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Significance of Nigeria’s new climate change law, by experts

By Chinedum Uwaegbulam and Victor gbonegun
20 December 2021   |   2:42 am
After an initial effort that eventually turned out to be a ‘false start,’ President Muhammadu Buhari, finally signed into law the bill on the Climate Change Act, which provides for

After an initial effort that eventually turned out to be a ‘false start,’ President Muhammadu Buhari, finally signed into law the bill on the Climate Change Act, which provides for, among others, the mainstreaming of climate change actions and establishment of a National Council on Climate Change.

Sharon Ikeazor

In signing the law, the President has made Nigeria join an elite group of countries that have enacted emissions-target legislation aimed at eliminating carbon emissions. This is a big deal for an oil-dependent nation that is also ranked as one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change in the world.

Climate law has grown in leaps and bounds since the Copenhagen Accord in 2009 but so far, only a handful of countries have passed national legislation setting CO2 reduction targets. Other countries in this elite group include the United Kingdom, New Zealand, France, Sweden, Ireland, and Scotland, which hosted the just concluded COP26 in Glasgow.

According to the Director of the Centre of Climate Change and Development, Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Nigeria, who was Head of the Technical Committee that revised the Climate Change Bill, Prof. Chukwumerije Okereke and sponsor of the bill, Sam Oniugbo, the objective of the climate law is to provide an overarching legal framework for achieving Nigeria’s long-term climate goals.

The goals are a net-zero carbon emission target, national climate resilience, an adequate volume of climate finance and mainstreaming climate change actions into national development priorities. The bill places climate change action in the broader context of efforts to achieve inclusive green and sustainable economic development for the most populous black country in the world.

Nigeria has long maintained that it wishes to use its climate policies as part of wider measures to achieve low-carbon, resilient, and equitable economic growth. The Act, therefore, seeks to facilitate the intensive and complex cross-ministerial coordination of climate change action as well as the involvement of businesses and civil society needed to achieve long-term climate objectives, while also promoting so climate-resilient social-economic development in the country.

The Act also sets out to establish a systematic approach for the country to identify major climate risks and vulnerabilities facing the country and how to strengthen existing capacities to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

The law provides that the government shall set five-year carbon budgets in the context of a National Climate Change Action Plan, which should be ratified by the Federal Executive Council. The budgets are supposed to advance efforts to achieve net-zero GHG emission reduction between 2050 – 2070. The five-year budget shall be broken down to the annual carbon budget for each of the years that make up the five-year cycle.

President Buhari has at COP26, already committed Nigeria to a net-zero carbon target by 2060. The first carbon budget is to be submitted for approval no later than 12 months. From the date that the bill is signed by the president, not later than November 18, 2022. Subsequent carbon budgets are to be submitted for approval not later than 12 months to the end of the date of the expiration of the current budget cycle.

While the Federal Ministry of Environment is tasked with setting the carbon budget, the new law provides for a National Council on Climate Change that will oversee the implementation of the National Climate Change Action Plan. Headed by the president, who will serve as the chairman. The council will supervise the activities and help Environment Ministry to coordinate the implementation of sectoral targets and guidelines needed to achieve the National Climate Change Action Plan.

The council shall administer a climate change fund established under the new Act and play a key role in mobilising financial resources to support climate change actions throughout the country. Other members of the council include the vice-president, who would be the vice-chairman, ministers in charge of Environment, Budget, National Planning, Power, Transportation, Petroleum Resources, Agriculture and Rural Development, Water Resources, among others.

The governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and National Security Adviser are also members of the council. This reflects an understanding of the security implications of climate change in Nigeria and the central role that finance will play in facilitating climate action and green transition in the country.

It is instructive that the Act seeks to democratise climate governance through the inclusion of representatives from the private sector, youth, women groups, people with disabilities and civil society organisations in the council.

The council will be served by a Secretariat situated at the Presidency that is headed by a Director-General, who will serve as secretary to the council.

Okereke and Oniugbo, said the law sends a strong positive message to the world that Nigeria understands the enormity and urgency of the climate change challenge and it’s serious to implement the net-zero carbon pledge made by President Buhari at COP26 in Glasgow.

According to them, the council will assist the Federal Ministry of Environment in setting a national platform for the mobilisation and disbursement of trillions of climate investments needed to scale up and accelerate the green transition efforts in Nigeria in the coming months and years.

They said: “With the implementation of the country’s NDC projected to cost about $177 billion by 2030, only a body as high profile as the National Council on Climate Change can be expected to oversee the task of mobilising such an amount in the context of dwindling oil revenue and a world that is moving away from fossil fuel.”
MEANWHILE, the Director, Resource and Environmental Policy Research Centre, Environment for Development (REPRC-EfD Nigeria), Dr. Nnaemeka Chukwone, has lauded the recent signing of the Climate Change Bill by President Muhammadu the move will promote environmental sustainability, climate-resilient development and effective management of the country’s climate crisis.

Chukwone said there is no better time to have a Climate Change Act than now, given the increasing need for environmental sustainability, low-carbon climate-resilient development, ecosystem conservation and the adoption of the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA) in the country’s budgeting and national planning.

He said:” The Act has come at a crucial time that the Federal Ministry of Environment, in partnership with the Resource and Environmental Policy Research Centre, Environment for Development (REPRC-EfD Nigeria) and Natural Eco Capital and with support from World Bank, has already taken the initiative aimed at helping Nigeria mainstream natural capital into its system of national accounts.”

The partnership, he said has done remarkable work on developing pilot Natural Capital Accounts (NCA) and natural capital accounting roadmap for Nigeria, adding that pilot NCA for land cover, ecosystem extent, mangroves, and greenhouse gas were produced under the towards Natural Capital Accounts for Nigeria project, supported by the World Bank.

He reaffirmed that the REPRC-ED is confident that the newly signed Climate Change Act, which has given legal backing for the development of NCA for the country, will help fast track the production of NCAs and mainstream them into national policies and plans.

“We also hope that the provisions of the Climate Change Act will be domesticated at the state levels for maximum impact. Preserving our environment and ecosystem is a collective responsibility that requires a healthy partnership among relevant stakeholders,” he added.