This article is part of our #FirstWord series to provide context on trending news.
Lagos state, alongside eight other African cities, recently pledged to deliver emission cuts to meet the climate change targets in the Paris Agreement by 2050.
The other major cities that signed the agreement are Accra, Cape Town, Durban, Dar es Salaam, Dakar, Addis Ababa and Tshwane.
What is the Paris Agreement?
The aim of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change is to tighten the global response to climate change by establishing an international network of government bodies - all dedicated to lowering emissions. The agreement was developed with a flexible framework to allow individual countries develop their own climate strategies.
As a means of enforcement, the world’s worst polluters will be financially accountable for their chemical contribution to climate change. The more the pollution, the higher the cost. The rate is set at $150 per tonne of carbon emission. The idea here is to place a penalty so that more cities will take the agreement seriously.
In September 2016, President Muhammadu Buhari signed the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The agreement committed Nigeria to actively work towards reducing gas emissions unconditionally by 20% and conditionally by 45% in line with Nigeria’s nationally determined contributions.
Putting in Work
“We cannot ignore the implications of what will befall us if we don’t act now” - Mohammed Ajei, Mayor of Accra, on the need to address pollution.
According to a report by the World Bank, the city in Africa with the lowest climate changing emission is Johannesburg, and there is a lot of work to be done in reducing pollution across the continent. Achieving the aim of the agreement will require a lot, particularly for Nigeria.
Lagos, for example, battles heavy air pollution from vehicles during its famous traffic jams. Its population of 21 million also produces a large volume of waste, contributing immensely to climate change. Waste decomposition is one of the largest sources of methane emissions in the World, as these emissions can be 20 times more dangerous than carbon dioxide emissions.
Nigeria also houses Onitsha, which has been labelled the most polluted city according to the World Health Organisation, with some of the worst air pollutions. Port Harcourt, at the moment, is battling a dangerous soot powered by many years of air and water pollution.
In a country that cannot generate electricity to power all its cities, residents and businesses are forced to turn to polluting diesel generators to create power.
All of these issues highlight the need for Nigeria to work to reduce emissions from things like buildings, transport, energy production and waste management.
What can Nigeria do?
At the moment there is no public framework on how Nigeria intends to achieve its side of the deal. One option would be to transition to lower emissions that are less polluting to the environment.
“Each sector – like agriculture, power, transport – has its own strategies to encourage cleaner energy rather than use of fossil fuels. But these solutions are capital intensive. For instance, it is cheaper for international oil companies (IOCs) to flare (natural) gas than recycling it because there is no extensive infrastructure and it is hard to find a market for people to buy flared gas,” - Ikenna Ofoegbu, Heinrich Boll.
This transition will need to be subsidised somehow by the government because it is an expensive move to make.
It will also require drastic changes in the lifestyle of Nigerians as well as the mode of operation in many industrial organisations in the country. The most important factor is significant political will from the relevant stakeholders to steer policies geared towards achieving its emission goals.
Looking towards the future, it is clear that this decision needs a lot of planning. Now that climate change is at a new crossroad, it is important to match it with cleaner energy.