Deputy Editor, Sunday Independent, Michael Simire, and Freelance Science Writer, Alex Abutu, explore Nigeria’s plummeting prominence in climate change negotiation on the African continent, in the light of recent developments that threaten to put the nation’s Durban preparation in jeopardy
Barely four months to the 17th round of the United Nations-backed climate change conference scheduled for Durban in South Africa, Nigeria’s place as a leading voice seeking justice for the African continent appears to have taken a free-fall.
Proceedings from the recently-held climate talks in Bonn, Germany indicated that, out of the over 200 negotiators appointed as Africa’s representatives under the platform of the African Group, only one Nigerian was acknowledged.
The list showed that South Africa had 29 negotiators, including the national focal person; Ghana had six; Sudan, five; Gambia, three; Senegal, eight; Mali, four; Kenya, five; Malawi, four; Egypt, six; and Ethiopia, two.
Others included Benin, two; Angola, two; Algeria, seven; Congo, two; DR Congo, 18; Gabon, six; Tanzania, seven; Togo, three; and Zambia, four.
This development is coming against the backdrop of the recent constitution of the
transitional committee to design of the Green Climate Fund which had members from eight African countries, excluding Nigeria.
The African countries represented on the transitional Committee are South Africa, Gabon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Morocco, DR Congo, Burkina Faso and Zambia. South Africa eventually emerged as one of the three co-chairs of the committee.
Nigeria had chaired the African Group in the past and championed the continent’s advocacy for equitable climate interest and contributed appreciably to the decision not to accept loans from developed countries to tackle climate change impact.
Seven months after the UNFCCC’s (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) 16th Conference of Parties (COP) that held in Cancun, Mexico late last year, not a single forum has so far been convened to articulate the nation’s post-Cancun strategy towards determining a way forward.
“This was due to the elections and the transition programme, such that there was a lull in government activities since January,” said Samuel Adejuwon, the nation’s Designated National Authority (DNA) and Head, Special Climate Change Unit (SCCU) in the Federal Ministry of Environment (FME). He was the only Nigerian negotiator in Bonn, according to the UNFCCC.
But Adejuwon countered the UN body’s claim, saying, “That can’t be true. There were five or six of us from Nigeria there. Myself and Salisu Dahiru of the National REDD Programme as well as officials of the Nigerian Embassy who came from Berlin to join us in Bonn. We had challenges of funding as we could not get any money from government to finance the six-member delegation from Nigeria initially proposed. I travelled on the UNFCCC platform as the Nigerian DNA.”
A source close to government disclosed, “A memo seeking funding for the trip for six officials including the legal officer was turned down on the grounds of lack of funds. It does not look good. We have commenced preparations for Durban; where will the money come from? Already, government has set up a committee on Durban and one of the terms of reference is to look into Nigeria’s preparations at the global forum.”
A Nigerian negotiator at COP 16, Lekan Fadina, said, “I don’t know why Nigeria should have just one negotiator in Bonn. We don’t seem to be very serious. We need to have a focused and participatory approach in such things, or else we will be left behind. It was probably due to shortage of funds.”
Head of the Nigeria Climate Action Network (NigeriaCan), Ewah Eleri, stated, “It is not satisfactory. We hope that we can commence preparations for COP 17 in due course. It is important that we begin early because we are already late. It is important that we have a strong position representing our national interest as well as a diverse negotiating team made up of individuals that are well informed and represent the key sections of our economy.
“The FME should show some seriousness and realise its implication for the economy, and money in the budget should be released early enough to allow for adequate preparations.”
A member of the Third World Network (TWN), Mohammed Jimoh, described the dwindling presence of Nigeria in the global climate scene as embarrassing. The TWN is a civil society group pushing for the protection of third world countries in climate change negotiations.
“Nigeria is one of the countries in Africa that will suffer the impact of climate change the most, yet when it matters most we are nowhere to be found,” Jimoh lamented.
Chairperson of the Africa Climate Project, Kevin Osaromwen, said Nigeria was being left out of vital global climate committees and discussion as a result of the lip service government was paying to climate change.
He said, “The world is a global village, everyone is watching and taking note of what you are doing or failed to do. We cannot expect to be included in these serious thinking committees when at home we have nothing to show in the ongoing global efforts to tackle the challenges of climate change.”
A report issued by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2007, the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4), painted a gloomy picture of climate-related calamities that would befall Nigeria if current efforts to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emission were not intensified. Among such calamities are sea level rise capable of submerging the whole of the Niger Delta region and Lagos, as well as the outbreak of strange diseases, along with food insecurity.
The Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) will be released in 2014.