In the light of the fact that the United Kingdom will host the UN Climate Change COP26 in 2020 in Glasgow, Scotland, Sean Melbourne, Head of Climate Change and Energy West Africa, British High Commission Abuja, at a recent event shared the country’s dream for the global summit. He says Britain will adopt an all of society approach, putting the next generation at the heart of the COP to ensure that their critical voice is heard
Youth climate strikes continue around the world. Public and political awareness about climate change continues to rise in many, but not all, societies. It’s clear that climate change poses an existential risk to global prosperity and security. It’s a threat that respects no borders, and will impact everyone, regardless of wealth, politics, gender, age or race.
In short, climate change and the degradation of the world’s natural capital assets are the defining issues of our time. The world is getting warmer, sea levels are rising, pollution is costing lives and biodiversity is collapsing. The recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special report on 1.5 degrees Celsius is a timely reminder of the urgency of action. If anyone hasn’t read it I urge you to do so.
In essence, it states that the world is dramatically off-track in limiting temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius. We need to urgently raise global climate ambition, including supporting the most vulnerable countries to avoid the worst climate impacts.
We need to achieve close to a halving of global emissions in the next decade, in a world of rapid development, increasing populations, in increasingly vulnerable regions, and increased demand for energy and resources. All against a backdrop of greenhouse gas emissions that are still rising.
The risks to political, social, economic and financial stability are vast and growing.
Now, one cannot reference climate in Africa without talking about Nigeria. Nigeria is one of the most vulnerable countries to the impacts of climate change: Since 2012, 2.3 million Nigerians have been displaced as a result of heavy flooding and nearly 500 have died. At the same time, climate change is increasing the frequency of droughts, particularly in the north, and changing rainfall patterns have exacerbated heat and water stresses. Furthermore, much of the economy is reliant on climate-dependent resources. For instance, agriculture, forestry and the fishing sectors employ around 70% of the workforce. The great metropolis of Lagos is threated by rising sea levels.
At COP 21 in Paris in 2015, Nigeria submitted ambitious targets to reduce greenhouse gases through mitigation and adaptation activities. Specifically, among other things, Nigeria pledged to end routine gas flaring by 2030, install more off-grid solar, and invest in climate smart agriculture. The UK welcomed this ambition.
The historic Paris Agreement of 2015 was critical because it was the first time the world’s governments agreed to decarbonise the world economy. However, the actual policy commitments underpinning the Paris Agreement fall dramatically short. They will lead to well over three degrees Celsius of warming, when the science tells us that anything over 1.5 degrees would be catastrophic – we are already at 1 degree.
But a key element of the Paris Agreement was that countries would recommit to more ambitious actions and targets five years later – i.e. by COP26.
We were honoured and delighted to have been nominated to host this critical conference in Glasgow at the end of next year. Yes it will be an opportunity to take stock. Much more than that, COP26 will be a milestone for ambition; for cleaner energy, a more resilient future and flourishing nature, supported by green financial systems.
We are proposing an all of society approach, working with all sectors, and will put the next generation at the heart of COP26 to ensure their critical voice is heard.
Climate change is often seen through the prism of risk and for good reason. But I should like to emphasise that there are also great opportunities. Nigeria’s economy is expected to undergo massive change over the next two decades. There’s a crucial opportunity to act now to achieve low carbon resilient growth and avoid carbon lock-in.
According to the International Finance Corporation (IFC) Nigeria’s estimated climate-smart investment potential is over $104 billion from 2016-2030 in selected sectors;
Access to energy is key to promoting inclusive economic development, poverty alleviation, social equity, and advances in health and education. With the collapse in solar PV costs, off-grid renewables now offer one of the most cost-effective solutions to bringing energy to people who are not yet connected to the grid. As such these technologies can contribute significantly to building climate resilience in poor rural and urban areas.
And there’s tremendous potential to scale-up solar power within the country. DFID’s Solar Nigeria Programme clearly demonstrated the viability and feasibility of solar in Nigeria and has successfully mobilised €38 million from the EU for public sector solar projects as well as $350 million from the World Bank and another $200 million from the African Development Bank.
Furthermore, Nigeria is endowed with other renewables potential including biomass and small-scale hydro. There’s also wind and geo-thermal potential in some parts of the country. Nor should we neglect the role greater energy efficiency can play in reducing the cost of energy to commercial entities and consumers whilst reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
In conclusion, we are losing the battle against climate change, but we need not lose the war.
With commitment and determination, working together, we are capable of providing clean energy at scale, driving the sustainable use of natural resources, protecting the rainforests, and restoring degraded ecosystems. Working in close partnership, we can build more resilient cities and help the most vulnerable to adapt to the impacts of climate change.