Nigeria: Climate Change Act - Despite Growing Crises, Govt Yet to Inaugurate Council

There are concerns from members of civil society organisations (CSOs) that despite mounting life-threatening climate change crises in Nigeria, the federal government is yet to inaugurate the National Council on Climate Change (NCCC) which will implement policies and projects toward mitigating the impact on Nigerians.

The Climate Change Act (2021) was signed on November 18, 2021 by President Muhammadu Buhari but six months after, the implementation of the law which will mainstream climate change actions and ensure environmental and economic accounting and push for a net-zero emission deadline plan in the country, has not begun.

The president, who assented to the bill five days after attending the COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, where he pledged to meet the net-zero emissions by 2060 target, emphasised that the Climate Change Act will provide a framework for achieving low greenhouse gas emissions, inclusive green growth and sustainable economic development.

Daily Trust gathered that Nigeria is vulnerable to climate change impacts in a variety of ways, having far-reaching negative consequences on livelihoods of millions of Nigerians.

According to Climate Change Knowledge Portal (CCKP), floods are now a more recurring natural hazard in Nigeria than ever before and with the frequency in the last couple of decades heightening.

The natural disasters are having devastating impacts on agriculture, health, infrastructure, the economy and trade.

The (CCKP) which is the hub for climate-related information, data and tools for the World Bank Group (WBG), asserted that the 2012 severe floods across the country contributed to reduced economic growth especially in agriculture and trade.

"Increased flooding due to sea level rise will have negative impacts on agriculture, the economy, coastal infrastructure, human health, coastal ecosystems, and human settlements.

"Sea levels have been rising along the coast of Nigeria, causing coastal erosion and some villages to be lost (e.g. Erstwhile village in Delta State). It has been estimated that a 1-meter rise in sea level could cause 75% of the land in the Niger Delta to be lost.

"Droughts negatively impact the socio-economic growth of Nigeria and are projected to become more severe in the future as a result of climate change.

"Significant drought years occurred in 1973 and 1983 and persistent droughts have the possibility of causing crop failures, loss of livestock, and famines. Additionally, desertification has been occurring in Nigeria, with desert conditions moving southward," the CCKP stated on its website.

At a consultative workshop on the Nigeria Climate Change Act held recently in Abuja, the Executive Director of Global Initiative for Food Security and Ecosystem Preservation (GIFSEP), Dr. David Michael Terungwa, decried the delay in implementation of the act.

He said "since it was passed, everything has remained quiet. For the past 10 years we have been clamoring for the act and this is what we have and what can we do to ensure that implementation begins?"

He, however, challenged the CSOs in the environment sector to collaborate and pressurize the authorities to start the implementation of the act.

"If we are asking for climate finance and funding and then we have laws we are not implementing, then it also shows that when the funds come we will also not spend it wisely. It is important that the implementation also begins immediately so that everyone is seeing the seriousness," he added.

Terungwa also expressed disappointment that as campaigns are going on ahead of the 2023 general elections, no politician has ever mentioned climate change in their rally speeches or in their manifestoes.

Also, Barr Yahaya Dangana, an environmental activist, expressed dismay that the act did not have a commencement day hence the delay. But he said legally, the day it was signed by the president becomes its operational day.

He wondered why six months after, the NCCC was not inaugurated and the secretariat established to implement the provisions of the act.

"As beautiful as this act appears, it will have no impact if certain things are not done. For instance, carbon budget is essential in deciding the acceptable amount of carbon in the environment," he said.

Dangana also urged civil society organisations to synergise and secure a mandamus order to compel the government to commence the implementation of the act.

Another expert, Professor Hassan Shuaibu, director for Environmental Studies, University of Abuja, said the delay in the implementation of the Act left Nigeria in the dark in terms of policy direction to combat climate change crises.

He, however, urged the Ministry of Environment to take up the gauntlet and start the implementation.

He said: "We will still be operating in the dark if the council is not set up because the arm of the Federal Ministry of Environment that is currently carrying out some of these duties does not have the power that is enshrined in this act.

"So the implementation of this act is something that Nigerians should push for the government to implement so that the council will come into existence and the activities will take off fully."

He advised the federal government to ensure that the right person is appointed as the director general of the council when it is inaugurated.

The act empowers the council to, among other things, implement a carbon budget, draw up a climate change action plan, engage in climate change education and advocacy, and provide climate change solutions.

At this year's World Environment Day (WED) 2022 celebration held at Sheraton, Abuja, on Monday, the Minister of Environment, Barr. Mohammed Abdullahi, assured that the Climate Change Act will bring about a cleaner, greener lifestyle.

Abdullahi, represented by the permanent secretary of the ministry, Engr. Hassan Musa, said: "The issue of environment is really important to us. The theme: One Earth: Together we can protect it, focuses on living sustainably, in harmony with nature. The Climate Change Act will promote a cleaner, greener lifestyle and act as a legal framework that will allow us to tackle the climate change challenges. We also have the energy transition program which we're working on with the ministries of petroleum and power to see how we can reduce our emissions to the climate."

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