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Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Nigeria: A Growing Challenge


 



Nigeria, often referred to as the "Giant of Africa," boasts a diverse economy and a rich cultural heritage. It is Africa's most populous country, with over 200 million people as of 2022, and is characterized by a vibrant energy sector, significant agricultural activities, and a fast-paced urbanization process. The country's unique context plays a significant role in shaping its GHG emissions per capita. Nigeria, like many other nations, is grappling with the challenges of GHG emissions. It's important to understand the overall emissions picture before diving into the per capita aspect.


Similar to his predecessor, President Tinubu has given mixed messages on energy priorities. While he has acknowledged the need to reduce reliance on the oil and gas sector and develop solar power, he has also expressed support for increased oil and gas production for domestic consumption and export. Whilst Nigeria’s policies and targets represent a fair contribution to limiting global warming with its own resources, to actually reduce emissions to a level consistent with 1.5ºC it needs to decarbonize its economy and will require international support to do so.



Factors Contributing to Nigeria's GHG Emissions


Several factors contribute to Nigeria's GHG emissions per capita, reflecting the nation's unique circumstances and development challenges. According to data from Climatelinks, 38.2 percent of GHG emissions came from land-use change and forestry. It’s followed by energy, waste, agriculture, and industrial processes sectors, contributing 32.6 percent, 14.0 percent, 13.0 percent, and 2.1 percent to GHG emissions.



Deforestation for agricultural expansion and fuelwood consumption account for the largest share of Nigeria's GHG emissions. One of Nigeria’s silent energy crises is the lack of access to clean cooking. A National Bureau of Statistics report shows that the average retail price for cooking gas increased by 118.65 percent from N2057.71 in March 2021 to N4500 in October 2023. It indicated that the average price for refilling a 5kg cylinder of cooking gas stood at N4500 in October 2023. As a result, many Nigerians are beginning to shift to dirty fuels such as sawdust and charcoal as substitutes for Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), as the prices continues to rise. The impact of the lack of access particularly affects women and girls who, in many parts of Nigeria, are responsible for fetching firewood, a traditional cooking method. They are also responsible for inhaling most of the deadly smoke as they have the responsibility of cooking. The World Health Organisation estimates that smoke from the kitchen leads to 93,300 deaths annually in Nigeria and is considered a leading cause of death after malaria and HIV/AIDS. The burning of fossil fuels, particularly for electricity generation and transportation, contributes significantly to Nigeria's GHG emissions. Moreso, Livestock production, particularly from cattle, releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Additionally, the use of fertilizers and inefficient agricultural practices contribute to nitrous oxide emissions.

The combined effects of these sectors have led to a steady increase in Nigeria's GHG emissions over the past few decades. Addressing these contributing factors is crucial for Nigeria's efforts to mitigate climate change and transition to a low-carbon economy.



Implications for Nigeria's Future


Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is crucial for Nigeria's future, offering environmental, economic, and social benefits. Transitioning to a low-carbon economy would mitigate the harmful effects of climate change, promote environmental sustainability, and enhance economic competitiveness. Economically, embracing a low-carbon economy would attract foreign investments, foster sustainable industries, and create new job opportunities in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and sustainable sectors. Reducing reliance on imported fossil fuels would stabilize energy prices and enhance energy independence.

CO2 emissions are dominated by the burning of fossil fuels for energy production, and industrial production of materials such as cement.


Environmentally, reducing GHG emissions would safeguard Nigeria's rich biodiversity, improve air quality, and protect vulnerable communities and ecosystems from the devastating impacts of climate change. A healthier environment would lead to better public health outcomes and reduce healthcare costs. A considerable proportion of Nigeria’s population is at risk of water stress, with less than 40% having direct access to potable water. Heavy rainfall and floods in particular are likely to have significant consequences on the environment, society, food security situation, as well as the wider economy. Significant impacts are also expected for the country’s water resources, agriculture, wetland areas, and health sectors. Increased temperatures, flooding, increased aridity, and soil erosion puts both urban and rural communities at risk, particularly for poor and vulnerable groups. Environmental degradation, impacted water resources, and loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services constitute serious obstacles to the country’s continued development and responsible management of its natural resources, which is also likely to impact the country’s tourism sector

Mitigation Efforts

Nigeria is not standing idle in the face of climate change. The country is making efforts to reduce GHG emissions and transition toward a more sustainable future. The Energy Transition Plan (ETP) to achieve net zero by 2060, requires significant international support. The government aimed to secure an initial USD 10 billion support package ahead of COP27 to kickstart implementation, but has not secured financing as of November 2023.

  • In January 2023, Nigeria adopted new Methane Guidelines that include mandatory measures for oil and gas companies, such as leak detection, to reduce methane emissions from the oil and gas sector.

  • Under the 2021 Climate Change Act, the government is required to develop a carbon tax and carbon trading. In February 2023, the Director General of the National Council on Climate Change announced plans to unveil a carbon tax policy.


Challenges and Opportunities


While these are positive developments, the government’s continued reliance on oil and gas risk locking Nigeria into emissions-intensive infrastructure. This will likely lead to the major stranding of assets and misallocation of investment resources and continue to drive up national emissions, but there are also opportunities for progress, such as:


  • Pursue a more rapid uptake of renewable energy, rather than the delayed approach put forward in the Energy Transition Plan that relies on rapid expansion of gas in the near-term.

  • Move ahead with implementing the Climate Change Act and clarify elements of the net zero target, such as emissions coverage and the role of carbon removals.

  • Avoid locking in to high-emission fossil gas infrastructure projects, such as the Nigeria-Morocco gas pipeline and additional LNG export capacity. With uncertainty in long-term fossil gas demand, these investments are at risk of becoming stranded assets.

  • Utilization of technological innovation in GHG emissions reduction, such as carbon capture and storage technologies etc.



According to the IEA, no new oil or gas field development is needed to reach net zero emissions (NZE) in 2050. The IEA’s 2022 update of its NZE scenario indicates that African oil and gas production needs to decline by 41% and 13% below 2021 levels by 2030 respectively, and 82% for oil and 78% for gas by 2050. In other words, expanding the availability of oil or gas in Nigeria or anywhere else in the world is inconsistent with limiting warming to 1.5ºC and achieving net zero emissions by 2050.



Conclusion


In conclusion, GHG emissions per capita in Nigeria is a critical metric that reflects the country's unique context and development challenges. It underscores the importance of transitioning to a more sustainable, low-carbon future. Nigeria's efforts to mitigate emissions and address climate change will play a crucial role in shaping not only its own future but also the global response to this pressing issue.


By understanding the factors contributing to GHG emissions per capita and the implications for Nigeria, we can work towards a more sustainable and equitable future for this vibrant and populous nation.


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