Sustainability

How effective is Nigeria’s new climate change law?

Nigeria's new climate change law - cleanbuild

COP26 did not single-handedly solve the world’s climate problems overnight, not by a long shot. Yet, it witnessed some progress especially when it came down to keeping the 1.5C goal alive. This included pledges of reducing methane emissions, curbing deforestation by 2030, ending the sale of internal combustion engines by 2040, and the like.

In agreement with the Glasgow Climate Pact, African countries such as Nigeria are making efforts to implement their national pledges. On Thursday, November 18, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari signed into law the Climate Change Bill passed by the National Assembly.

Considering that the law is the first of its kind in Nigeria, the move generated a lot of praise and commendations. Why, the signing of the bill demonstrates that Nigeria understands the urgency and scale of the climate crisis.

The Climate Act has been described as a bold action and if well implemented gives Nigeria a fighting chance. While passing the bill into law is very significant, there’s a lot to consider about its very nature, translating what is documented to the Nigerian context.

This piece explores Nigeria’s new climate change Act, noting some missing links that can transition the abstract climate policies into concrete actions.

A look into Nigeria’s new climate change law

The 38-paged document containing the climate law is sectioned off into eight parts. The following is a summary of the new climate change bill:

The law provides that the government shall set five-year carbon budgets in the context of a National Climate Change Action Plan which would be approved by the Federal Executive Council. The budgets are supposed to advance efforts to achieve net-zero GHG emission reduction between 2050 – 2070.

Although the Federal Ministry of Environment is tasked with setting the carbon budget, the new law established 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 work with the Environment Ministry to coordinate the implementation of sectoral targets and guidelines needed to achieve the National Climate Change Action Plan.

Under the new Act, the Council will administer a Climate Change Fund established for the purpose of mobilizing financial resources to support climate change actions across Nigeria.

Also, the Act wants to democratize climate governance ensuring that there is an adequate representation of players in the private sector, youth, women groups, people with disabilities, and civil society organizations in the Council.

What the government says about the Act

Since the 2015 Paris Agreement, climate law has grown in leaps and bounds as more countries have passed national legislation setting CO2 reduction targets.

According to Sam Onuigbo, Chairman of Climate Change Committee of the House of Representatives, the climate law aims to provide an overarching legal framework for achieving Nigeria’s long-term climate goals including a net-zero carbon emission target, national climate resilience, an adequate volume of climate finance, and the mainstreaming climate change actions into national development priorities.

In an article co-written and published on Vanguard, Onuigbo wrote that some key aspects of the Nigerian climate law are based on the model adopted by the UK and Ireland. He, however, added that the new climate act also has many innovative aspects specially designed to adapt to the unique Nigerian situation.

It’s quite surprising that Nigeria’s new climate change law is patterned after those of European countries when it is a known fact that Nigeria is among the developing economies of the world. What’s more, the country ranks on the list of countries most vulnerable to the impact of climate change.

That we have different realities- in terms of development, economy, and system of governance not to mention the response to climate change- is putting it mildly.

What’s missing in Nigeria’s new climate change law

The new climate change law makes provision for how climate funds will be mobilized from grants and donations, funding from international organizations, carbon tax, fines and charges, and so forth.

While money matters need to be properly ironed out, the financial provisions set out in Nigeria’s new climate change law focus more on allocating salaries and allowances to officials, paying auditor fees and whatnots rather than prioritizing real climate change actions and interventions.

According to the law, climate funds will go towards climate change advocacy and awareness; conducting assessments on climate change impact in vulnerable communities; and funding innovative climate change mitigation and adaptation projects. However, there is no elaboration on the kind of ‘projects’ the funds will be used for.

Do the projects include grants to encourage research and technological innovations that can address Nigeria’s climate issues? Will the climate funds allow for the rollout of relief provisions (food, water, temporary housing, etc) for vulnerable communities that have been affected by climate change? One can only hazard a guess.

Also, the law does not mention how the Council intends to get private entities to comply with the levels of greenhouse gas emissions as set out. Without clarity, these are some of the loopholes that large polluting corporations and multinationals will exploit to cover up their crimes against the environment and people, by extension.

There needs to be a clear-cut provision in the Act on how public and private entities will be monitored, investigated, reported on, and dealt with if they violate the assigned climate change duties.

Perhaps one of the most impactful tools to address and develop effective responses to climate change is education. The Nigerian government should revise the climate change law to integrate climate change into various disciplines and subjects of the national education curricula at all levels.

The signing of the climate change bill into a law is a welcome development that is long overdue. That being said, Nigeria’s new climate change law could use some amendment as it lacks clarity failing to prioritize the very purpose for which it was created.

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