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Addressing energy sustainability, climate change challenges in Nigeria

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The use and exploration of energy resources in Nigeria and many African countries have continued to generate serious concern, especially in relation to the growing environmental challenges across the continent. KINGSLEY JEREMIAH writes.

The need to use energy in such a way that a country’s short, medium, and long-term economic projections are met without undermining present and future generations remains a critical topic across the world considering growing climate change challenges.
   
Globally, attention is shifting to renewable energy, energy-efficient technologies, and the appropriate use of conventional energy resources. But the situation in Nigeria and other African countries raises serious concern.

 
In commemorating the 2019 World Energy Day, the concern for most stakeholders has been the need to balance the dual challenge of meeting the demand and supply side of energy while being environmentally accountable.
 
It is critical to note that Nigeria and other African countries are a signatory to the Paris Agreement and 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which specifically requires countries to focus less on fossil fuels and more on renewables. United Nations in a report had described Africa’s road to sustainable energy as being bumpy.
  
For instance, the collection of wood for fuel is responsible for the loss of 350,000 hectares of land yearly to desertification.
    
Indeed, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) had reported that between 2000 and 2005, the country lost 55.7 per cent of its primary forests, and the rate of forest change increased by 31.2 per cent to 3.12 per cent per annum. Reportedly, from 1990 to 2010 nearly half of Nigeria’s forest cover was destroyed.
  
With the rate of wood felling for cooking purposes, Nigeria, having the fourth highest deforestation rate in the world, may according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, continue to lose over 400,000 hectares of land per year while major natural resources are projected to disappear in the next 30 years.
  
The implications are that there would be increasing temperatures and decreasing rainfall as emissions from deforestation in Nigeria reportedly stands at 87 per cent.
  
The National Conservative Agency had stated that Nigeria is emitting about 200 million metric tons of greenhouse gases from different traditional energy sources such as kerosene, burning of charcoal and others.
   
While the health of women is particularly endangered by constant exposure to smote from firewood, charcoal and the processes through which such energy sources are retrieved, 150,000 women and children in Nigeria are reportedly affected by indoor air pollution and contributed to lead-causes of death.
 
Home to about 20 million people and 40 different ethnic groups, the environmental degradation due to oil exploration in the Niger Delta is not only a global case study but one that threatens lives as well as other natural resources at a location considered the largest wetland and the third-largest drainage basin in Africa.
   
In what most stakeholders considered as the carelessness of the oil industry, the Niger Delta region is projected to lose 40 per cent of its inhabitable terrain in the next thirty years.  
  
The Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) had estimated that about 1.89 million barrels of petroleum were spilled into the Niger Delta between 1976 and 1996 out of a total of 2.4 million barrels spilled in 4,835 incidents. Similarly, a report by the UN noted that about 6,817 oil spills occurred between 1976 and 2001, amounting to the loss of three million barrels of oil, of which more than 70 per cent was not recovered.
  
The prevailing situation has led to a loss of 10 per cent of Nigeria’s mangrove ecosystems while rainforest which previously occupied some 7,400 km² of land has disappeared. This development also remained a major concern for agriculture, the health of the dwellers as well as other resources such as fish.
  
To underscore the growing challenges across the continent, a 2018 report by UN Environment and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, a South Africa–based research organisation stated that only 4 per cent of the continent’s wastes are currently being recycled indicating that though waste remains a key such of energy, Africa’s waste management is still in its infancy.
  
For Professor Yinka Omorogbe, President, Nigeria Association for Energy Economics and Edo State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, African leaders must consider the need for energy growth in such a way that the environment is not further adversely affected, even as they recognize that the present situation where the majority of the people, who are poor, have biomass as their major energy source is not sustainable.
  
“We, who are energy poor, need to unlock sustainable energy now more than ever. Climate change issues are real. We have to grow, all of us. The only way is through sustainable energy. I’m not saying any fossil fuels. For Nigeria, we need to harness our petroleum for our own good and expand. It should be first for our development, and secondarily as a source of revenue. We need to utilise our renewables- hydro, solar, wind- especially for off-grid communities,” she said.
 
To her, Nigeria must think and act strategically, with an eye on the future.
 
Noting that though some North African countries have practically 100 per cent energy access, she stated energy challenge is not receiving the needed attention on the continent, adding Rwanda and Ghana as examples that other countries could reference.
    
Insisting on the need to realise that the country and continent have a fundamental problem without which they can never develop, Omorogbe said lack of access to modern energy services could frustrate education, especially for the girl child, affect delivery and health as well as cripple growth of industries.
  
Omorogbe said: “Sustainable energy would mean good and strategic planning involving a mix of energy sources, including renewables, which we have in abundance.”
  
Chief Executive of Energy Institute, Louise Kingham, who had decried the rate of desertification in the country, warned that if necessary measures were not adopted, more serious deserters may be experienced through environmental degradation while urging the oil industry to invest on new energy technology across its value chain.
  
The Founder/Principal Partner at Nextier Advisory, Patrick Okigbo noted that the approach of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to renewable energy sources for power supply is good way to solve the power problem while also helping to preserve the environment
   
“One of the many environmental challenges in Nigeria is deforestation. This is worsened by the need for and pattern of fuelwood exploitation in Nigeria. Fuelwood accounts for about 90 percent of rural household energy consumption. It is an alternative fuel source in some urban cities. Nigeria is rich with natural gas. It is time to have a massive national programme that makes cooking gas available to all. We should reduce the need to cut down trees for fuel,” Okigbo said.
  
Chief Executive Officer, Degeconek and former President of the Nigerian Association of Petroleum Explorationists (NAPE), Abiodun Adesanya said the country must recognise the global shift in the energy mix, stressing that the components of what usually provides the energy has changed.
 
However, Adesanya noted that for Nigeria, fossil fuel remains a key component, adding that though projects like the Mambilla hydropower project is expected to come on stream, the country’s abundance gas resources may douse the zeal to explore other options.
  
“Going forward, we have to explore other sources of energy and try as much to bring them on board. We still have huge energy in power generation and refining capacity. So, we may be going around fossil fuel for a while. But the carbon footprint in Nigeria is high. We need to find incentives to bring that down and reward those bringing it down.
  
‘If you look like in China, for instance, they are still utilising coals substantially because they believe they have acute power challenges. I am of a similar frame of mind. Let’s use what we have so that when we have attained a particular level, we will be talking about other issues,” he said.
  
The Chairman, International Energy Services (IES) Ltd., Diran Fawibe, who noted that the level of energy poverty on the continent is undermining climate change challenges urged Nigeria and other African countries to set up feasible policies for energy mix.
   
Decrying the continent’s energy security challenges despite the huge resources, Fawibe stated African countries must look at renewable energy, adding that the current drive by both federal and state governments in Nigeria to boost energy from renewable sources should be sustained.
     
“We can engage in wind energy. This is a good option to enhance availability. We need to look at waste to energy also. With this, we could secure the environment. Carbon emission remains a global threat that must be taken seriously,” he said.
  
He blamed the lack of seriousness toward climate change on the continent on the fact that the countries are still battling with energy poverty, adding that there was the need for a coherent programme that will lead to energy sustainability.


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