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COP28: Where Tinubu Stood on Energy Transition in Africa

By Yange Ikyaa

In the first week of December, world leaders including President Bola Ahmed Tinubu of Nigeria, gathered at the Climate Summit in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to deliberate on the simmering climate crisis on all continents of the world. 

For the people of Nigeria, this Summit was of enormous importance, considering the fact that the negative impacts of climate change in Africa affect more Nigerians than citizens of any other nation on the continent, since Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa. Also, since Nigeria commands the largest market in Africa and remains the largest economy on the continent, business-related losses are again recorded more in the West African nation than in any other country in Africa.

Flooding remains one of the most common ways through which climate change extends its damaging nature to mankind, as climatic data continues to correlate flood severity with global warming and climate change. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), in the year 2022 alone, severe floods tragically took the lives of hundreds of people and also resulted in substantial economic damage estimated at about $9 billion. This figure was posted after an extensive evaluation by NBS, in conjunction with the World Bank, and was said to range between $3.79 billion and $9.12 billion.

NBS further explained that 50.9% of the affected households experienced flooding between September and October 2022, while 42.7% of households were impacted by flooding from July to August of the year under review. The Bureau also said most of the households, about 41.1% of them, experienced floods for about one to 11 days, while 39.9% of the households experienced floods for up to 32 days or more.

These damaging impacts of flood were significantly higher in rural areas, with 74%, as compared to about 40% in urban areas, while the overall impact varied across states. Almost all or 99% of the households sampled in Bayelsa State were affected by flood in one way or the other, followed by Jigawa (94%), Nasarawa (70%), Kogi (70%), Delta (57%) and Anambra (23%), just to mention a few.

In total, the NBS said that flood affected 33 of the Nigeria’s 36 states, hitting “64% of households and causing an unprecedented disruption and destruction.”

However, with the understanding that Africa contributes the least to global carbon emissions but bears a disproportionate share of economic burden, President Tinubu has maintained that risk management is vital for Africa’s full and swift transition to cleaner energy. He also emphasized that Africa must not become a victim of the disruptions that come with climate change mitigation measures.

The Nigerian leader took this position while speaking during a panel discussion on African Green Industrialization, which was hosted by the COP28, Presidency and the President of the United Arab Emirates, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Tinubu argued that Nigeria and Africa urgently require investments in alternative energy to be able to fully and effectively attain transition and there is an urgent need to heal the bleeding earth, but he also insisted that there is an urgent need for new investments in critical sectors to leverage Africa’s massive potential contribution to the global green economy while enabling the continent to effectively adapt and transition.

His words: “Global manufacturers must partner with us to invest in the health of our collective environment. Africa doubles as an unrivaled opportunity in this respect. We are removing all obstacles that are inhibiting progress as Africa’s largest economy. The investment environment is becoming cleaner and better.

“But how will Africa not be a victim of all these changes? How do we get value for our resources? We all agree that the earth is crying for healing, but how do we tell a grandmother to stop using firewood to prepare food? It is for investment in solar energy, alternative energy. “Here, you must encourage investment, and equally consider: how would this investment affect us? Yes, we have the market and sufficient housing that you can electrify with solar panels. There is Iron Ore; there is investment there, too. Risk management is very key for Africa. The opportunities must be translated soonest. We are moving forward with urgency, and we will maximize the value given in return for those resources.”

This call by the President of Nigeria for climate-sensitive investments in Africa comes with a semblance of duty for countries that have massively benefited from economic growth and industrialization on the back of dirty-fuel utilization, notably fossil fuels.

However, in a show of sensitivity and claim of responsibility for global ecosystem conservation, the UAE government has announced the sum of $30 billion in investment funds to combat the climate crisis in developing nations, and this may likely become helpful in driving the transition to Nigeria’s green future, which President Tinubu is currently trying to make a reality.

Nigeria is said to have already secured the agreement of the UAE to set up humanitarian response stations across the country in a bid to bring timely succour to victims of disasters. The Minister of Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, Dr. Betta Edu, after interacting with officials of the Emirate government during the recently concluded UN Climate Change Conference, confirmed the new deal.

The Minister affirmed that the UAE Red Crescent assured of its readiness to help build a more resilient humanitarian response system across Nigeria. Edu narrated that “we have held a lot of interactions at different levels, of course, with the government of the UAE, that’s interacting with the Minister for Tolerance in the country who happens to be a brother to the president. We spoke extensively on how we can work together to pull millions of managers out of poverty.

“We have had interactions with the World Trade Organization DG, who is one of our own. We have had interactions with the President of the Islamic Development Bank and it’s centred on humanitarian response, and other poverty alleviation programmes that they can come in to support the country.

“And then finally, we had interaction with the Red Crescent, which is like the Red Cross here in Dubai and they are ready to come into Nigeria and support us to build a more resilient humanitarian response system across the country.”

Yet, recently, President Tinubu launched an initiative to deploy a fleet of 100 electric buses in the country as part of his administration’s effort towards a greener and eco-friendly economy in the transportation sector, which forms one of the biggest contributors to carbon pollution on the planet. According to him, the strategic initiative aims to reduce Nigeria’s carbon footprint and revamp its transportation systems, and the broader objective is to position Nigeria and Africa at the forefront of green manufacturing and industrialization, with emphasis on natural gas as a transition fuel and the integration of other renewable energy sources.

In furtherance of his green for Nigeria, President Tinubu appointed Mr. Zacch Adedeji, the Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), and Mr Dahiru Salisu, the Director-General of the National Council on Climate Change (NCCC), to jointly run the Nigeria Carbon Market Activation Plan.

Also at COP28, he reiterated his commitment to end gas flaring in the country as well as promote a greener economic environment, adding that his administration is implementing policies and frameworks that will catalyze growth.

In his words, “this initiative stands as a testament to our dedication to environmental stewardship as was exemplified through our collaboration with the Africa Carbon Market Initiative. Our visionary plan is a strategic guidepost, directing Nigeria towards becoming an investment-friendly destination for carbon market investments.

“We recognize the imperative of fostering an environment that not only attracts investment but also upholds standardized and sustainable industrial practices. As a manifestation of our forward-thinking approach, we are actively looking to implement robust, enabling policies and frameworks that will catalyze the burgeoning growth of the carbon market within our national borders.”

“In further driving my commitment, I have recently approved an Inter-Governmental Committee on Carbon Markets to be chaired by the Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service and the Director-General of the National Council on Climate Change to drive this visionary plan.” 

In this pursuit, Tinubu acknowledged the pressing need for comprehensive global collaboration, and reiterated Nigeria’s commitment to being an active participant in international efforts at tackling climate change by strategically embracing workable energy transition goals.

“Nigeria’s plans for a greener and cleaner economy can serve as an inspirational narrative for nations worldwide. Our comprehensive approach, rooted in visionary leadership and pragmatic action supported by our technical partners, is poised to become a blueprint for countries aspiring to also develop and catalyze their markets for sustainable growth,” he concluded.

Apart from the UAE, Nigeria, alongside other developing nations, is also to benefit from a $3 billion pledge by the United States of America to issue climate investment funds. The US Vice President, Kamala Harris, said her country is committing $3 billion which will go into mitigating gas emissions and climate change. Harris announced that international climate finance committed by the US reached $5.8 billion last year, and US remains one of the biggest financers of climate-sensitive and green projects in the world. The country’s climate finance is set to eclipse $9.5 billion, according to the Vice President, putting the US on a path to potentially fulfilling President Biden’s ambition to provide more than $11 billion for climate change mitigation in 2024.

According to Harris, the green initiative is pivotal to ending fossil fuel dependency around the world, calling on world leaders to embrace a greener economic environment.

“This is a pivotal moment – our action collectively, or worse our inaction, will impact billions of people for decades to come. Around the world, there are those who seek to slow or stop our progress. Leaders who deny climate science, delay climate action and spread misinformation,” she said.

It has been estimated by climate finance experts that, to mitigate the effect of climate change in developing countries, the rich world was supposed to provide $100 billion a year in climate finance for emerging economies starting in 2020, a milestone it appears to have reached two years later.

Nigeria says it has been strategically positioned to gain from such climate fund initiatives, with the country’s President stating that “we are committed to critical steps to reduce methane emissions by ensuring gas flaring is eliminated. There is a huge penalty for that. There is equally a huge incentive to do so.

“We are consolidating on gas export, usage domestically, and export to other countries. I can assure you that we will be partners in progress to achieve renewable energy. We are committed to the energy mix; we are providing cooking gas for our large population. We will continue to do that.”

“We have signed off on the reduction of methane. We will leverage new technology and we hope that the two giant nations and the Emirates will be able to help us.”