The 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) President-Designate, Alok Sharma, visited Nigeria from February 11 to 12, 2021 to discuss how the United Kingdom can work with Nigeria to address its climate change challenges.
In his first visit to Nigeria as President-Designate, Mr. Sharma met leaders from government, the private sector and civil society, stressing the need for urgent climate change action ahead of the UK-hosted COP26 Summit in November in Glasgow. The COP26 summit will bring parties together to accelerate action towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Mr. Sharma’s visit to Nigeria is part of a series of engagements between the UK and Nigeria, and his visit demonstrates continued cooperation ahead of COP26.
Mr Sharma held high-level talks with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo; he met with Minister for Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama; the Minister of Environment, Muhammad Mahmood; the Minister of State for Environment, Sharon Ikeazor; and the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed. While in Abuja, he also met Amina J. Mohammed, the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations and Chair of the United Nations Sustainable Development Group.
Mr. Sharma also attended a reception at the British High Commissioner’s residence in Abuja where he met young environmental activists working to raise awareness about the risks of climate change and to build support for climate action in Nigeria.
Mr Sharma also met Mr Kayode Fayemi, Governor of Ekiti State and current Chair of the Governors’ Forum; Samuel Onuigbo, President of Globe Nigeria; and Ms Damilola Ogunbiyi, CEO and Special Representative of the UNSG for Sustainable Energy and Co-Chair of UN Energy.
Nigeria’s urban areas are at risk from climate change impacts such as flooding. Mr Sharma underlined the UK’s commitment to championing action to avert, minimise and address the loss and damage suffered by communities vulnerable to climate change.
Mr Sharma welcomed recent climate-positive steps Nigeria has taken including:
- Progress on electricity sector reforms and the removal of the fuel subsidy.
- Incorporating the solar home systems into Nigeria’s Economic Sustainability Plan.
- Signing up to the Global Ocean Alliance, the Commonwealth Clean Ocean Alliance, the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature, ratifying the Doha Amendment to the Kyoto Protocol and enabling the Amendment come into force.
- Participating in the COP26 Energy Transition Council.
Mr Sharma used his high-level meetings to discuss how Nigeria could position itself as a climate leader at COP26 and presented the following suggestions:
- Submit a more ambitious Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) by April 2021 with strengthened mitigation and adaptation measures;
- Issuing more green bonds
- Submit a Long-Term Strategy ahead of COP26, setting out a low-carbon pathway to net zero
- Consider making political commitments before COP26 on the COP26 campaigns on: 1) Adaption – by Issuing an Adaptation Plan including funding needs, 2) Energy transition – by progressing the ongrid solar deal
Speaking at the end of his visit, COP26 President-Designate, Alok Sharma, said: “As the incoming COP Presidency, the UK takes its role seriously and seeks to raise ambition to tackle climate change globally. I’ve come here to meet your political and civil society leaders to discuss and see first-hand some of the many climate change vulnerabilities Nigeria faces. These include deforestation, rising temperatures and flooding, as well as the need to transition from oil to cleaner energies that will sustainably serve what is projected to be the world’s third most populous country by 2050.
“I commend President Buhari for the steps he has committed to taking towards collective and sustainable efforts that will put climate change, biodiversity and nature-based solutions first, and will enhance all Nigerians’ prosperity, health and security.”
British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing, said: “Climate change remains a global concern that requires collective efforts, and this visit underlines the UK’s support for Nigeria in its battle against climate change, while highlighting some of the important work we have already done together to protect livelihoods, lives and the planet.
“This is an all of society approach to meeting the most demanding challenges of our time and I am glad the COP26 President-Designate took the time to shine a spotlight and raise the profile of young activists and entrepreneurs he met during this trip, emphasising the holistic approach of COP26.”
Nigeria’s Minister for the Environment, Mohammad Mahmood Abubakar, said:“Good to meet the Alok Sharma, the COP26 President-Designate on his visit to Nigeria and discuss a range of issues on Nigeria’s climate change agenda. We welcome the UK’s leadership on this critical global agenda and look forward to its hosting a COP26 this November that firmly recognises the particular needs and circumstances of Nigeria’s and Africa’s climate change challenges.
“We look forward to the continued support of the UK as we rise to meet those challenges in ways that protect the environment whilst also supporting economic growth and long-term stability and prosperity.”
Social entrepreneur and Climate Change activist, Rita Idehai (Nigeria4Nature):“Nigeria’s climate change challenges are vast, and we all need to work together, civil society, politicians, and the general public alongside the global community to do all that we can to effectively address these challenges and build a better future for Nigeria today and for Nigeria tomorrow.”
Some of the environmental activists and CSOs the CPD met include Africa Nature Investors Foundation, Wildlife Conservation Society Nigeria, SustyVibes, Resilient 40, Fridays4Future Nigeria, Green Habitat Initiative, Hobeei Initiative, and the African Youth Initiative on Climate Change (AYICC) in Nigeria.