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Net-zero Emissions and Sub-Saharan Africa

By November 17, 2021No Comments

A Nigerian Perspective

The term “net-zero” became a catchphrase following the release of the 2018 United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, which revealed that rapid and transformative action was needed to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5oC.

This begs the question, will funding net-zero programmes in Sub-Saharan Africa bridge the climate knowledge action gap? In answering this question, it is important to remember that Sub-Saharan Africa is responsible for less than 4% of annual global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions but remains the global climate change hotspot.

In as much as African governments care about climate change because of the devastating impact on this part of the continent, the region is still struggling from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic which took a heavy toll on economies, ongoing issues such as poverty, lack of security, intermittent electricity, availability of clean water and more, all of which are exacerbated by a growing population.

From a Nigerian point of view, it is obvious who should take the lead in implementing net-zero programmes. Developed countries have the resources to invest internally in making the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy. They can also commit funds to support developing countries. However, as we are all aware, developed countries are yet to deliver the climate finance commitment of USD 100 billion to address the adverse impacts of climate change. This is but a drop in the ocean considering the trillions of dollars required to deal with the devastating effects of climate change in Africa.

Other challenges include the modalities of accessing funds and developing countries’ abilities to translate their national contributions into bankable projects. The principle of “polluter pays” is not applied here, as the funds are made available as loans instead of grants which further deepens the debt in developing countries.

The Nigerian government pledged to cut its carbon emissions and to reach net-zero by 2060 at the COP 26 summit. What does this mean for Nigerians? As we know, Nigeria is dependent on fossil fuels; if it were to stop exploiting oil, the economy would suffer greatly. Unlike developed countries, Nigeria lacks the substantial resources required to transition its energy sector to clean, renewable energy.

Given that we are now at a crossroads, what should we as a country do? A vital contribution is for businesses to develop a strategic approach that aligns with net-zero emissions. Businesses themselves need to embrace zero emission philosophies and true SDG goals to reduce energy costs, promote their own license to operate within communities and protect themselves from possible future carbon liabilities that may be imposed globally in the future; especially for export products.

The government also needs to develop policies that promote private sector investment in renewable energy industries that take advantage of these global trends and create sorely needed employment. It is important to reduce the cost of transitioning for the Nigerian populace and encourage communities to embrace renewable energy particularly as it relates to the exploitation of natural resources for cooking fuels.

Lastly, financial institutions have an important role to play in this transition by increasing lending and investment in renewable energy projects and gradually reducing their support for fossil fuel industries. A joint public and private sector approach is clearly the only way to raise the funds needed to embark on this journey.

Securing the funding necessary for the journey is not going to be easy, but we have to get there to enable the development of a sustainable future for Africa’s citizens.