by Charlie Bevis
On 2nd July 2021, Nigeria announced an updated Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC). The importance of this submission is hard to overstate; as Africa’s largest economy and second largest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitter, Nigeria’s climate policy will not only influence neighbouring countries but might determine the success of global targets under the Paris Agreement .
Progress towards Nigeria’s First NDC Pledges
Nigeria’s initial NDC includes two key GHG emission reduction targets . The first sets an unconditional decrease of 20% against 2030 business-as-usual (BAU) projections, which predict the emissions released that year using the expected growth rate and technological changes without measures to curb emissions [2, 3]. The second was a conditional reduction of 45% using the same metric, dependent upon international financial and technological support .
These pledges were commendable not only for their scale but also because of the country’s rich natural reserves. Nigeria controls 15% and 16% of Africa’s oil and gas reserves, respectively, and receives 86% of its revenue from petroleum profits . Few countries in a similar position have shown as much ambition for such drastic energy policy redirection [4, 5, 6]. It will be interesting to see how this contradiction between Nigeria’s economic reliance on oil and gas exports, and its lofty aspirations for GHG emission reductions, continues to unfold.
Yet, it is unclear whether effective action is being taken. Despite Nigeria’s emissions currently falling below projected 2021 levels, inaccurate monitoring meant that all previous predictions were overstated .
Furthermore, other central promises in Nigeria’s first NDC have also not come to fruition. One pledge, to install 13,000 MW of solar power, has so far seen ‘little progress’ [2, 8]. Meanwhile, oil production remains consistently high at 2 million barrels per day as of 2019, more than 2% of global production [9, 10].
Nigeria’s Second NDC and Associated Ambitions
Nonetheless, Nigeria maintains an optimistic and ambitious outlook in their updated NDC.
The process to draft the update has itself been an example of collaboration and inclusion . The Nigerian government created a broad coalition of public and private specialist bodies, such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Islamic Development Bank, and the International Centre for Energy to advise on each element of the proposals . The Department of Climate Change then held bi-weekly conference calls to keep all stakeholders updated with the NDC’s progress .
There were also nation-wide consultation processes that focused on climate problems faced by women and youth . The impact of this is visible in the final statement’s recognition that women are ‘disproportionately affected by climate change’ . The NDC also designates policies to alleviate issues faced by Nigerian women, including the introduction of clean cooking options .
As for the substantive policies, Nigeria’s GHG emission reduction targets are virtually the same; the only difference being that the conditional target has been increased by 2% . However, the major change is that the BAU projections for 2030 have been revised from 898 MtCO2e to 435 MtCO2e . This means that the same targets as before will now go much further, peaking Nigeria’s emissions by 2030 and aligning with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5 degree target .
The new NDC is more expansive in other areas too; there are now reduction targets for four different GHG and eleven pollutants . This is beneficial as studies in other countries have shown that a traditional focus on CO2 has meant overlooking harmful industry emissions . The new NDC also introduces a 10% methane emissions reduction target for the waste sector and proposes further nature-based initiatives, such as agroforestry and forest restoration .
Regarding power generation, the new NDC commits to sourcing 30% of electricity from renewables and installing 13 GW of off-grid renewable power (a stand alone power system, often in remote locations, that is not connected to a national grid) . Unfortunately, neither of these goals have a set deadline . Other emissions reductions are planned to come from a 2.5% reduction in energy intensity across all sectors and the elimination of gas flaring by 2030 .
However, there is still no deadline for net-zero . This is concerning; the size of Nigeria’s economy means that even if emissions peak by 2030, they will need to fall rapidly soon after. A net-zero target would underscore this urgency.
(Read the updated NDC in full here.)
Whilst Nigeria’s ambition is commendable, the challenge is now to convert these pledges into action.
Firstly, the emissions targets alone will require USD 177 billion in green finance . Nigeria has struggled to mobilise such large scale investment owing to systemic problems – long-term debt, corruption, and terror threats – which deter potential partners [13, 14, 15]. The precariousness of climate funding in Nigeria is increased owing to the country’s heavy reliance on oil revenue, outlined above . If similarly profitable industries cannot be established, it is unclear how Nigeria will afford a transition to clean energy generation.
Nonetheless, the new NDC acknowledges this problem; it outlines the sectors where a capital injection will have the greatest multiplier effect – biofuel and renewables – and confirms a partnership with the UNDP to improve finance channels . Additionally, the country’s Covid-19 recovery plan establishes funds for solar instalments and saves USD 2 billion in axed fossil fuel subsidies, which should both help to alleviate this problem .
Another factor, however, is that Nigeria’s energy demands are set to soar. Currently, one third of the population do not have access to electricity but this will change over the next decade . This will create a demand for energy that the renewables sector might not be able to match. Already, President Buhari has suggested investing in natural gas but this will lock fossil fuels into the electricity grid for decades to come . Furthermore, so long as Nigeria continues to depend on fossil fuel exports, it will be impossible for the country to transition to a truly ‘green’ economy.
Ultimately, Nigeria’s NDCs tell a story of a country that is hungry for bold climate policies but lacks the finance and resources to bring them to fruition. As its population and economy grows, governments and international organisations will need to offer Nigeria greater assistance for the sake of its own targets and the Paris Agreement.
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