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Monday, March 4, 2024

Making Nigeria climate resilient (8): Mitigation, adaptation best practices

The main challenge, in general, is to keep climate change from becoming a catastrophe. To this end, two sets of measures have often been advocated for confronting climate change. These are mitigation measures (such as reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases and black soot) to prevent the degree of climate change from becoming unmanageable; and adaptation measures (such as building irrigation systems and adjusting agricultural practices) to reduce the harm from climate change that proves unavoidable. While mitigation seeks to limit climate change by reducing climate change by reducing the emissions of GHG and by enhancing ‘sink’ opportunities, adaptation aims to alleviate the adverse impacts through a wide-range of system-specific actions.

Prof. Emmanuel Olukayode Oladipo
Prof. Emmanuel Olukayode Oladipo

Overcoming the development challenge of climate change requires that more extensive adaptation and mitigation measures than is currently being applied are necessary to reduce vulnerability to future climate change. Future vulnerability will depend not only on the degree of climate change but also on the development “pathway” taken, as well as capacity put in place to cope with the climate change stress. Mitigating GHG emissions and enhancing the adaptive capacity to increase resilience can accelerate the pace of progress towards sustainable development. Adapting to climate change involves reducing exposure and sensitivity and increasing adaptive capacity to build a climate-resilient society. This will be a society that is able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions caused by the adverse effects of climate change, including climate-related hazards and disasters.



Agriculture is a significant contributor to GHGs, particularly in a developing country like Nigeria. It is estimated that about 10 to 12 per cent of total anthropogenic emissions of GHGs are directly generated in agriculture (mostly nitrous oxide from fertilized soils and methane from livestock). If indirect emissions from the fertilizer industry and emissions from deforestation and land conversion are added, the total contribution of the agriculture sector is increased to about 26-35 per cent.

A variety of options for mitigation (reduction of GHGs) exist in agriculture. They fall into three broad categories:

  • Reducing emissions of methane, carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide through efficient management of the flows of these gases in agricultural ecosystems for example, through managing livestock to make more efficient use of feed;
  • Enhancing removals of carbon dioxide through improved management of forestry and agro ecosystems for enhanced carbon recovery and carbon storage.  Afforestation and reforestation are measures that can be taken to enhance biological carbon sequestration. The IPCC calculated that a global programme to 2050 involving reduced deforestation, enhanced neutral generation of tropical forests and worldwide re-afforestation could sequester 6.0 – 8.7 trillion metric tonnes of atmosphere carbon, equivalent to some 12 – 15% of projected CO2 emissions from fossil fuel burning for that period. Agro-forestry systems in particular contribute simultaneously to buffering farmers against climate variability and changing climates, and to reducing atmospheric loads of GHGs. With the current advance made in the Greenwall Project, Nigeria can focus on the potential to use forests as one of the strategies towards becoming carbon neutral.
  • Avoiding (or displacing) emissions using crops and residues from agricultural lands as a source of fuel, either directly or after conversion to fuels such as ethanol or diesel. GHG emissions, notably carbon dioxide, can also be avoided by agricultural management practices that forestall the cultivations of new lands now under forest, grassland or other non-agricultural vegetation.


Other mitigation measures that have proven effective include:

  • promotion of increased use of renewable energy sources such as wind, solar, geothermal etc.;
  • development of energy efficient buildings; and
  • promotion of energy-saving transportation systems.

In these key parts of the economy (renewables, building efficiency, and transportation), win-win (i.e. mutually beneficial outcomes) and double dividend (i.e. simultaneous benefits, e.g. monetary and social) employment scenarios are encouragingly evident (see UNEP/ILO/ITUC Report on “Green Jobs: Towards Sustainable Work in a Low Carbon World”)



This can be both autonomous and planned. Autonomous adaptation is the ongoing implementation of existing knowledge and technology in response to the changes in climate experienced. Planned adaptation is the increase in adaptive capacity by mobilising institutions and policies to establish or strengthen conditions that are favourable to effective adaptation and investment in new technologies and infrastructure. Various sectors will have their adaption measures. They are extensively covered in HBS (2009).

Focusing on agriculture, examples of autonomous adaptations for smallholder farmers that are characteristic of Nigeria may include:

  • changing inputs such as crop varieties and/or species and using inputs with increased resistance to heat shock and drought; altering fertilizer rates to maintain grain or fruit quality consistent with the climate; and altering amounts and timing of irrigation and other water management practices;
  • making wider use of technologies to ‘harvest’ water, to conserve soil moisture (e.g. crop residue retention) and to use water more effectively in areas where there is a decrease in  rainfall;
  • utilising water management to prevent water-logging, erosion and nutrient leaching in areas where there is an increase in rainfall;
  • altering the timing or location of cropping activities;
  • diversifying income by integrating into farming activities additional activities such as livestock raising; and
  • using seasonal climate forecasting to reduce production risk.

While many of these measures are effective against a degree of climatic variability, they may become insufficient in the face of accelerating climate change. Planned approach for adaptation is therefore needed to secure sustainable livelihoods. This will have to incorporate additional information, technologies and investments, infrastructures and institutions and integrate them with the decision-making environment. Others are insurances, safety nets and cash transfers to reduce vulnerability to climate change-induced shocks. In agricultural terms, technical options may include many forms of land use and land use change, new cultivation practices, new seed varieties, etc. It must include an appropriate incentive structure, such as targeted payment for environmental services, which can expand the options that poor communities and indigenous peoples can have for both adaptation and mitigation. All these are now captured in what is termed “climate smart agriculture”.

Adaptation strategies should be properly targeted to avoid negative impacts, such as increasing competition for existing resources – for example, improving plant productivity may increase water demand for irrigation systems in dryland areas, which decreases the availability of water for those who have no access to irrigation schemes.


Good Practice Principles

Whatever mitigation and adaptation measures are being considered for adoption or implementation, they must be guided by good practice principles. Good practices are actions that are effective in meeting established goals and deemed to be appropriate and acceptable by a broad range of stakeholders. In climate change response, these may include:

  • Integrated programme approach: Climate change is a complex multi-sectoral environmental and development challenge. Fragmentation of issues across multiple policy platforms and narrowly bounded institutional mandates encourages unilateral, single-sector responses, discourages innovative leadership and inhibits development of policy actions informed by the full complexity of climate change challenges. Thus, sectoral and small-scale uncoordinated interventions will not adequately address the challenge of climate change in the State for impact. A multi-sectoral national programme, financed and implemented in a coherent and integrated manner over a period of time is imperative for an effective state response to the challenge of climate change, within a national framework. What is required is a state programme of action (minimum 10 years timeframe), developed through stakeholders’ consultations, properly financed and implemented in an integrated manner through various institutions, but led by the Ministry of Environment, particularly the Climate Change Unit (if existing).
  • Knowledge building: The complex and dynamic nature of climate change makes it imperative for the need to undertake research into its physical and socio-economic basis for improved national understanding of the global dimensions of climate change and to be able to communicate the issues to the general populace through a coordinated advocacy and awareness creation strategy. Empowering the populace through improved knowledge about the climate change challenge will put them in a better position to identify, plan and implement adaptive measures that will enhance their resilience. In this regard, the designing of climate change projects must be built upon or applied the findings of specific research projects and/or vulnerability studies. Also, there is need to ensure that the projects actively contribute to national and international understanding on a specific topic or area of research.
  • Community participation and inclusiveness: Climate change management in Nigeria requires a shift to an integrated approach that advances change responses which are closely intertwined with development choices and driven by multi-stakeholder identification (up to community level) and implementation of priority mitigation and adaptation measures. In this regard, the State Ministry of Environment, particularly the Climate Change Unit, will have to lead a process of collaborating with relevant MDAs to formulate and mobilize resources for the implementation of sectoral programmes and projects, particularly in climate sensitive sectors such as agriculture, water, health, energy, infrastructure etc. In other words, projects designed to mitigate or adapt to climate change in the State must result from consultation with local communities in the formulation, implementation and decision making process, with the incorporation of gender issues.
  • Political ownership, collaboration and approval: Projects designed to mitigate or adapt to climate change need to secure high-level political support for their activities and be aligned with wider development agendas to ensure success. Thus, the Ministry of Environment will need the support of the high-level governance in the State for the establishment of an enabling policy, legal and regulatory framework for the state’s response to climate change in order to be able to develop and implement a comprehensive mitigation and adaptation programme measures.
  • Financial sustainability: Financing for climate change mitigation and adaptation activities will be costly if the State is to fully address the challenge of climate change. Annual budget allocations will be extremely inadequate to enable Ondo State implement an integrated response to the challenge of climate change. What is required is a pool of resources into which state and external funds can be made available on a sustainable basis to upscale state response for effectiveness. This will ensure that projects designed to mitigate or adapt to climate change in the state secure financing for sustaining and/or expanding the project’s impacts beyond the initial project lifetime.
  • Achieving co-benefits and balancing trade-off: Projects designed to mitigate or adapt to climate change must take into consideration the costs and benefits external to the project such as employment, environment, health, poverty levels and food security. Projects must aim to maximise external co-benefits from project activities and avoid/minimise external costs and damages.
  • Building local capacity: The most important variable that determines whether the State is able to address the challenge of climate change and achieve sustainable development is human and institutional capacity, and appropriate regulatory and legal framework. Projects designed to mitigate or adapt to climate change in the State should, therefore, ensure that local capacity is built during their implementation. In this regard, mitigation and adaptation projects must integrate training programmes into core project activities and measures taken to assure that built human capacity is maintained and replicated beyond the project’s lifetime.
  • Transferable: Projects designed to mitigate or adapt to climate change must ensure that their activities can be transferred beyond the specific contexts in which they were implemented. Particular project measures, activities or concepts should be easily applied in another context or regions.
  • Monitoring and evaluation: Projects designed to mitigate or adapt to climate change in the State must demonstrate their impacts in terms of achieving the project objectives, outcomes, and outputs, as well developing indicators to measure success and effectiveness. In other words, good mitigation and adaptation projects must have explicit logical framework with appropriate monitoring and evaluation mechanisms.


Possible policy options for an effective state response

Minimising the impact of climate change and increasing resilience for sustainable development, whether through mitigation or adaptation option requires a strategic approach, that will enable the movement towards a greener and sustainable development. To this end, a two-pronged strategy proposed by ESCAP can be adopted. The first strategy is to take advantage of the investment opportunities created in mitigation measures to reduce GHG emissions. As this should be complemented by a behavioural change, the second strategy focuses on how to promote a shift in the attitude towards climate change.


Strategy 1: Taking advantage of the current investment opportunities in green technologies for mitigation and adaptation:

The imperative to reduce GHG emissions is encouraging Governments to redirect investment away from energy-intensive economic activity based on fossil fuels and towards low-carbon, greener technology and industrial activity that could also to improve access to services that meet the basic needs of the poor. Nigeria needs to adopt its own green growth approach in order to maintain its competitiveness in goods and services, which can lead to greener, more sustainable development within the national framework. Such a strategy will prepare the ground for the country to pursue a path of sustainable development. The state may consider appropriate policies towards mitigation for green development that may include:

  • Improving energy efficiency, including the use of efficient production technologies and a behavioural change in energy use.
  • Reducing vehicle emissions through a number of policies that encourage cleaner fuel use and promotion of mass transit schemes, including bus rapid transit (BRT) coupled with the integration of non-motorized transport in urban areas while shifting freight from road to rail and water transport.
  • Reducing GHG emissions in agriculture through the use of improved technologies, including (i) applying modern irrigation and water management practices; (ii) applying fertilizers tailored to the condition of the soil; (iii) strengthening the management of animal waste, the treatment of solid and liquid waste, and using methane emissions to produce renewable energy.
  • Managing waste to reduce methane emission, including conversion of solid waste into compost and organic fertilizer; recovering methane from landfills, recovering energy during waste incinerations and controlling wastewater treatment.


Strategy 2: Promoting a shift in the attitude towards climate change

Policies towards mitigation will not be effective without a major shift in the way goods and services are produced and consumed, including activities that promote environmental sustainability and enhance adaptive capacity. This can be done in number of ways, including:

  • Seeing response to climate change as a shared responsibility. This means that every individual, firm and Government has a responsibility to protect the environment to make it more climate-friendly.
  • Promoting carbon-neutral lifestyles among individuals (e.g. car pooling to work) and promoting carbon-neutral products or services for government support.
  • Reversing deforestation. Deforestation accounts for between 20 and 25% of global CO2 Agro-forestry systems in particular contribute simultaneously to buffering farmers against climate variability and changing climates, and to reducing atmospheric loads of GHGs. Thus, reversing deforestation, through appropriate policies and programmes, is critical for climate change mitigation; it is also a relatively low-cost strategy.

Five critical elements that could significantly strengthen the ability of the Government at all levels to make effective adaptation decisions include:

  • Consistent public engagement on climate change issues, to ensure that people appreciate the risks, understand policy decisions, and have a voice in how they are implemented and monitored.
  • Enhanced public accessibility to relevant information (e.g. weather data) that can be used effectively to make informed decisions for varying time-scales.
  • Strengthened institutions that will allow governments to coordinate among agencies and stakeholders at all levels and to prioritize climate risks in planning and policymaking processes.
  • Sustained financial, human, ecological, and social resources at every level and over time.
  • R&D and tools (e.g. hazard/vulnerability mapping) to assess climate risks and vulnerabilities, improve on adaptation planning and facilitate decision making.

In the long-term, we must realise that addressing climate change is no simple task. To protect ourselves, our economy, and our land from its adverse we must ultimately dramatically reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. In addition, we must be ready to adapt our socio-economic activities to increasing changes in climatic conditions. In general, therefore, any comprehensive strategy for addressing climate change must include both mitigation and adaptation.

Tackling climate change to galvanize its opportunities for sustainable development in the country requires an improved level of political will and commitment; demonstrably in terms of improved funding and strengthened capacity, as well as improved understanding of issues through in-depth research and analysis. Nigeria needs to put in place a well-formulated, and legally binding strategic approach to guide a coherent national response to climate change to reduce its vulnerability and increase its resilience to this enigma.

In the final analysis, stopping climate change is up to us. Our actions today will determine the climate of tomorrow. By choosing to take action now we limit the future damage. The alternative is an environmental, economic and humanitarian catastrophe of our own making. With the commitment reflected in the inaugural speech of President Mohammadu Buhari, Nigeria may be more than ready to make relevant contributions for the common goods of the humankind and the protection of the climate system to which we owe our existence in general. Government, of course needs the active support of individuals, non-governmental organizations and the private sector operators to enhance the state institutional and financial capacities imperative to effectively address the challenge of climate change in the State. Together the battle against climate change impact can be won.

By Prof. Emmanuel Oladipo (Climate Change Specialist and Adjunct Professor, Department of Geography, University of Lagos, Nigeria. Email: olukayode_oladipo@yahoo.co.uk)

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