As world leaders rally to discuss the effects of climate change and efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, Africa’s most populous nation is yet to commit to any concrete measures, showing little interest in embracing a greener future.
Tens of thousands of people are heading to Dubai in early December for COP28, the annual international climate summit convened by the United Nations.
With time quickly running out to prevent fossil fuel pollution from causing irreversible harm, discussions between global leaders, negotiators, climate advocates and industry representatives have shifted to how the world should adapt to more deadly heatwaves, stronger storms and catastrophic sea level rise.
“How strong will Nigeria’s delegation be at the event this year? What has the president said? What number of states will be there? What are the expectations at the federal level?” These are top concerns for Nigeria’s participation in this year’s 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28).
Waziri Adio, executive director of Agora Policy, said the inconvenient truth is that climate change still does not rank very high on Nigeria’s policy agenda and in the popular imagination.
Adio noted that climate issues are not seen as really important and urgent both in official circles and among the populace.
“Most of our people, including highly-placed government officials, see climate change as other people’s problems or an issue that is only for tree-huggers and environmentalists, or something that should bother only those who have the luxury of not wrestling with hunger and other existential matters,” Adio said in a note.
Olanrewaju Fagbohun, a professor of environmental law and consultants at RouQ and Company Legal Advisory Services, said Nigeria’s expectations will only become meaningful when it has prepared itself to amortise the benefits of opportunities that COP28 presents.
“Most times, we are ill-prepared as a country for these opportunities. Thus, when they come to the fore, we are never able to interface our priorities with decisions taken at the relevant COP meeting,” Fagbohun said in a note seen by BusinessDay.
COP28 is the UN’s latest round of global climate talks. This year it is being hosted by the UAE in Dubai and is due to be attended by 167 world leaders, including the Pope and King Charles III.
These summits are the world’s most important meetings to discuss how to tackle climate change.
The hope is COP28 will help limit the long-term global temperature rise to 1.5C, which the UN’s climate science body says is crucial to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. But that will require drastic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, it says – a 43 percent reduction by 2030 from 2019 levels.
“We do not, as a country, have in place structures and strategies that will facilitate our taking advantage of these opportunities arising from the decisions and resolutions taken at COP28, we will only have ourselves to blame,” Fagbohun said.
Experts said the COP28 will be the first time that countries will be going into the negotiation rooms with an analysis that shows how seriously off-track they are on their climate targets.
“It tells us clearly that the world is not on track to achieve our global climate goals,” Melanie Robinson, the global climate program director for the World Resources Institute, told CNN.
“But it also offers a really interesting concrete blueprint and mountain of evidence on how we can get the job done, so it should be a wakeup call of what we need to do but with a roadmap to get there.”
COP28’s biggest issues
Some of the biggest concerns that will take centre stage in Dubai are continuations from COP27 in Egypt; finalising a “loss and damage” fund and discussing how to ramp down planet-warming fossil fuels.
A major debate among the parties has been whether to “phase out” or “phase down” fossil fuels. At COP27, a number of nations, including China and Saudi Arabia, blocked a key proposal to phase out all fossil fuels — including oil and gas — and not just coal.
“The most important thing is the outcome at this COP sends a really strong signal that the world must rapidly shift away from fossil fuels,” Robinson said. “I would note that it’s important for the language to refer to all fossil fuels.”
Another focus this year will be on the so-called loss and damage fund, which countries included in last year’s agreement. The fund would help shuttle money from the richest countries, which are responsible for the vast majority of the climate crisis, to poor countries, where the impacts have hit hardest.
The goal is to get the fund up and running by 2024. With time running out, a special committee met in Abu Dhabi in early November and recommended the World Bank host the fund and serve as its trustee temporarily for four years.
The loss and damage fund is a delicate and nuanced issue, said Nate Warszawski, a research associate with WRI’s International Climate Action team. “I do think this could be one of the key issues that makes or breaks the COP,” he told CNN.