It is undisputed that
Nigeria is the largest economy in sub-Saharan Africa. Regarded for its oil
producing clout, the country is blessed with human, capital as well as natural
resources. However, Nigeria, like most emerging economies, has suffered the
deleterious effect of climate change. The need for Nigeria to keep to its
nationally determined contributions and attain the almost idyll temperature
levels of 1.5C cannot be overemphasized.

At the start of the climate
negotiations in Bonn in November 2015, countries most vulnerable to climate
impacts (developing countries) took the political initiative by challenging
USA, China and Europe to raise their ambitions and set a long-term temperature
goal of 1.5 degrees instead of 2 degrees. This evinces without a doubt that
developing countries need the compliance with the commitments of 1.5C more than
any other nations, and how better can any government do that, than ensure its
own emissions do not exceed the 1.5C limit. In fact, Thoriq Ibrahim,
Environment and Energy Minister of the Maldives realizing the urgency of the
situation (even as at 2015) enthused “A long-term temperature goal of well
below 1.5C must be reflected in the Paris agreement, along with an indicative
pathway for achieving it, including urgent peaking and deep mid-century
emissions reductions”

The Paris agreement is,
indeed, daunting, yet realistic. While it maintains a legally binding
obligation for state parties to reduce their emissions to below 2C, it then
places an altruistic burden on states to further pursue the 1.5C obligation.
Nigeria, a party to the Paris agreement, and one of the countries championing
climate action in Africa, in its INDC of 11th November, 2015 pledged to reduce
emissions by 20% unconditionally and 45% conditionally, compared to
business-as-usual levels, by 2030. This is the first reason why the country
must keep its 1.5C commitments- the rule of ‘pacta sunt servanda’ (contained in
Article 26 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties). It enjoins state
parties to any treaty or agreement to keep them in good faith. Apart from this,
other reasons include the need to preserve the little that is left of our
biodiversity, the environmental consequences, the economic effects and of
course the alarming rate of health hazards that especially take their toll on
low income communities, women and children.

Permit me to be audacious
and say that Nigeria’s economic and agricultural future is linked largely with
its ability to keep temperature within its sphere below 1.5 degrees above
pre-industrial levels. So, beyond good faith and all I have highlighted above,
I will speak further on agriculture and economy.

Agriculture is one of the
most important sectors of Nigeria’s life, and it is one of the most critical
ones affected by the impacts of climate change as it is largely dependent on
sunlight, rainfall, temperature and humidity. There can be no successful food
production if these factors are not available both in quantity and quality.
Invariably, their availability affects the quantity, quality and type of food
production as well as production-related income. Thus food availability,
accessibility, utilization and systems stability are equally affected because
of the dynamic interaction between bio-geophysical and human environments.
Also, farming seasons, storage and production are affected due to uncertainty
in weather conditions.

Notable is the fact that the
sector remains the main source of livelihood for most rural communities in Nigeria,
thus a failure of the sector is disastrous as it could lead to grave levels of
hunger and poverty. It is also a major industry for the production of raw
materials for the textile and manufacturing industry as well as a source of
foreign exchange. A recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change (IPCC) showed that climate change threatens to undermine the progress
that has been achieved to date, especially in the agricultural sector. There is
also the effect of global warming on health of livestock, milk production and
spread of diseases. For instance, the availability and price of feed grain and
pasture and forage crop yields is affected.

Speaking for the economy,
according to a 2009 DFID study if no action is taken, between 2-11% of Nigeria’s
GDP could be lost by 2020. This, to me, serves enough motivation for the
country to keep to its 1.5C commitment. As a fallout of my last point, the part
of foreign exchange recouped from agriculture is ailing and is just one sector
of the economy crumbling under the tough hands of global warming.

In order to achieve this
goal though, there are things Nigeria must necessarily put in place. First, we
must get accurate data and readings on the current emission levels in the
country, because was it not Carl Sagan that said that to know the present, you
must understand the past. And of course, if we have no idea where we are, it is
herculean trying to get somewhere else. We need to work on our technology
systems and reporting accuracy, so as to get the right data to forge ahead. The
Energy Commission research centres must come alive again

Also, we need to develop
legislations that have binding force in ensuring reduction of fossil fuel
activity and increment of climate-friendly activity. Legislations focusing on
environmental concerns in Nigeria like the NESREA (National Environmental
Standards Regulation Agency) Act do not have the requisite force for
consequence management. The NOSDRA (National Oil Spill Detection Regulation)
Act has also been a toothless bulldog against the big polluters. For us to
achieve 1.5C, we must give our laws teeth.

Third, on this issue is the
much touted point that Nigeria has to diversify its economy, relieving the
almost entire dependence of the economy on a non-renewable fossil fuel, with
grave climatic impacts. Countries like Norway that have oil in commercial
quantity are quickly moving towards sustainable energy, wind farms, solar
stations and waste to energy plants are popping up everywhere replacing the all
so revered oil and building a futuristic and sustainable economy. Nigeria has
to borrow this leaf, and take a step back from the hallowed crucibles of
petroleum, and use the revenue gained from the oil industry to pour back into
the huge capitalization required for climate friendly energy production, and
slowly ebb away from the fossil fuel dependence.

Caleb Adebayo

Associate at Wole Olanipekun
& Co.,

Source: The