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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Chukwumerije Okereke: Role of Parliament in driving Nigeria’s long-term climate goals

Between 23 and 27 March, the 148th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) was held in Geneva, Switzerland. The IPU, founded in 1889, is the world’s oldest parliamentary body, predating even the United Nations. It has 180 members, 14 associate members, and six geopolitical groups (Africa Group, Arab Group, Eurasia Group, Asia-Pacific Group, Group of Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Twelve Plus Group). The IPU, which focuses on advocating for parliamentary actions for the global good, has recently begun to use its vast platform to address climate change issues, particularly the role that parliaments can play in addressing climate change.

Professor Chukwumerije Okereke
Professor Chukwumerije Okereke

Indeed, parliaments are central to the achievement of not only the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and associated climate change resolutions and targets. Aware of this, the UN Convention on Climate Change approved the formation of the Parliamentary Group as one of the Informal Groups of the Convention, with the Parliamentary Group bringing together Members of Parliaments and Parliamentary networks since COP26 in Glasgow, to ensure the greater and more impactful participation of MPs, first in the COP processes, and also in their own respective constituencies.

The important roles of parliaments in driving climate action are framed by their constitutional duties of representation, legislation, and oversight. MPs, as representatives of the people, are best positioned to communicate with their constituents and advocate for their needs to the government.

As the world grapples with climate change, parliamentarians have continued to play a critical role in driving climate action. For example, parliaments have passed legislation to guarantee that countries reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. The first of such was the Climate Change Law of the United Kingdom of 2008. Subsequently, several other countries, including Mexico, Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, etc., have enacted their own climate change laws. All of these laws have one thing in common: each parliament’s focus has always been on the country’s unique peculiarities and approaches to meeting its climate change obligations. Thus, for high-emitting countries, the focus has been on mitigation, while low-emitting countries have often focused on adaptation measures and leveraging climate action for sustainable growth.

Yet, legislation is not all that parliaments do in terms of climate action. In developed countries, parliaments have been conspicuously active in driving the ambitions of their governments through debates, summons to committee meetings, interrogation of actions during oversight missions, and through the appropriation of funds. For instance, between 2023 and now, the European Union Parliament has adopted a number of rules and policies to help meet the Union’s long-term climate change goals. Some of these include a broadening of the scope of the Net-Zero Industry Act to include the entire supply chain; a new rule to help with the decarbonisation of the transport sector, etc.

Closer home, in Africa, as part of its Post-Legislative Scrutiny, the Kenyan Parliament, in the build-up to Africa Climate Week 2023, amended the country’s Climate Change Act to make provisions for carbon market mechanisms, in line with the country’s new vision of finding the intersection between climate action and sustainable development.

In Nigeria, the parliament passed the Climate Change Bill in 2021, which was later signed into law by the President. Through this action, the Nigerian Parliament provided the country with the legal framework for a push for net zero between 2050 and 2070. Furthermore, the creation of the National Council on Climate Change (NCCC) by the Act helps the country in its drive for coordinated action in order to meet its climate change goals, in the context of the country’s economic diversification and sustainable development.

While experts work to figure out pathways to achieve these, the Nigerian Parliament has a critical role to play in ensuring that all stakeholders do their parts. This could take the form of oversight and the continuous monitoring and evaluation of the processes. It is also the role of parliament to ensure that the funds necessary to drive action are appropriated annually. To this end, every annual Appropriation Bill and Supplementary Appropriation Bill submitted by the Executive ought to be rigorously vetted to be sure that climate change considerations are mainstreamed.

Evidently, then, the Nigerian Parliament, like other parliaments, has a huge role to play in ensuring that the country meets its long-term climate ambitions. However, the path ahead demands more than legislative frameworks and oversight. It calls for a paradigm shift in how Nigerian MPs perceive their role in climate action. The urgent need for education and technical support for these MPs cannot be overstated. Their enlightenment is crucial for Nigeria to not just meet but exceed its climate ambitions. This is where the narrative must evolve — from awareness to action, and from participation to leadership.

This is necessary because, despite the critical role of parliaments in climate action, not many of the MPs in Nigeria are knowledgeable about climate change and the important role they have to play in driving action. If the country’s long-term goals are to be achieved, Nigerian MPs must be fully aware of their responsibilities and roles and judiciously play their part.

Chukwumerije Okereke is professor of Global Governance and Public Policy, University of Bristol UK, and Director, Centre for Climate Change and Development, Alex-Ekwueme Federal University, Ndufu-Alike, Nigeria

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