• Tuesday, June 25, 2024
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Nature-based solutions to climate change: Nigeria’s vision and approach

Earlier this week, on Wednesday, June 5th, the world celebrated World Environment Day, an annual event that emphasises the significance of protecting our environment, which serves as the foundation for life and economic progress. It was fitting that this year’s topic was “land restoration, desertification, and drought resilience.”

According to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, up to 40% of the world’s land is degraded, directly harming half of the global population, the majority of whom live in developing nations.

Land degradation, drought, and desertification have long been major issues in Nigeria, which has experienced continuous deforestation over the previous decade, with Global Forest Watch statistics revealing that Nigeria lost 86,700 hectares of tropical forest between 2010 and 2019. As alarming as this may sound, a study has shown that if no quick action is taken, a further 25 percent of our surviving forest will vanish by 2060, transforming a large portion of our country into degraded and desolate ground. We can’t let this happen.

Read also: WHO warns climate change could worsen malaria menace

Meanwhile, both Nigeria’s Long-Term Low Emission Development Strategy and the Deep Decarbonisation Report, which examine various pathways for Nigeria to achieve its net-zero-by-2060 goal, found that Nigeria’s AFOLU sector contributed the most sectoral emissions (30 percent), compared to the oil and gas sector (29 percent).

In light of this, Nigeria is prioritising nature-based solutions (NbS) as a critical tool to help address global warming, increase resilience to climate impacts, combat poverty, and achieve long-term development for the country. This is in alignment with the Renewed Hope Agenda of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s GCFR and the eight presidential priority areas.

While it is understandable that Nigeria has set its sights on transforming the energy sector, it is also true that only through a renewable energy scenario that also transforms the AFOLU sector will Nigeria be able to meet its commitment to net zero by 2060, allowing Nigeria’s economy to grow while also meeting its sustainability goals.

While Nigeria has been a key player in leveraging NbS to address climate change, this government is committed to going further and faster with nature-based solutions such as ecosystem restoration and sustainable management to address social and environmental issues such as land degradation and climate change.

We are leveraging the REDD+ programme, the Great Green Wall Initiative, the ACReSAL project, natural capital accounting, and the HYPREP mangrove restoration in Ogoni Land, among other initiatives.

Nigeria began its REDD+ journey in 2009, with Cross River State serving as the pilot state. The programme will eventually spread to Edo, Ondo, Ogun, Nasarawa, Kaduna, and Plateau states.

To guarantee a holistic and effective approach, Nigeria implemented its REDD+ initiatives using a two-track methodology that included both federal and state-level actions that reflected the country’s unique federal system.

Nigeria’s REDD+ programme has completed its readiness phase and has moved forward with the development of Forest Reference Emission Levels, Safeguards Information System, Multiple Benefits, and MRV systems, as well as preliminary drafts of benefit sharing systems and the Feedback and Grievances Redress Mechanism (FGRM).

In 2021, Nigeria released the REDD+ Strategy paper, which considered the drivers of forest degradation and deforestation, mitigation methods, and how to quantify progress in order to use forests as carbon sinks to reduce emissions by 20% by 2050. The REDD+ Strategy would be implemented in stages over a thirty-year period, from 2021 to 2050, with short-, medium-, and long-term objectives.

Nigeria is leading the Great Green Wall of the Sahara and Sahel, a pan-African programme launched by the African Union in 2005 with the goal of restoring 100,000 hectares of land, sequestering 250 tonnes of CO2, and creating 10,000,000 jobs in Africa’s Great Green Wall corridor by addressing land degradation, desertification, biodiversity loss, and building climate resilience.

Nigeria has domesticated the programme and established the National Agency for the Great Green Wall (NAGGW) to coordinate the initiative across the eleven Great Green Wall states of Sokoto, Kebbi, Kastina, Zamfara, Kano, Jigawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Yobe, Borno, and Adamawa.

Read also: Tinubu pursues global climate change funds with new presidential committee

Over the years, the Great Green Wall project in Nigeria has established 1,500-kilometre-long shelterbelts and woodlots, promoted the planting of indigenous tree species, established plant nurseries, led tree-planting projects with millions of trees already planted, and provided alternative livelihood sources for communities to ensure that they do not overly rely on the land while restoration is underway.

In 2022, as part of attempts to continue to rely on nature-based solutions to address climate change and sustainable development, Nigeria, in collaboration with the World Bank, launched the Agro-Climatic Resilience in Semi-Arid Landscapes (ACReSAL) programme for all nineteen states of Northern Nigeria.

The ACReSAL project is a multi-sectoral programme aimed at addressing climate change and land degradation in Northern Nigeria in a multidimensional manner. It focuses on strategic watershed planning, landscape investments, special ecosystems, community investments, contingent emergency response, and so on. At the moment, efforts are being made at the state and federal levels to accomplish the project’s aims.

I am delighted that Nigeria is one of the 12 countries that will benefit from The Global Environment Facility’s (GEF-8) Net-Zero Nature-Positive Accelerator Integrated Programme (NZNPA IP), which is designed to help countries raise their ambitions and achieve national net-zero targets while promoting nature-positive outcomes, thereby creating the capacity and conditions for long-term, nature-positive, and inclusive systemic economic transformation.

Our government is also dedicated to driving efforts to incorporate natural capital accounting into its development plans as a means of emphasising the economic and social benefits of repairing and sustainably managing our ecosystem. What instantly stands out from the foregoing is Nigeria’s willingness to rely on nature-based solutions to conserve its biodiversity, protect its people’s livelihoods, address the problem of poverty and a lack of livelihood sources, and combat climate change.

Given that climatic consequences are not restricted by borders and that actions to reduce them in one climate can influence others, rich countries must view expenditures in NbS as an investment in the global fight to combat climate change. As a result, it is critical that significant climate financing be committed to supporting NbS not only in Nigeria but also around the world.

These should not be viewed as charitable donations but rather as investments, which can take the form of carbon trading. Such investments will provide the required funding for developing countries’ climate action in a quid pro quo framework. This is one of the reasons Nigeria will present at COP29 in Azerbaijan.

As Nigeria prepares to submit revised NDCs in 2025, it will guarantee that NbS remains a vital part of them. It not only contributes to climate change mitigation, but it also addresses citizens’ livelihood requirements, particularly those of rural inhabitants, food insecurity, and attracts much-needed climate finance.

Dr Iziaq Salako is the Honourable Minister of State for the Environment, Federal Republic of Nigeria