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Nigeria, Far from Net-zero Commitment ― Analysts

By Abubakar Ismail

Despite making strides to achieve its net-zero commitment, Nigeria is still facing significant challenges in the direction of implementing measures geared towards realising its 2060 climate goal. Experts emphasize the need for a more robust action to effectively mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

According to environmental analysts, Nigeria’s net-zero commitment, while commendable, lacks the necessary forcefulness to drive meaningful change in the country’s carbon footprint. Despite acknowledging the urgency of reducing emissions, stakeholders stressed the importance of translating words into tangible policies and actions.

Amina Abdullahi, a climate policy expert, emphasizes the importance of robust policy frameworks to support Nigeria’s net-zero aspirations. She states, “While Nigeria’s commitment to net-zero emissions is a step in the right direction, we need concrete policies and strategies to achieve this goal effectively.”

Nigeria, as Africa’s largest oil producer and most populous nation, plays a crucial role in the global fight against climate change. However, the country faces numerous challenges, including inadequate infrastructure, limited access to clean energy, and socio-economic constraints, hindering its transition to a low-carbon economy.

In addition to climate challenges, Nigeria grapples with environmental issues such as oil spills and gas flaring. Data from the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) reveals the persistent problem of oil spills, with devastating effects on local ecosystems and communities.

Since the commitment by former President Muhammadu Buhari in Glasgow, Scotland, three years ago, Nigeria has recorded more oil spill cases to date. Recent data reveals that 633 and 956 cases were publicly recorded in 2022 and 2023 respectively, amounting to a cumulative 65,410.79 barrels of crude spilled in the two years.

Impact

Oil spills contaminate water bodies, soil, and vegetation, harming ecosystems and wildlife. They can also pose health risks to local communities through contaminated water and air.

Spills disrupt fishing, farming, and other livelihoods, leading to economic losses for affected communities. Additionally, the cost of cleanup and remediation can be significant.

Causes

Pipeline vandalism: This remains a major contributor to oil spills in Nigeria, often linked to oil theft and illegal refineries.

Equipment failure: Corrosion, aging infrastructure, and accidents can also lead to spills.

Operational issues: Leaks and negligence during oil exploration and production activities can contribute to spills.

Responses

Government: NOSDRA is responsible for monitoring and responding to oil spills. However, enforcement and holding companies accountable remain challenges.

Clean-up efforts: Oil companies are obligated to clean up spills, but the effectiveness and timeliness of these efforts are often criticized by communities.

In addition to spills, gas flaring, a common practice in Nigeria’s oil industry, contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. It has remained a significant problem in Nigeria throughout 2022 and 2023, despite ongoing efforts to curb the practice.

Extent of Flaring

Data from NOSDRA indicates that oil and gas companies flared 147.1 billion SCF of gas between January and August, valued at $514.9 million (N390 billion) and during the same period (January-August) of last year, 171.1 billion SCF of gas was flared, valued at $599 million (N453 billion). This represents a 16.28% increase compared to 2022.

Financial Losses

NOSDRA estimates that the combined gas flaring between January and August 2022 and 2023 resulted in an estimated N847 billion loss for the Nigerian government.

Environmental Impact

The flared gas in both years could have potentially generated over 31,800 gigawatt hours of electricity, contributing to the national grid’s deficit.

Flaring also releases significant carbon dioxide emissions, impacting air quality and contributing to climate change.

Efforts to Address Flaring

Regulations: The Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) introduced new regulations in 2023 aimed at preventing waste and pollution from gas flaring, venting and methane emissions. These regulations also apply to 2022.

Nigerian Gas Flare Commercialization Platform (NGFCP): NUPRC launched this initiative in 2023 to bring stakeholders together and facilitate the utilization of flared gas for economic benefit.

Challenges

Despite these efforts, achieving complete elimination of gas flaring remains a challenge due to various factors, including infrastructure limitations for gas utilization, technical and economic complexities and enforcement challenges

In response to criticism regarding the perceived lack of aggressiveness in Nigeria’s net-zero commitment, government officials have highlighted ongoing efforts to address environmental concerns. Ibrahim Ahmed, Minister of Environment, reaffirms Nigeria’s dedication to climate action, stating, “We are committed to implementing initiatives that promote sustainability and reduce emissions across all sectors.”

Despite these assurances, environmental advocates emphasize the need for enhanced transparency and accountability in Nigeria’s climate policies. They call for concrete targets, accompanied by measurable indicators, to track progress towards achieving net-zero emissions.

Figures from Nigeria’s National Greenhouse Gas Inventory highlight the scale of the challenge, with the country’s emissions increasing steadily in recent years. According to the latest data, Nigeria emitted approximately 417 million metric tons of CO2 equivalents in 2020, primarily driven by the energy and transportation sectors.

To address this growing concern, experts advocate for a multi-faceted approach that includes investing in renewable energy, enhancing energy efficiency, and promoting sustainable land use practices. They stress the importance of collaboration between government, civil society, and the private sector to drive innovation and accelerate the transition to a greener economy.

Nigeria’s net-zero commitment represents a positive step towards combating climate change, but concerted efforts are needed to translate this ambition into tangible results. With the right policies, investments, and collective action, Nigeria can play a leading role in advancing climate resilience and sustainability on the African continent and beyond.

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