reforestation, reduce biodiversity loss, boost food security and support the global net-zero emission agenda.

Nigeria’s Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, who led other dignitaries to the hybrid event on Tuesday, at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Memorial Centre, Abuja commended Seplat Energy for its initiative. He noted that the Company has proved to be a very responsible company judging by its strategic Social Investment programmes.

Sylva said that gas will be the pathway to clean energy, which was why the government is committed to creating a lot of opportunities for local operators to leverage.

He said: “The Petroleum Industry Act, PIA, will enable a vast amount of gas projects but it behoves operators in the industry to also take advantage of the opportunity provided by the PIA to deepen the gas business in Nigeria.

“And to achieve that, we have declared the year 2021 to the year 2030 as the decade of gas and we are not just declaring it, we are creating a roadmap to achieving the decade of gas.”

He said the government is creating corridors to deepen the gas business, including the Abuja-Kaduna-Kano (AKK) pipeline corridor across Nigeria, from the Southern part to the North; the West Africa Gas Pipeline corridor to Morocco; the Trans-Saharan Pipeline and the Nigerian Gas Transportation Network Code.

He noted that President Muhammadu Buhari set a target for 2060 for net zero-emission, and he is happy that Seplat is leading the drive to achieve the target.

“This event for us is a promise kept,” according to ABC Orjiako, Pioneer chairman, Seplat Energy Plc. He said the aim is to drive the country’s energy transition towards cleaner, more reliable energy that is accessible.

‘’Tree planting is to encourage reforestation. We are a company that thrives on sustainability through environmental, social and governance (ESG). For us in SEPLAT, we do believe that we must align with the Paris agreement of net-zero carbon. Net-zero carbon is not net zero fossil fuel,” Orjiako added.

Similarly, speaking at the event, the Minister of State, Environment, Sharon Ikeazor, who was represented by Victoria Pwol Gyang, Deputy Director and Head Green House Gas Inventory Division of the Federal Ministry of Environment, said Seplat Energy’s tree planting drive aligns with the global environmental protection agenda, along with the protection of the Nigerian environment and ensuring sustainable growth and development.

She stated that climate change remains the biggest challenge faced by the world, adding that, collaborations and partnerships are needed to aid the reduction of carbon emissions, guarantee environmental protection, and eventually end deforestation.

“After COP26, Buhari signed a bill on the Climate Change Act in October 2021 aimed at formulating programmes around climate change. The law has a legal framework to ensure climate resilience, adoption of climate action into governance priorities”, she added.

According to the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Board Chairman, Margery Chuba-Okadigbo, coming at a time the oil and gas industry is facing unprecedented challenges, the Seplat Tree4Life initiative should be lauded.

The Chairman, who urged everyone to get involved, said: “The good news is that concerted efforts are being made on climate action and asking what we can do to mitigate climate change.”

The Group Managing Director/CEO, NNPC, Mele Kyari, who joined virtually, also said the Tree4Life is a good initiative from Seplat to protect the environment and the people.

He said: ‘’our people still use firewood to cook which is bad for their health and the environment. It’s necessary at this point in time, what Seplat Energy is doing and he is happy to be a part of the journey, as he is in support and will continue to support.”

In his remarks, the Chairman of Seplat Energy, Dr. ABC Orjiako called for concerted efforts by stakeholders in the energy sector to develop key strategies and investments aimed at reducing the carbon footprint by embracing cleaner and healthier energy. He explained that reforestation would reduce the carbon dioxide in the air, prevent erosion and contribute to food security.

Orjiako recalled that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued its First Assessment Report in 1990, which had three significant conclusions, which are: global temperatures have risen by 0.3-0.6 degrees Celsius over the last century; that human emissions were adding to the atmosphere’s natural complement of greenhouse gases; and that any addition to this would be anticipated to result in warming.

He emphasized that the IPCC’s predictions from more than 30 years ago have not only been followed but are now direr in 2022.

The Seplat Energy Chairman stated that the February 2022 report revealed that climate change consequences were already pervasive and more difficult to adjust to than anticipated, emphasizing the importance of climate action.

He stated that the world is in an energy crisis, adding that: “There is a worldwide energy problem. Everyone is in a crisis, and the form and manner in which it is resolved vary. More than 60 percent of Nigeria’s population lives in absolute darkness.

“Gas is a more environmentally friendly source of energy. Homes consume more than 80 percent of the energy required. We should not deforest; doing so worsens environmental damage. CO2 emissions will also rise. Instead, we are encouraging reforestation. We’re assisting with LPG penetration so that people don’t have to rely on trees to cook.”

Orjiako, who noted that trees must be planted everywhere to stem the tide of deforestation, said: “With the supply of electricity in our environment, there is full deforestation. The more deforestation there is, the more we not only encourage climate change infestation, but also generate more carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases into the environment.

“We want to emphasize that the purpose of the tree planting activity is to prevent deforestation and promote reforestation. You must plant trees everywhere you go. We took the intentional choice at Seplat that ESG (environmental, social, and governance) is an important component of conducting business that will be beneficial to our communities.’’

Nigeria has since committed to net-zero carbon emission by 2060 and climate change actions by 2030, though Seplat has chosen 2024 to end its CO2 emission.

According to Mr. Roger Brown, the Chief Executive Officer of Seplat Energy, Nigeria has demonstrated a commitment to reducing carbon emissions.

Brown stated that the tree-planting effort, which includes 75 percent economic trees, will primarily begin in five states: Edo, Delta, Imo, and two Northern states.

“We will purposefully involve women, youth, and communities for sustainable food production and a sustainable environment through community tree planting and mentality transformation. We have adopted a two-pronged strategy to campaign for Tree Planting and Protection to raise awareness of the necessity of tree planting and peoples’ responsibilities to guarantee its success. Another way is to plant trees – undertake afforestation/restoration programs with a commitment to plant one million trees each year, mostly from economic trees”, he affirmed.

According to a Mckinsey research issued in January 2020, the oil and gas industry is responsible for 42 percent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, either directly or indirectly.

The research goes on to say that if the world is to fulfill its climate-change targets, the industry must play a significant role, as its practices account for 9 percent of man-made greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, it generates the fuels that account for another 33 percent of world emissions.

Brown stated that given the foregoing, Seplat Energy has started various decarbonisation projects to significantly reduce its carbon footprint as an energy firm.

He noted that they are strongly committed to sustainable business practices and are steadfast in their determination to contribute to climate change mitigation by steadily dedicating greater resources to creating strategic solutions to the climate change problem.

He stated that the initiative intends to restore and reforest, address biodiversity loss, and naturally boost carbon capture, in line with SDG 13 on Climate Action, which aspires to reduce greenhouse gasses and combat climate change.

Furthermore, it will improve food security and reduce poverty by empowering communities to grow economic trees that will give food and combat hunger without harming the environment (SDG 2 – Zero Hunger).

For Dr. Chioma Nwachuku, Director, External Affairs and Sustainability, Seplat Energy, the Tree4Life initiative is a means to further grow the Company’s sustainability footprints across the country and also empower more women and youths.

She stated that it is a testament to Seplat Energy’s belief in not only protecting the environment but also empowering people to mitigate the impacts of poverty in the society.

However, Obi Nnanna, the CEO of Kaitani, a plastic recycling and waste management solutions provider and the maiden winner of the Seplat Environmental challenge at the 2021 Seplat Energy Summit, stated that it is exciting to see an energy company looking beyond the status quo of shareholder profits and proactively engaging in solutions that create a cleaner world.

He said in today’s world, ‘’We – people, nations, governments, corporations can no longer afford to think in terms of profit alone. We cannot ignore the impact of climate change, environmental degradation and unemployment.

‘’This is why the 3-dimensional nature of sustainability – economics, social and environmental factors are so important and any solutions for today and tomorrow must follow this holistic approach.”

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