By Rep. Sam Onuigbo
Currently, Nigeria’s Climate Change Act is the only standalone legal framework from which the totality of Nigeria’s efforts at climate change mitigation, adaptation, structured sustainable development, and transition to a low-carbon resilient economy draw breath. While complementary laws may be enacted to help attain the objectives of the Act in other sectors, the Act remains the overarching legal framework for climate action in Nigeria.
Passed by the 9th National Assembly during the third quarter of 2021, the Bill which gave birth to the Act was eventually signed into law by former President Muhammadu Buhari GCFR on November 17, 2021. Thereafter, President Buhari went on to appoint the first Director General of the National Council on Climate Change, and convene the first meeting of the Council, in 2022.
One key provision of the Act aimed at giving climate change the high-level attention it deserves is the composition of the National Council on Climate Change –Nigeria’s highest decision-making body on climate change. Accordingly, Section 3(1) of the Act establishes the Council, while Section 5(1) lists the composition of the Council with (very importantly) the President as the Chairman of the Council.
The Act goes on to list the Vice-President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as the Vice Chairman of the Council. Other members are: the Ministers responsible for Environment, Petroleum Resources, Budget and National Planning, Justice, Mines and Steel Development, Finance, Agriculture and Rural Development, Power, Women Affairs, Transportation, Water Resources; the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria; the National Security Adviser; the Chairman of Nigerian Governors’ Forum; the President of Association of Local Governments of Nigeria; a representative of the private sector on climate change or environment-related matters, nominated by the most representative registered national umbrella association; a representative of women, youths, and persons with disabilities, each to be nominated by the most representative registered national umbrella association; a representative of environment related Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), appointed by the President, on the recommendation of the Minister responsible for Environment; and the Director-General of the National Council on Climate Change, who shall serve as the Secretary.
I have painstakingly listed in details the members of the Council as provided for by the Climate Change Act to make three points:
Firstly, to address some of the concerns expressed by some citizens about the different Ministers who were part of the government delegation to the just concluded 28th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP28). Climate Change is a cross-cutting issue and thus demands a multifaceted approach. The Act recognises this.
Secondly, to draw attention to the fact that prior to leaving the country for COP28, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu had spoken to his cabinet members and charged them to attend COP28 with the mindset of using the platform to advance the interests of Nigeria in bilateral meetings and other engagements. Each Minister was handed a roster to that effect. It was such a careful roster that each Minister was assigned specific meetings and engagements to attend and represent Nigeria effectively and productively.
Thirdly, in mandating his Ministers and other members of the Council on what to do, President Tinubu was effectively acting according to the spirit and letters of the Climate Change Act.
Recall that during the presentation of the 2024 Appropriation Bill at the National Assembly, the President had said:
“As we approach COP 28 climate summit, a pivotal moment for global climate action, I have directed relevant government agencies to diligently work towards securing substantial funding commitments that will bolster Nigeria’s energy transition.
It is imperative that we seize this opportunity to attract international partnerships and investments that align with our national goals. I call upon our representatives to engage proactively to showcase the strides we have made in the quest to create an enabling environment for sustainable energy projects. Together, we will strive for Nigeria to emerge from COP 28 with tangible commitments, reinforcing our dedication to a future where energy is not only a catalyst for development, but also a driver of environmental stewardship.” (my emphasis).
By saying, “Together, we will…” President Tinubu fully wore his hat as the Chairman of the Council as stipulated by the Act. Not only did he charge each of his Ministers to focus on specific areas in accordance with the multifaceted nature of climate action, and the provisions of the Climate Change Act, he further embodied his position as the Chairman of the Council by leading from the front. This he did not only by being physically present in Dubai, but also personally attending series of high-level meetings and engagements, some of which I was opportuned to be part of. This, too, is indeed in line with the provisions of the Climate Change Act.
Recognising also the role of civil society and the private sector as provided by the Act, UNFCCC accreditation badges (although private individual travels were not funded by the FG) were provided for several CSOs and private sector players to enable them engage with potential funders, which will eventually be used to drive climate action in Nigeria. Consequently, some governors and so many captains of industries from Nigeria attended COP28.
In the words of Her Excellency, Razan Al Mubarak, UN Climate Change High-Level Champion for COP28, “…COP28 has also demonstrated the importance of inclusivity. We are proud of the leadership of real economy actors from around the world – including indigenous people, women, finance, business, cities and states, youth and civil society – who have built momentum for this outcome. I am committed to working tirelessly with all of them to support Parties to turn the declarations and outcomes here at COP28 into action, finance and solutions on the ground.”
Further, in line with Section 4(i) of the Act, President Tinubu announced on December 2, 2023, at COP28, that Nigeria has constituted a special committee to activate the country’s national carbon market strategy, and accordingly appointed Zach Adedeji, Chairman, Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) and Salisu Dahiru, Director General, National Council on Climate Change as Co-chairmen.
All these actions show a total commitment towards a comprehensive implementation of the Climate Change Act and the realisation of its important goal of a low-carbon, sustainably developed Nigeria. President Tinubu would further affirm his commitment to this in his article entitled “Africa can become the world’s green manufacturing powerhouse” which was published by Cable News Network (CNN) on the final day of COP28. Therein, he informed the world that “Nigeria has taken significant steps and acted decisively in enacting the Climate Change Act and committing to net-zero emissions between 2050 and 2070,” and went ahead to state that as part of the country’s commitment, during COP28, Nigeria launched the Nigerian Carbon Market Initiative and “ signed an agreement with a German energy firm to massively convert flared gas into high-grade natural gas exports to Europe. This is critical to reducing one of the major ways the country contributes to global greenhouse gases.”
While COP28 may not have delivered as the perfect UNFCCC COP, a whole lot of gains were recorded. For instance, we witnessed, for the first time, a decision to work towards transitioning away from fossil fuels, conserve and restore nature, and tripling of global renewable energy capacity by 2030 in order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. This is an important commitment, to keep us on the Paris Agreement pathways. We also saw the historic adoption of the operationalisation of the Loss and Damage Fund on the first day of the conference and the eventual raising of initial funds for it in order to help vulnerable and developing countries deal with the losses and damages caused by climate change.
Africa would also secure a major win in the adoption of the Global Goal on Adaptation Framework, and the special attention to food systems, which led to the release of the FAO Roadmap and Alliance of Champions for Food Systems Transformation. Again, this aligns with President Tinubu’s inaugural speech on food security.
As a country, there are many ways in which Nigeria will benefit enormously from the successes recorded at COP28, especially by the President comprehensively activating the implementation of the Climate Change Act. While we have launched our Long-Term Low Emission Development Strategy (LT-LEDS), we were also able to secure a fast tracking of the implementation of the Siemens agreement; set up a committee to draft our national carbon market strategy; launch the Nigerian Carbon Market Initiative; etc. There are also several gains in the pipeline as a result of many bilateral and private business meetings.
Climate change demands not just high-level action, but also comprehensive multilevel action if the world is to fully address it. This fact was taken into consideration in the drafting of Nigeria’s Climate Change Act.
What President Tinubu has done over the past few months was to fully apprehend the overarching provisions of the Act and to judiciously commence the comprehensive implementation of the Act to the letter. This is great news for Nigeria and indeed Africa.
Sam Onuigbo, former Member of the House of Representatives is the sponsor of Nigeria’s Climate Change Act and one of the 30 Global Leaders on Climate Change 2023. He is on X as @OnuigboSI.