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Developing human index with environmental plans

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Executive Director, Centre for Social Justice, Eze Onyekpere

Executive Director, Centre for Social Justice, Eze Onyekpere

Through the rebasing exercise in 2014, Nigeria became the largest economy in sub-Sahara Africa. Still, it remains a lower middle-income developing country, as the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita is about $2,950 (subject to the fluctuating exchange rate). The economy is still diversifying and has grown over six per cent yearly for the past decade. Yet, significant challenges remain.
 
Beyond the rhetorics of governance and public finance management, there are some actions and /or inactions that need to be highlighted. The environment provides the setting for all human and developmental action. It has a cross cutting impact on virtually all other sectors and departments of economic and social life. The yearly report of Human Development Index ranks quality of life in a given environment as part of growth indicators.
 
This means that what happens in other sectors to a great extent determines the quality of the environment in terms of its ability to support life. Even in the financial system, a set of guidelines called Sustainability Principles were released to guide business activity. Of the nine principles, safeguarding the environment was prominent. So, economy is about environment and it is challenged.
 
Food insecurity, poor access to energy and high unemployment, amongst others, remain principal constraints on economic development and are of primary concern to the government. Those below the poverty line of $1.25 still make up 30% of the population.
 
The recent sharp decline in world oil prices has put pressure on the federal government budget as well as the federating states, which continue to depend significantly on export revenues. Some states are no longer paying salaries for even a longer period. It is obvious that the environment is challenged because development projects are being hampered by lack of funds.
 
Of course, the government has the fundamental responsibility of protecting the environment and Section 20 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, states that: “The State shall protect and improve the environment and safeguard the water, air and land, forest and wildlife of Nigeria”. Perhaps, as a brand of affirmative action, the supposed Nationally Determined Contribution that came from the country’s ratification of Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC), at the Paris Conference on Climate Change, should be visibly in force by now.
 
The implementation is expected to cause change in economic growth through the reduction of emissions associated with transport, manufacturing and other activities. It should hold responsible those culpable, but mostly pool funds for easy interventions. But like a national albatross, implementation inertia has arrested the ambitious plan.
 
President Muhammadu Buhari, in his inaugural speech, stated that Nigeria is committed to tackling climate change. He was either there himself or represented at the Paris meeting too, but earlier in  26 November 2015, he approved the INDC. So, Nigeria’s INDC ratification demonstrates determination to contribute to the success of the Paris climate summit in December 2015 and to grow the economy sustainably while reducing carbon pollution. It must not die in expectations.
 
For example, the northern part of the country, is highly vulnerable to drought and that is economic setback if it does happen. A recent Pew Research Center global attitudes survey found that 65 per cent of Nigerians are very concerned about the threat climate change poses, ahead of global economic instability (48 per cent).
 
The Lead Director, Centre for Social Justice, Eze Onyekpere, said INDC initiative will promote sustainable development and deliver on government priorities.“The policies and measures included in the Nigeria INDC will deliver immediate development benefits and do not compromise sustainable growth, on the contrary. Ambitious mitigation action is economically efficient and socially desirable for Nigeria, even when leaving aside its climate benefits.
 
“The policies and measures alleviate poverty, increase social welfare and inclusion, as well as improving individual well-being, which includes a healthy environment. Furthermore, by not undertaking these measures, Nigeria would incur significant adaptation costs from exacerbated climate change,” he said.Nigeria has been actively engaged in international climate policy negotiations since it became a Party to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (FCCC) in 1994 ratifying its Kyoto Protocol in 2004, among others.
 
The Federal Government’s Vision 20:2020 economic growth plan, recognizes the changing climate as a threat to sustainable growth in the next decade. It sees climate change as a critical challenge globally and, in Nigeria, as a potential driver of “damaging and irrecoverable effects on infrastructure, food production and water supplies, in addition to precipitating natural resource conflicts.” This recognition is an important first step towards a climate change adaptation strategy and action plan.
 
Transformation Agenda 2011 – 2015, converted a full suite of priority policies and programmes into projects, to ensure continuity, consistency and commitment of national development efforts. It identified 1613 projects across from 20 Ministries. Unfortunately, the policy and implementation framework did not adequately address issues of climate change.
 
To underscore the increasing importance of climate change issues in Nigeria, the Federal Executive Council adopted in 2012 the Nigeria Climate Change Policy Response and Strategy. To ensure an effective national response to the significant and multi-facetted impacts of climate change, Nigeria has adopted a comprehensive strategy, as well as a number of specific policies.
 
Relevant findings showed that only 7.7% of the entire Nigerian land area is under forest cover and we record the highest deforestation rate in the world; desertification is affecting more than half of Nigeria’s land mass and Nigeria is the one of most threatened countries in terms of loss of biodiversity in Africa.
The shrinking of the Lake Chad and its attendant livelihood and security challenges shows the implication of not devoting enough attention to the environment and climate change.

Against the background of these challenges, a review of 2016 budget and a trend analysis dating back to 2013 is used to show the pattern over the years. The 2016 budget allocated a paltry 0.32 per cent to the environment with 74.54 per cent of this going to recurrent expenditure whilst 25.46 was voted to the capital vote.Under the recurrent vote, personnel took the bulk of 89.91 per cent. The capital allocation to the sector represents 0.31 per cent of the overall capital vote whilst the sectoral recurrent vote is 0.55 per cent of the overall recurrent expenditure. Between 2014 and 2015, the average capital expenditure was 58.18 per cent of the approved environmental capital vote.
 
For 2016, 66.12 per cent of the capital vote is domiciled at the head office. There are many mini erosion control projects in the budget; funds were provided for special remediation for lead contamination whilst the budget witnessed a couple of frivolous allocations. Service Wide Votes to the SDGs which include environmental concerns were left un-disaggregated.
 
The review showed that Nigeria is not dedicating enough resources to the environment. It is also doubtful if the little made are faithfully implemented.Nigeria’s economy and population are both growing rapidly, and the population has been attaining a higher standard of living, except in the last one year that economic headwinds have severe. Still, the growth will have a strong impact on future emissions.   
 
Following careful review of the re-based GDP data for 2010-2014, and official population projections, a “business-as-usual scenario” was developed as part of the preparation of this INDC.This scenario assumes an economic growth at five per cent; population growing at about 2.5 per cent per year; all Nigerians to have access to electricity (both on-grid and off-grid) and demand is met; and industry triples its size by 2030.
 
Under this scenario, emissions are projected to grow 114 per cent by 2030 to around 900 million tonnes – around 3.4 tonnes for every Nigerian. Under a high growth scenario, with economic growth at seven per cent this climbs to over one billion tonnes. So, there is need for prompt action now, because all the projections may not fail.

To this end, a set of 13 sector-specific strategies, policies, programmes and measures have been prepared, which are included in the INDC framework. The objectives of these are to reduce the impacts of climate change through adaptation measures that can be undertaken by the Federal, State and Local Governments, civil society, private sector, communities and individuals.
 
There should be improved awareness and preparedness for climate change impacts; mobilization of communities for climate change adaptation actions; reduction in impacts of climate change on key sectors and vulnerable communities; and integrate climate change adaptation into national, sectoral, State and Local Government planning and into the plans of universities, research and educational organisations, civil society organisations, the private sector and the media.

Agriculture
There should also be improved agricultural systems for both crops and livestock (diversify livestock and improve range management; increase access to drought resistant crops and livestock feeds; adopt better soil management practices; and provide early warning/meteorological forecasts and related information);

 
Implement strategies for improved resource management (increase use of irrigation systems that use low amounts of water; increase rainwater and sustainable ground water harvesting for use in agriculture; increase planting of native vegetation cover & promotion of re-greening efforts; and intensify crop and livestock production in place of slash and burn);

Forestry
Strengthen the implementation of the national Community-Based Forest Resources Management Programme; support review and implementation of the National Forest Policy.
Also to develop and maintain a frequent forest inventory system to facilitate monitoring of forest status; and initiate a research programme on a range of climate change-related topics, including long term impacts of climatic shifts on closed forests.

Energy
There must be increased protective margins in construction and placement of energy infrastructure (higher standards and specifications); undertaking of risk assessment and risk reduction measures to increase resilience of the energy sector; strengthen existing energy infrastructure, in part through early efforts to identify and implement all possible ‘no regrets’ actions; and develop and diversify secure energy backup systems to ensure both civil society and security forces have access to emergency energy supply.


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