Nigeria needs proactive Climate Governance Policy to protect National Income in the face of a global trend towards decarbonisation – Part 1

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For part 2 click here.

By Hon. Doctor Farah Dagogo

Nigeria is one of the many reluctant signatories to the Paris Climate Agreement which came into effect 4 November 2016. Nigeria ratified the Agreement on 15 May 2017. To claim that it signed up to the Paris Climate Agreement as part of a grand strategy, would seem like undeserved self-congratulation. Nigeria is a country of estimated 200 million citizens, it faces massive challenges in meeting productivity targets. At the present time, it still struggles to generate enough electricity to power routine economic activities. Income from oil and gas sales form the bulk of its National Income. It is not immediately obvious how it will benefit from signing up to the Paris Agreement.

The country [Nigeria] like leading Developing Countries within the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa group (the BRICS Group), require the burning of massive amounts of hydrocarbons in order to meet basic economic growth targets for the next 50 years. Some have argued that the West may have only cajoled countries like Nigeria into signing up to the Paris climate agreements, knowing the negative impact it is bound to have on their relative competitiveness, by slowing their industrialisation drives. Whatever the truth regarding perceived Western Machiavellian plots, a cleaner, healthier environment can only be for the benefit of all peoples, goes the counter argument.

In political ecology and environmental policy terms, climate governance is the diplomacy, mechanisms and response measures “aimed at steering social systems towards preventing, mitigating or adapting to the risks posed by climate change’’. Currently, the true picture of Climate Governance in Nigeria is a story of failures and missed opportunities. There are scores of agencies across the nation from state to federal levels, tasked with one aspect of environmental policy management or another.

Nigeria is not a stranger to (un)natural disasters occasioned by climate change. The impacts of failures of climate governance are quite visible all around the country, especially, in the southern oil producing regions of Niger Delta. In fact, the Southern part of Nigeria is famous for its regular oil spillages that have been historically mishandled by both government and international oil companies. The memorable case of Ken Saro Wiwa, an Environmental Rights Activist, murdered by the Nigerian state, and egged on by the Shell Corporation readily comes to mind.

Failures of the Royal Dutch Shell Corporation and other oil producing companies alike, to take seriously, disaster pre planning and response requirements of their own environmental impact assessments, as well as, failing in their legal obligations to remediate accidental spillages, have left whole communities on the brink.

Chronic health conditions, previously unknown to Niger Delta communities before the arrival of the Shell oil spillages, and, starvation arising from the decimation of their traditional livelihoods, of farming and fishing have become common place. The question still remains; how did Shell and similar corporations get away with ‘murder’ in southern oil producing communities of Nigeria for so long?

The Nigerian state has enacted a plethora of domestic, environmental protection laws and edicts. It has also signed up to a wide range of international agreements related the protection of the environment imaginable. Yet, it is no closer to achieving measurable impacts on averting nor managing the regularity of climate change induced disasters that have unleashed on its citizens for the past two decades.

Moving forward, technical capacities of policy makers to engage with the international climate policy frameworks of Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions (NAMAs), in the areas of agenda setting, strategic policy formulation, practical implementation and evaluation is crucial. NAMAs emerged as a compromise between developing and developed countries during the COP13 in Bali, to help smaller economies cope with anticipated changes from the Paris Agreement. National and state level law-makers’ ability to provide competent oversight of the many environmental policies, and implementation agencies in Nigeria, must be enhanced through systematic capacity building and best practice benchmarking. Perhaps the time is ripe for Nigeria to consider establishing a well-funded unifying environmental agency to bring together under one umbrella, the diverse, but fragmented array of state and national ministries, and non-departmental bodies tasked with one aspect of climate governance or another.

To be successful in crafting the best possible National Climate Governance policy for the medium to long-term, Nigeria must take into account the political context and competing national priorities. Additionally, exploring cooperation on a regional basis via the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) may help with sustainability.

For part 2 click here.

Written by Hon. Doctor Farah Dagogo, Climate Change Advocate & Member Representing Degema/Bonny Federal Constituency, Nigeria House of Representatives. @DagogoFarah