Climate change: Takeaways from COP27

The world is facing a ‘Trilemma’ – which are several unprecedented events shaping the society with varying degree of implications on the macro-economic environment, the global supply chain and general way of life as we know it. This can be summarized as the three (3) C’s namely – Covid, Conflict and Climate Change.

We all witnessed the pandemic and while the worst seems over, we acknowledge that our lives may not fully recover from the harrowing impact of Covid-19. We are also living through increased geo-political conflicts as we see in the Euro zone with the Russia-Ukraine war; also, civil conflicts with the anti-government protests in Iran making the headlines, and not forgetting our local conflicts between farmers and herdsmen amongst others in Nigeria. Yet, none of these events compare to what we are experiencing with Climate Crisis; also bearing in mind that some of these conflicts have come to be due to climate change. Take for example:

– Hot temperature in the Northern part of Nigeria is decreasing grazing grounds, compelling the migration of herdsmen to the south in constant search for water holes and grasslands for their cattle. The migration is leading to a scramble and heated competition for scarce fertile land among herders and farmers resulting into escalated conflicts that has culminated in the death of several thousands of farmers.

– In 1960, Lake Chad spanned 45,000km2 serving more than 30 million people across four countries (Nigeria, Chad, Niger and Cameroon). By 2007, it had shrunk to 3,000km2 and 1,540km2 by 2020. The shrinking of the lake contributes to regional instability whereby some of the region’s people have taken to criminal activities enabling Boko Haram capitalise on the loss of livelihoods and economic woes to recruit people into its ranks.

Climate Change threatens all life on earth and does not discriminate against race, gender or geography. If the science were to be believed, life on earth will cease to exist as global warming reaches the 2o Celsius. It has already been estimated that Global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate. It’s no wonder, the U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaking at the #COP27 climate change summit in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt said “We are on a highway to climate hell with our foot still on the accelerator”.

But let us be clear about how we got here. The wealthiest 10% of the global population are responsible for approximately 51% of greenhouse gas emissions. The poorest half of the global population are responsible for 10% of emissions but are the most threatened by extreme weather events and other impacts of climate change. To put it differently, Africa contribute less than 5% to global greenhouse gas emissions, however, 7 of the 10 countries that are most vulnerable to climate change are in Africa.

Below is just a highlight on the destructive impact of Climate Change on human and material assets within Nigeria:

So, what can we do? It is not all doom and gloom as there are a couple of things that can be done. I will focus on just three initiatives for brevity.

1. Climate finance

– There are mainly two responses to climate change, either we Adapt, or we Mitigate but in practical terms we need to do both. Adaptation requires building resilience to the effects of climate change i.e. building sea water walls to stop flooding, nature-based or ‘green’ adaptation solutions that use vegetation to reduce heat and drought, ensuring food security by climate smart agricultural practices and even deploying robust health care systems and infrastructure etc. Mitigation on the other hand, seeks to reduce the release of greenhouse gas emissions and may include projects that improve the adoption of cleaner sources of energy, use of land and reforestation, efficiency of buildings and appliances, introduction of more efficient and sustainable transportation etc.

– It is impossible for any country or society to build resilience against climate change without Finance. It is only fair game for the developed countries to pay up their share for their contribution to climate change. This was the basis upon which the Green Climate Fund was setup. To help least developed, developing countries and small island developing states access the necessary funding at country level for climate change adaptation, mitigation or both.

2. Climate innovation

– Africa and other developing nations didn’t contribute the least to climate change by choice. It is only as a result of the lack of industrialization unlike what we see happen in the West and parts of Asia. Now, if Africa must develop and compete with the West, it has to do so in a different way. There isn’t the luxury of burning fossil fuels to the same extent as our western counterparts did.

To put in context: 2o Celsius is the maximum warming the earth can support life and to reach that level we need to burn an equivalent of 565 giga-tonnes of carbon. The bad news is that we have 5x that in proven reserves, but we cannot afford to burn this carbon leading to all our death. Hence, there needs to be significant innovation in building industries and climate infrastructures to strengthen Africa’s development as well as resilience against climate change.

– There are a lot of innovation we see in the use and deployment of carbon free energy solutions such as renewables, biomass, hydrogen-based solutions etc. An interesting new carbon free solution I stumbled across at #COP27 is the Nuclear Power Plant. Here is a fun fact: “Did you know that a nutritious banana exposes you to a higher radiation dose, than living one year next to a nuclear power plant?”

N/B: There is a difference between Military Nuclear and Civil Nuclear and the materials for both are different.

– These innovations require substantive financial investments which unfortunately developing countries do not have in abundance.

Read also: COP27: The Africa proposal (4)

3. Climate education

– One of my mentors told me many years ago that “Discovery leads to Recovery”. This is no truer today because knowledge is the thrust for discovery. If behaviors and patterns are to change, people need to know about climate change and how their own activities at the micro level contribute to climate change.

Climate education needs to be taught in schools, educators and policy makers need to revamp the educational system in Africa to bring climate education as an important part of the curriculum. Kids needs to know what skills and profession can be taken up relevant to climate responses in the future. They need to be voices and advocates for change; holding leaders accountable in ensuring responsible choices are made, actions are taken to preserve their future on planet Earth. We need more spotlight on climate education.

Poverty – Biggest threat to climate change in Africa

NBS has estimated that more than 60% of Nigerians live in poverty (below N376 a day). I’m pretty certain similar estimates will apply across Africa. The problem with poverty is that nothing else matters aside trying to earn ends meet. While we talk about ‘end of the world’, people will only be worried about ‘end of the month’. This is a formidable threat to changing the attitude of Africans towards climate change. We need good leaders in Africa, leaders who are committed to raising the average economic level of its citizens.

Nigeria is once again presented with a unique opportunity to vote a leader who will make Nigeria work for all and not for a few, one who will put the Nation’s interest above personal ambitions and aggrandizement. If Africa can get its leadership right, then we have a shot at emerging not just as a prosperous continent but also a front leader in Climate Change efforts.