By Jennifer UJU Okonkwo
Climate Change is arguably the most controversial and discussed issue of today’s world. In simple terms, climate change is referred to as the variation in average weather conditions over a long period of time usually 30 years. The consequences of this change are mostly negative and has been identified to include sea level rise, coastal flooding, droughts, global warming (increase in temperature), change in precipitation etc. Scientists, the world over, have reached a consensus that human activities are the major cause of climate change. Thus, to address this issue, we need to check the activities that cause climate change.
Research has shown that the concentration of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons etc., in the atmosphere is the cause of climate change. Carbon dioxide (C02), half of which is emitted by humans, is the most important greenhouse gas. C02 is emitted into the atmosphere as a result of the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas), deforestation and iron and steel production. Countries are becoming increasingly conscious about their carbon activities and seek means to curb the human-induced emission of greenhouse gases.
In the past, countries and multinational organizations such as the United Nations have engaged in discussions and negotiations seeking ways to limit the impacts of climate change. In 2015, 196 countries including Nigeria participated in a conference which led to the adoption of the Paris Climate Agreement. The Paris Climate Agreement was initiated to address human-caused climate change by tackling greenhouse gas emissions adaptation, mitigation and finance. In this article, we focus on Nigeria’s role in the mitigation aspect which is to ensure that global average temperature increase is well below 2°C with a 1.5°C target.
Nigeria, one of Africa’s largest economies, while heavily reliant on fossil fuel sources for electricity production still suffers from low electricity outreach. Approximately 66% of its rural population do not have access to electricity and about 82% of electricity production is generated from coal, oil and natural gas sources. In addition to this, most people rely on the use of power generators for electricity generation. These sources of electricity generation are known to be damaging to the environment – by contributing to the greenhouse effect that causes climate change. Nigeria has had her own share of climate change consequences amongst which include incessant rainfall which has led to flooding in parts of Lagos, Delta, Port Harcourt and Anambra states, leading to damage and loss of property. Being agriculture dependent, many villages in north-eastern Nigeria have experienced decrease in crop yields and starvation as a result of severe droughts.
Thus, there is a dire need to encourage investments and use of cleaner sources of energy such as solar, wind, hydropower, geothermal etc. There are a lot of potentials and opportunities for investment in renewable energy in Nigeria. In fact, the Nigerian government has set the ball rolling for easy transition to these clean sources by adopting policies such as the feed-in tariff regulation, introduced in 2015, which aims to make investments in renewable energy more appealing to both private and public investors. At this point, investors need to explore this policy to ensure the that all benefits accrued to this policy are gotten. Apart from its environmental benefits, investments in renewable energy has the potential to increase electricity access to low income households, thereby improving their welfare. Compared to most countries, Nigeria has advantage in terms of solar power. So, the use of off-grid solar panels could improve electricity access in rural Nigeria.
In sum, a complete shift from fossil fuel sources is highly infeasible at this time. However, all new investments in the energy sector should be in clean energy sources. This would facilitate the fast move away from fossil fuel dependency. It is also important to create the awareness that direct and indirect costs of using fuel- or diesel-powered generators for to produce electricity is more expensive than solar panels installation and management.