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Expectations Ahead of COP28: What Should be Nigeria’s Priorities?

This time last year, more than 37,000 delegates and over 150 nations gathered in Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27).

That meeting concluded with a historic decision to establish and operationalise a loss and damage fund. It was a breakthrough that marked the climax of decades of pressure from climate-vulnerable developing countries, many of which are in Africa.

This year, the 28th Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP28) to the United Nations Conference of Parties on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is scheduled to take place from November 30 to December 12, 2023, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), with its theme anchored on reducing emissions through climate change mitigation and just energy, building climate resilient societies, and investing in solutions to counter the effects of climate change.

Undoubtedly, COP28 comes at a decisive moment for international climate action. Temperature records are repeatedly being broken by significantly wide margins and climate impacts manifested in unprecedented wildfires, floods, storms and droughts worldwide.

Scientists have noted that the earth has been warmer in 2023 than in any other year on record. Clearly, much more has to be done to fast-track the energy transition and reduction of emissions before 2030 to limit global warming to 1.5° C (2.7° F) above pre-industrial levels.

It is for this reason that countries around the world are developing and/or expanding their climate action strategies and solutions to save them from climate disasters. Nigeria has not been an exception in terms of an increase in disastrous events such as drought, desertification, erratic rainfall patterns, sandstorms, and devastating floods. Farmlands, infrastructure, and settlements have been destroyed.

For instance, in 2022, a flood killed at least 662 people, injured 3,174, displaced about 2.5 million, and destroyed 200,000 houses. This brings us to a critical question: what should be Nigeria’s expectations and how do we ensure that we align our climate priorities with the goals set by COP28 in order to get a large share of our climate needs met?

As an ardent follower of Nigeria’s preparations for COP meetings over the years, I’ve discovered that we look at COP meetings in the context of what they should deliver to us as a country and in isolation from our other developmental activities.

However, I believe that COP meetings are framework events where resolutions are taken to feed into or on other activities of every country party to the UNFCCC. The starting point is that Nigeria’s position is already captured in Africa’s common climate position as posited at the Africa Climate Summit held in September.

At that summit, African countries adopted the Nairobi Declaration on Climate Change and Call to Action, a strong declaration proclaiming African States’ unified stance on climate action ahead of COP28. The implication of that is negotiations are not expected to be country by country, but more on a continental basis. This is without prejudice to the fact that updates will be taken from respective countries on their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

Nigeria’s expectations will only become meaningful when Nigeria has prepared itself to amortise the benefits of opportunities that COP28 presents. We know our priorities in terms of the impact of climate change facing us as a country.

We must be very alert to the windows of opportunities that COP28 will present. Where internally we do not as a country have in place structures and strategies that will facilitate our taking advantage of these opportunities arising from the decisions and resolutions taken at COP28, we will only have ourselves to blame.

Unfortunately, this has been the case in several instances in the past. Most times, we are ill-prepared as a country for these opportunities. Thus, when they come to the fore, we are never able to interface our priorities with decisions taken at the relevant COP meeting.

To put my comments in context, by now we should be clear on what it is that we need to develop our capacity for renewable energy investment, bearing in mind that we are grappling with the critical energy crisis. The upcoming COP28 will not on a platter of gold place solutions to our energy crisis at our feet. The responsibility is on us to analyse where we are, and what we need to do to develop our capacity for renewable energy because that’s the energy investment the world is extensively adopting.

So, one priority we must diligently build upon in line with expectations from COP28 is how to tackle our energy crises with renewable energy. This priority aligns with one of COP28’s goals of fast-tracking the energy transition and slashing emissions before 2030 and climate finance.

For example, Nigeria’s Renewable Energy Master Plan (REMP) seeks to increase the supply of renewable electricity from 13% of total electricity generation in 2015 to 23% in 2025 and 36% by 2030. Renewable electricity would then account for 10% of Nigerian total energy consumption by 2025.

What structures are on the ground to actualise this lofty aspiration? What is the government doing with the private sector to ensure that this aspiration becomes a reality? For me, we still have a long way to go. Although the appeal for renewable energy sources has grown exponentially in the pursuit of climate change mitigation, the appeal will not by itself translate to reality. We must make REMP a functional mechanism if we hope to amortize the benefit of relevant climate financing opportunities that may result from COP28.

Additionally, it is vital that we ponder upon how we can achieve a coordinated economic development plan that is climate-positive driven and allows for a just transition. It is easy for us to brand ourselves as “climate advocates”. We equally must not fail to understand the global politics of climate change. A new report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has posited that governments still plan to produce more than double the amount of fossil fuels by 2030. The report revealed that this would put a well-managed and equitable energy transition at risk.

The 2023 Production Gap Report featured 20 major fossil-fuel-producing countries including Nigeria, Australia, China, Canada, India, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the US, and the UK. What is going to be just for Nigeria is a phased transition against rushing ourselves into thinking that we can shut down extraction and use of fossil fuels overnight.

The country would be grounded. We must recognise that climate change impacts are real and then be faithful to a plan of action that allows for a just transition. At the end of the day, a phased transition is what will deliver a climate-resilient country to us.

Recall that COP27 concluded with a resolution to establish and operationalise a loss and damage fund. COP28 aims to build on that premise. In August, Vice President, Kashim Shettima, revealed that the country’s vision and expectations for COP28 will include increased climate action on many fronts, particularly increased and accessible climate finance. He added that the Federal Government will also focus on the operationalisation of the $100 billion Loss and Damage funding.

I agree that one of our priorities should be the Loss and Damage Fund. In a keynote address I gave in Abuja last month, titled “COP 28: Loss and Damage Fund and the Quest for Sustainable Climate Finance Mechanism”, I spoke extensively on the climate problems we are facing as a country and the imperatives of the Loss and Damage sustainable climate finance.

Nigeria’s participation in COP28 must unlock the operationalization of $100 billion Loss and damage funding while advocating for increased climate action and equitable climate finance distribution. Generally, developing countries need financial resources, as well as technology transfer and capacity-building, to help them reduce emissions, adapt to climate change and address loss and damage.

Nigeria as a developing country has faced disasters that fall within the purview of loss and damage. How well Nigeria will fare in being able to benefit from the fund when it is up and running, will depend on the quality of its data in respect of loss and damage suffered.
In the absence of data that can meet the rigour of transparency, accountability and inclusiveness, we may be met with serious obstacles. We must ensure that we do not put ourselves in such hopeless and helpless situations. This is another example of the internal preparation that I earlier made reference to.

Just recently, President Dr. Sultan Al Jaber heralded the successful conclusion of a vital United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) meeting on the implementation of the Loss and Damage Fund, held in Abu Dhabi.

The Transitional Committee broke deadlocks and found common ground to deliver clear recommendations. After all, all eyes had been on the Transitional Committee since they began interacting with critical stakeholders in March 2023. Now, parties must seal the deal in Dubai and fulfil obligations on the Loss and Damage Fund. The agreed recommendations are set to be socialised with national governments ahead of COP28, so the fund can be activated and capitalised.

I see a huge ray of hope here and we must be ready to tap into the Fund and precisely show what we aim to utilise the fund for, and not play to the gallery. It would be a shame for us to waste money from the Fund and not allow it to serve the interest of the intended beneficiaries.

Over the years, our government has not been strategic. Our Ministries and other relevant agencies of government must coordinate and properly harmonise their activities in ways that will enable them to tackle climate change head-on. The government needs to understand that the Loss and Damage Fund will never be enough, and it will be accessible to only countries that are well-equipped and positioned.

By and large, when we look at COP28, it should not be looked at in isolation, but as a country with an African climate position. We should adequately prepare to utilise those windows of opportunity with the resolutions of COP28 and align our priorities with such expectations.

The homework we need to put in place lies in setting our priorities well. Priorities such as having relevant data, capacity building, unified framework for easy access for Loss and Damage Fund, national cohesive partnerships with industries, the private sector, and consistent climate change policies.

COP28 are critical for meeting the impacts of climate change and advancing a sustainable future for decades to come. Globally, expectations are high and of course, the sense of urgency. Nigeria must emerge from this conference with an invigorated sense of purpose, stronger and strategic partnerships, and a lucid roadmap to a sustainable future.

By Olanrewaju A. Fagbohun

Fagbohun is a Professor of Environmental Law and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN). He consults for RouQ and Company Legal Advisory Services and Environmental Law Research Institute. He served as the 8th substantive Vice-Chancellor of the Lagos State University (LASU) and is a National Productivity Order of Merit Award Winner (fagbohun@elri.ng.org)

Dare Akogun

Dare Akogun is a dynamic media innovator, strategic communication professional, and seasoned climate and environmental sustainability journalist with over 10 years of influential contributions to the media industry.

He Currently serving as the Head of Digital Media, Senior News Editor, and a presenter at Sobi FM 101.9, a leading radio station in Ilorin, Nigeria.

Dare is on a mission to leverage his media innovation expertise and project management skills to produce high-quality, accurate, and engaging content, while advocating for reduced fossil fuel consumption, especially coal, to combat effect of global warming.

He has covered comprehensively environmental issues and COP conferences, including COP28 in Dubai last year , COP 27 in Egypt, and the United Nations Least Developed Countries conference in Doha, in 2023.

He is a recipient of fellowship to be part of a 15 team of journalists selected worldwide to cover the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue 2024.

He has a Master's Degree in Mass Communication, from the University of Lagos, a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism from the Lagos State University and also a
Certification in Business Administration and Management, from the Babson College, Massachusetts, United States of America.

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