‘Dealing with climate change impact requires huge financing’

Paul Abolo

DR. PAUL ABOLO is the President, Ecologistics Integrated Services Limited and Curator, Nigeria Climate Investment Initiative (NCCII). In this interview with CHINEDUM UWAEGBULAM, he spoke on how state governments can deal with impacts of climate change, performance of Nigeria’s national determined contributions and means to attract global finance as well as green the economy.

Nigeria is facing the reality of climate change and fast depleting environment, what should the states be doing to find sustainable solutions to the problems?
The Paris Agreement on climate change provides for participation of regional, national and subnational entities in global climate action. The states or the subnational entities as they are referred to under the Paris Agreement are credible responsible actors. This is very important because climate action principally flows from the states to the grassroots. The grassroots is where the impact is most felt in the climate equation. This is because the poor and vulnerable are less equipped and prepared to deal with impacts of climate change.

The major challenge is that most of the states are not aware of their responsibilities, roles and rights in the climate change equation. This climate knowledge gap is the fundamental challenge in finding sustainable solutions to the problem. A basic knowledge of climate change and global warming and believing that it is real and the factors that contribute to this challenge is important. So the first thing the states should be doing is creating awareness to climate change and impacts, and then it would be easy to embark on sensitization initiatives.

Secondly, the states need to put measures in place to assist the reduction of the impact of climate change. This is called adaptation. Then they need to introduce activities that would prevent climate change such as excessive cutting down of tress, and bush burning . This is called mitigation.

However, adaptation measures are very urgent given that the impact of climate change is very evident. The yearly flood disaster in most states of the nation is a living evidence; the desertification in the northern part of Nigeria is another; and the drying up of Lake Chad, which has shrunk to 90 percent of the original size is a reality.

You see, beyond the immediate environmental action, dealing with impact of climate change requires huge financing which is often not captured in the yearly budgets of states and national entities. So when impacts of climate change occur, it is treated as an emergency and often most state governments are not financially prepared for the burden. I strongly recommend that state governments should look into the provisions of global climate change for climate impact support. They would find funding and technology assistance at the level that would address climate change adaptation and mitigation issues in their states.

Under the National Determined Contributions (NDC) in the Paris Agreement, Nigeria committed itself to unconditional reduction of GHG emissions by 20 per cent below business as usual projections by 2030, how feasible is this?
Nigeria’s NDC has a target of 45 per cent conditionally by 2030 as well. The unconditional target means that we can achieve this target without any support; and the 45 per cent conditionally is that we can do better with some support. The Paris Agreement highlighted this support as funding and technology support. Meeting this target is quite feasible because if you look closely at the measures by which the country intends to achieve this target you will find that nationwide-wide energy efficiency accounts for about 37 per cent, followed by efficient gas power station with about 21 per cent and working towards ending gas flaring is about 14 per cent. The good news which most of us don’t know is that Nigeria is acclaimed in the forefront of reducing gas flaring in oil operations, our energy generation through the Niger Delta Power Holding Company (NDPH) supply is mainly fired by gas plants.
Moreover, Nigeria is the first African country to float a Sovereign Green Bond for financing climate resilient infrastructure. Renewable energy, climate smart agriculture, afforestation projects and eco-transport projects under the green protocols will significantly contribute towards meeting this target.

The Conference of Parties (COP) has proposed $100 billion for countries to access funding and technology support for climate change mitigation and adaptation. How can Nigeria attract substantial part of this fund?
I think you are referring to the funding and technology support provisions under the Paris Agreement. Yes, developed country parties agreed to scale up their financial support to developing nations to $100 billion / year by 2020. This is the transformation the Paris Agreement brought into the global climate action. This support is applicable under the 45 per cent conditional target stated in the NDC. In Nigeria’s NDC, the strategies for accessing this support are clear in the following sectors: agriculture, forest, energy, transportation and communication, industry and commerce. And then vulnerable groups. Take energy for example, Nigeria targets to generate 13,000MW of power through solar technology. It further defines the process as scalable decentralized approach. In agriculture, a shift to climate smart agriculture is surely attracting climate finance for Nigeria. Forest preservation through several forest initiatives such as the REDD+ which is already working are evidences of access to this fund. Eco-transportation and mass transits are also climate resilient infrastructural developments that qualify for green funding.

The fundament for enhancing climate finance for Nigeria is to first enhance the knowledge base for climate finance, especially within the subnational entities and private sector. There is a huge dearth of knowledge of climate finance and this gap needs to be bridged.
Are you satisfied with implementation of Paris Agreement in Nigeria, especially five priority areas such as oil and gas, industrial, agriculture power, and transportation sector? What should government do to woo private investors to environmental projects?
Climate action is not the work of government alone because climate change impact is felt by everyone, one way or the other. I must say that significant progress has been made in oil and gas sector, as I stated earlier about the reduction of gas flaring. Mass transit such as railways and Bus Rapid Transit system are also activities through which the country can deliver on our NDC targets.
Definitely, there is need for private sector engagement in investments that support climate action. Government should assist in bridging the lack of skills and capacity for private sector firms interested in entering the climate finance marketplace, and take advantage of the opportunities. I think that nationwide awareness, and workshops to engage private sector exploration of climate finance and investment process must take place regularly. I think also that support measures should be put in place to handle the constraints; and build capacity on private sector engagement processes.

Ecologists launched Nigeria Climate Investment Initiative (NCCII). What is the purpose of this platform?
In 2017, Ecologistics launched the Nigeria Climate Change Investment Initiative, planned to hold a yearly event as the Nigeria Climate Change Investment Forum (NCCIF). The objective of this initiative is to enhance climate change finance as a source of foreign direct investment for resilient infrastructure development in Nigeria. This initiative came after we carefully did a study of the economic recovery and growth plan(ERGP). We said, there are key factors in this plan: one, the strategy is to build the economy through infrastructure development. We also see that there is the desire to drive Foreign Direct Investment(FDI) through this plan. This DFI would be mostly through borrowing, although we identified that green bond was listed as FDI strategy, even though we argued it was not exhaustive and versatile enough.

We realized that borrowing would increase the recovery-burden. We then said, wait; there is climate finance that can come as grants, loans, subsidies and other packages that might not be as tough as outright loan. It would address climate resilient infrastructure development, which of course is where the world is going with green development and green economy.

We then said, we need a platform to share this approach and encourage subnational entities and private sector to lock into it. We also have in mind that climate funds can trigger private sector investment in green initiatives. So we developed the concept and launched it in October 2017 at the Nicon Luxury Hotel in Abuja. They key focus areas for NCCII are renewable energy, climate smart agriculture and transportation.

On the subnational level, NCCII also aims at assisting subnational entities engage in climate change finance for sustainable development in their state, while on the private sector segment, the plan is aimed at illuminating the processes for accessing climate finance, developing partnerships within the private sector group and with affiliate green sectors both locally and internationally.

Another key component of NCCII is the climate risk solutions and finance segments. We are aware that most subnational entities who are hit by flood devastations do not understand that they can reach-out to global climate actions for adaptation support against the impacts of flood in their states. I believe our insurance companies are yet to fully integrate their operations with the climate solutions provided under the global climate action. These are the basis for setting up the initiative.

What have it achieved since inception?
Well, we have achieved quite a lot since setting up the initiative. We have been able to disseminate the information to several state governments and private sector. The opportunity as consultants for Nigeria’s COP24 participation in Poland in December 2018, and operationalizing the first Nigeria Pavilion in the 24-years history of COP was quite supportive in driving the aim of this initiative. Nigeria had a boisterous outing at the just concluded COP 24, hosting over 24 side events, well attended and acclaimed highly informative and revealing. We were also able to facilitate the renewable energy proposal for Akwa Ibom State for 20MW of hydrokinetic power generation, among many other projects. We have done quite a lot but we are looking to do more.

There has been bloody clash between nomadic herders and farmers in most part of the country due to increasingly scarce farmland. Can we blame such instability or pressure on natural resources on climate change? How can we tackle it?
The pipal cause of the herder-farmer crisis in Nigeria is the scramble for limited natural resource. I mean land for farming and grazing. So, let us look at the limited natural resource in this case- arable land. The available land is dry and so the cattle has nothing to graze upon. You need to understand that the cattle is naturally wired to navigate towards greener pastures. So, with the drying up of the land in the north, the Sahel, the cattle naturally moves towards the south triggered by the transition to greener environment.

We seem to forget that the cattle is unable to distinguish between a grass and a garden. So when it finds a farm, I mean a hungry or famished cattle, find something “green” whether grass or farm, the signal is “food”. The herder at this point does not have much control over the hungry cattle that has seen green pastures. This situation is exacerbated because the herder does not even have an alternative for the cattle.

Now, let us look at the microstoria of this herder. He grew up to meet the open-grazing as practice, possibly inherited from his ancestors as the grazing practice in a nomadic pattern. That is what he knows and no alternative has been presented to him, as there has been no deliberate attempt to change the system. The only difference is that the cattle did not have to graze on farmlands at that time because there was ample grazing field. Possibly this was why there were no deliberate attempt to modify the grazing practice. With climate change setting in at alarming rates, the grazing fields are shrinking and the arable farmlands are shrinking.
This herder is forced to move south naturally, either by the drift of the cattle or deliberately to look for green pasture. He is forced to move by climate impacts and so there is already an agitation caused by climate change. This man does not recognize climate change as responsible for his troubles. That makes it harder and he is determined to weather the impact. He is living his former grazing environment without a structured alternative and he is facing the impending malnutrition of his cattle which represents his investment and prized procession.

One thing we need to understand is that there is a deep relationship between the sheep and shepherd. A good shepherd is prepared to risk his life for his sheep. A good shepherd leaves the ninety to look for one stray sheep. The malnourished cattle and the long, harder process of finding green pasture adds to the anxiety. The emotionality is high.

Now let look at the microstoria of the farmer. Due to the impact of climate change, the farmer needs to work harder for a productive yield in an already dwindling arable farmland. Intense flood, inconsistent weather conditions and desertification are his adversaries. He is challenged and he is making great effort for his farm to be productive and feed his family since most of them are subsistent farmers. Again, there is a deep relationship between a farmer and his crops because the crops represent progress for him, as he watched them grow, tends them and they mature to harvest. His emotions are interwoven in the development process of the crops. He puts in deliberate efforts at this process despite the challenges.

Then comes a third challenge; he wakes up to see his farm rundown by some cattle! His investment and means of livelihood has been infringed. This is the key that holds his future, to live, raise his family and possibly make some extra income for the family and future. He must find the perpetrator. So, emotions are equally high and he must device a means to stop this. Moreover, he perceives that the perpetrator has no remorse.

I believe the perpetrator will have no remorse because it may not be entirely “accidental’ but “survival” because he has no other option to feed his cattle. Even where it is accidental and the herder was remorseful, there are no structure for compensation and no guarantees that it would not happen again.

With these two emotionally charged groups, the natural consequence is conflict. Conflict over the land – for the farm or for the cattle. In this realm, there are no justifications and nor arbitrators. In the ensuing battle, the nomadic is first perceived as the aggressor and so better prepared than the farmer who is settled in the land, and an easy prey. The farmer is settled with his family and so is more vulnerable than the nomadic herder who is on business. On the part of the herder, the farmer is the aggressor especially if in retaliation, the farmer causes harm to the cattle.

At this point the attention of the government is drawn into this problem, which started as “climate change impact’ but which is not brought into the equation at all. It is labelled ‘herder farmer crises’ instead of ‘climate change impact crisis’. So here comes the government agent as interventionist. The problem is ‘two fighting’. Resolve the issue, offer temporary protection to the weaker side and the matter is resolved. No permanency! The culprit ‘climate change impact’ becomes the spectator in the crisis that he caused. He is not accosted and so continues to ravage the more.

Solution, should be channeled to adaptation measures against climate change.

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NCCIFNCCIINDCPaul Abolo
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