Nigeria’s Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, has canvassed reframing of conversations around climate change in Nigeria, saying addressing issues associated with the crisis tops the agenda of the government.
Mr Osinbajo, who was represented by a senior special assistant to the president on rule of law at the office of the vice president, Fatima Waziri-Azi, spoke at the launch of a policy document aimed at promoting climate-smart mining in Nigeria.
The document was launched by Global Rights, an international not-for-profit organisation, as part of its drive for advocacy and sustainable justice in the mining sector.
The event, which was held on Wednesday in Abuja, also featured the premiere of a documentary, “Footprints.”
The vice president said there is no better time to have conversations around climate change than now, even as he disclosed that “the issue of climate change is a priority for the government.”
He said; “In the mining industry, the impact of climate change and how the industry can respond to it has increasingly been a topic of discussion over the past decade. Mining is currently responsible for 4 to 7 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions globally, making the sector one of the major emitters of greenhouse gases.
“As such, we need to re-frame the conversation around climate change. We cannot ignore issues of climate change anymore because it affects the lives of everyone.”
The event, which reviewed the relationship between mining and climate change, also featured other speakers including environmentalists and campaigners for a safe environment.
The executive director of Global Rights, Abiodun Baiyewu, in her welcome address, emphasised the government’s insensitivity to global warming as seen in the policies being made to drive the ‘Coal to Power’ agenda which she noted aims at generating 30 per cent of the nation’s electricity through coal.
The government, according to her, is investing in coal because it is considered cheap “but in reality, coal is possibly one of the most expensive energy sources on the planet when externalised costs are factored.”
She said in addition to the high carbon emissions, which she said is largely responsible for the current surge in global warming, comes the added costs of adverse effects of coal mining and coal power generation including its extensive consumption of limited water resources, environmental degradation and air pollution.
Ms Baiyewu noted that the government needs to be deliberate in its effort in curbing carbon emission rather than making a policy that thrusts more emission.
“Nigeria’s vulnerability to climate change is highly evident and coal is not the only challenge Nigeria has to contend with in its preparedness for climate change. It is evident that mining in general will increase this vulnerability. Its entire mining value chain needs a futuristic stress test,” she added.
She identified other issues to include the various gaps that exist in the legal and regulatory framework of the Nigeria Mineral and Mining Act which she said have hampered the sector’s growth and development. She also spoke about the lack of political will to enforce laws, the ambiguity of the mining laws, among others.
Based on evaluation done by experts using adaptation index in terms of readiness to respond and cope with the devastating impact of climate change, Nigeria is ranked as one of the most vulnerable countries to the effects of climate change.
Despite all indications as being one of the most vulnerable countries as well as a signatory to Paris Agreement, the government, according to the CSOs, is tackling climate change with disjointed policies that do not align with the problem and needs of the people.
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“There is always a problem we get when we don’t adequately drive our policies. A policy that is disconnected from how people behave and live every day. And the worst thing is you impose it on them” said Amara Nwankpa, the Director, Public Policy Initiatives, Shehu Musa Ya’dua Foundation.
While making references to the nation’s commitment to Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC), Mr Nwankpa said; “We have gone to the world to make commitments that we will reduce our emission, we will transition people from cars to buses, we will make sure that a certain percentage of our national grid will be built with solar or renewable energy, and that by 2030 we will completely reduce gas flaring to zero.
“But we are making no effort to fulfil any of these promises. We are wishing that renewable energy will just happen. Meanwhile, the rest of the world are developing themselves in line with the promises they have made with themselves.
“We find ourselves in the future that we have not adequately prepared for. We are not existing in isolation but in competition with other countries. We are competing with the economy, livelihood, jobs etc. For instance, we are reinvesting in fossil fuel but the rest of the world is preparing that by 2030 most of their cars will run on electricity. Where does that lead our own industry? What happens to our future?”
He noted that Nigeria is not preparing well for the future as it concerns climate change.
Also speaking, the co-founder and chief executive of Clean Tech Hub Nigeria, Ifeoma Malu, said the notion that clean energy cannot drive development was untrue.
She said; “There are, at least, 15 countries that have tested their entire energy system from renewable energy and it worked. These countries are working towards a zero-fossil fuel future.
“But we are here talking about using coal to run our electricity. We have not finished addressing the issue of getting gas and its unavailability of electricity. We are having two different conversations with the rest of the world.
“What is our role as a country? If we continue to talk about an increase in the capacity to mine some of these extractives for production, then we will continue to perpetuate the things that will give us problems.”
As part of its recommendations, the policy document calls on the government to rework its current energy source policies and think of the future.
“In particular, it should totally exclude coal energy from the nation’s energy mix. Considering the true negative costs of coal-powered energy and the cost-effectiveness and the viability of renewable energy options,” the document states in part.
It recommends discontinuing the issuance of new coal mine license, coal power plants or industrial processes that utilise coal as their energy resource.
Danger of climate change
The world is currently experiencing alarming effects of climate change as seen in different happenings such as destruction of hectares of land and property by wildfires across some parts of the globe, deadly floods, cyclones, hurricanes, and drought, among others.
A recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has given a ‘Code red’ for human-driven global warming. The report warned of some irreversible unprecedented changes to climate and therefore reaffirms the urgent need to cut down carbon emissions in the next decade to meet the net-zero emissions by 2050.
Nigeria submitted its final Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change detailing climate action plans to reduce carbon emissions. In the report, it was noted that the total emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) had increased by 40 per cent from 247 million tonnes CO2 equivalent (MtCO2e) in 2010 to 307 MtCO2e in 2018.
The energy sector, as stated in the report, was the largest emitter of GHG with 209 MtCO2e emitted in 2018 representing 60 per cent of the total emissions.
With about 200 million people, Nigeria has about one-fifth of Africa’s population. The population is projected by the World Bank to be doubled by 2050.
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