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That Nigeria will join the world’s climate change campaign train

In a few days, precisely on 31 October, 2021 Nigeria will join no fewer than 195 other signatories to the 1994 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at the Opening of the 26th edition of the Conference of the Parties (COP 26) slated for Glasgow, United Kingdom. This summit, unarguably the most high-powered global gathering on climate change, is expected to run till 12 November, 2021.

To underscore the import of this gathering, the COP Bureau, the organizers of the event, shifted this conference from its initial date of 9 – 19 November 2020 to this year due to the corona virus (COVID-19) pandemic to “ensure all parties can focus on the issues to be discussed at this vital conference and allow more time for the necessary preparations to take place.”

Top on the agenda at this summit is the presentation and discussion around the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) – national plans setting out how participating countries intend to reduce their emissions in line with the 2015 COP’s commitment to limit global warming to well below two degrees and aim for 1.5 degrees. This epochal commitment is known as The Paris Agreement.

It was also agreed at that 2015 summit that countries bring forward the NDCs with ambitious 2030 emissions reductions targets which must align with reaching net zero emission by the middle of the century. These NDCs must be updated every five years. It is in line with these commitments, that parties to the treaty, including Nigeria, are expected to present their NDCs, which was due last year, at this year’s conference for the first time.

Chief among the recommendations on how to deliver on these targets are an accelerated phasing-out of coal, encouragement of investment in renewables, curtailing of deforestation and speeding up the switch to electric vehicles.

Read Also: Clean energy investment needs to triple by 2030 to reduce climate change- IEA

It might look weird to the undiscerning that the whole world is organising just to aim at limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees but the fact remains that when it comes to the issue of global warming every fractional increase in the temperature results in a tragedy that can, not only cost many lives, but also cause the destruction of livelihoods.

It is no news that many countries of the world, especially the more developed ones have already set in motion policies and actions that are geared towards the reduction of emissions that tend to add to global warming. European Union is proposing to cut down carbon dioxide (CO2) by 31 percent in the next nine years by boosting renewable and tackling the issues of home heating and transport, among other policies.

China intends to lower CO2 emission per unit of GDP by over 65 percent from the 2005 level. It also expects to raise the share of non-fossil energy in primary energy use to around 25 percent and bring in total installed capacity of wind and solar electricity to more than 1,200GW.

According to the submitted NDCs, Nigeria recommits to its unconditional contribution of reducing carbon emissions by 20 percent below business-as-usual by 2030, while it increases its conditional target to 47 percent as against the 45 per cent captured in the 2015 NDCs.

One central area of the NDCs of almost all the COPs is the increased interest in expanding the adoption of renewable energy and the reasons for this are not far-fetched. Fossil fuels are the biggest contributors to global warming and every country that is serious in tackling global warming must look in the area of reducing emissions from fossil fuels. One sure way of doing this is by moving towards renewable energy – solar and wind powered electricity generation.

It is heart-warming to note that Nigeria surpassed the target to reduce emission by 20 percent between 2016 and 2020, going by the position of Mohammad Abubakar, minister of environment. “Based on our calculations, we have met that 20 percent last year. In fact, I can even say we have surpassed that.”

We should not celebrate too much at this information as the achievement of this target may have been due to the reduction in industrial cum commercial activities as a result of the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown. In its stead, we should redouble our efforts towards meeting the 2030 targets.

If we must achieve this, we must, like most countries of the world, increase our march towards the adoption of renewable energy. It is unfortunate that while there is a worldwide growth in the use solar panels in many countries, Nigeria is accelerating its march towards fossil fuels, coal and steam powered electricity generation – the very energy types that immensely contribute to global warming and environmental degradation. This could be seen in the number of power stations (21, at least) the government has built either directly or in partnership with private players since 1999.

Granted that Nigeria is endowed with huge amounts of fossil fuel and coal that make power generation cheaper and more comparatively advantageous, we are also endowed with good exposure to sunlight and wind which also make the adoption of renewable energy very feasible in the country. Renewable energy has immense advantages which will naturally appeal to the Nigerian government. These include its cleanliness, relatively cheaper cost in the mid-to-long term, noiselessness, reliability and so on. Even the short-term high cost of solar energy could be tempered down with greater adoption of this energy policy.

Fortunately, we already have various policies and projects that are geared towards greater adoption of renewable energy in Nigeria. They include the Renewable Energy Master Plan (REMP), the National Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Policy (NREEEP) and the NERC’s Regulations on Feed-In-Tariff for Renewable Energy Sourced Electricity in Nigeria (REFIT). Others are the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) and the Solar Power Naija Project, being promoted by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

While these policies and projects are good, they would hardly take us to the preferred destination. If we intend to march with the world in this campaign towards environmental sustainability, we also need to provide clear and unambiguous fiscal incentives to catalyse these efforts. For instance, a situation where the federal government issues the VAT (Modification Order) 2020 that exempts specified renewable energy equipment from the application of VAT and the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) comes around insisting that such equipment is not VAT exempt does not help investment in renewable energy sector, and will derail our march towards meeting our 2030 targets.

Cardoso, the managing director of ENGIE Energy Access, wrote from Lagos

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