Why Nigeria shouldn’t commit to carbon neutrality by 2060

The commitment of Nigeria to net-zero emissions has been given by both the President and his minister within three months. Major General Mohammed Buhari (retd.), who also doubles as the Minister of Petroleum Resources, pledged during the COP-26 in November 2021 before the international community that Nigeria’s decarbonisation deadline would be 2060. Also in the President’s remark during the climate conference was the reference he made to the country’s energy transition plan and the key role that gas will play in it. Nigeria, he said, could continue to use gas until 2040 without detracting from the goals of the Paris agreement.

The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, reiterated government’s goal of making the economy carbon neutral by 2060 during the Clean and Green Nigeria Campaign organised by the Nigeria Women for Gas and Green Initiative in Abuja in February 4, 2022. Represented by his Senior Technical Assistant, Brenda Ataga said illnesses caused by air pollution when burning firewood to cook can be prevented through the provision of Liquefied Petroleum Gas for every single household in Nigeria.

Nigeria has no business pledging to net-zero emissions in 2060 even though it is one of the developing countries currently affected by desertification, erosion and pollution, which are some of the effects of a changing climate. Furthermore, the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) of the Working Group 1 of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released last year August was unequivocal in attributing global warming of the past one century and a half to human activities. Therefore, the decarbonisation policy of the Federal Government should have been applauded since common sense behoves Nigeria to tackle climate change very seriously.  Well, my reasons why Nigeria shouldn’t commit to a carbon neutral economy by 2060 are as follows:

First, reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions doesn’t automatically lead to holistic climate change mitigation. It is true that carbon dioxide is a GHG. Long before James Hansen’s testimony before the United States Congress in June 1988, which led to the global awareness and political will to tackle global warming, scientists such as Eunice Foote, Joseph Fourier and John Tyndall had already discovered the infra-red absorption property of carbon dioxide. Climate change has both natural and anthropogenic causes; therefore reducing carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere will only mitigate human influences on climate. Natural variability like oscillations, volcanic eruption, changes in earth orbit, sun variation is not controlled by reducing GHG emissions.

Paleoclimatology, a branch of science that deals with the climate of geological past, has revealed the correlation between carbon dioxide emissions and global mean temperature isn’t always linear. There are times when both are completely out of phase. Climate has always changed before human’s influences were pronounced. The last interglacial period, which happened about 120,000 years ago called ‘the Eemian’ was 2º C warmer than today; sea level was 6 meters higher, while carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere was close to 0.03%, similar to pre-industrial era. The book, ‘Inconvenient Fact’, by Gregory Wrightstone, pointed out that the current earth geological period (quaternary) has the lowest level of CO2 in earth history.

Second, from a climate justice standpoint, Nigeria should not decarbonise before countries like India (the 3rd highest emitter). Neither should Nigeria set its deadline to the same time with the highest emitting country, China. The country’s greenhouse gas emissions are quite negligible, accounting for about 1.01% of global emissions. A person living in Nigeria is said to have a yearly carbon footprint of 0.6 tonnes while an average US citizen produces 14.5 tonnes per year. Therefore the implementation of climate policy should rest majorly on high emitting countries.  Home to people living with the highest rate of extreme poverty globally, Nigeria needs to prioritise lifting a large percentage of its citizens out of extreme poverty, just like India and China are doing. That will amount to increase in emissions, as proven by the linear correlation between economic growth and carbon dioxide emissions.

Fossil fuel remains the most competitive and affordable of all the current forms of energy. Committing the country (which has a low GDP per capita and electricity per person) to net-zero emission target by 2060 will mean transitioning to renewable energy technology. Although technological innovation and tax incentives may have played huge roles in the plummeted prices of wind turbines and solar photovoltaic panels, both are nonetheless expensive when their levelised cost of electricity is calculated due to their low capacity factor and the need for back-up sources to account for intermittency. California and Germany’s electricity rates have continued to go on an upward trend since they began the implementation of dramatic energy transitioning policy.

The Europe Union (the largest single market bloc that has aggressively reduced emissions) is kept abreast of the severe cost implications of energy transitioning policy. That is why it has proposed a carbon border tax on imports that emitted carbon dioxide during production so as to protect local manufacturers in the EU. New Zealand, a country passionate about achieving net-zero by 2050, discovered that achieving carbon neutrality in 2050 will cost 16% of its GDP annually by 2050. Switzerland voters last year rejected a new carbon dioxide law that was essential in helping the country fulfil its Paris agreement. One of the reasons given by those opposed to the law was that reducing emissions in Switzerland won’t amount to a colossal global emissions reduction if the United States and China don’t drastically cut emissions. It is axiomatic that renewables are not as industrialization-friendly as fossil fuels.

Third, the cost of inaction is more economical than the cost of misplaced action. What saturate mainstream media are the cataclysmic effects of climate change and the ecological cum environmental benefits of energy transitioning, while studies that reflect the cost and benefit analysis of limiting global mean temperature rise to the agreed 2.0°C and 1.5°C don’t enjoy the same media coverage.

William Nordhaus, Professor of Economics at Yale University, won the 2018 noble prize in economic science. He became the first climate economist, to integrate the economy and climate. William made some astonishing remarks in his 2018 paper. One of them was that global GDP would only reduce by 2.1% in a world of 3°C warming. He continued by saying that a 6°C warming would reduce GDP by 8.5%. Only when temperature rise, he said, reaches 4°C, is when the cost of addressing climate change exceeds the benefit. In other words, addressing global warming in a world of less than 4°C temperature rise is a misplaced priority.

Global spending on renewable energy surpassed $2.5 trillion between 2010 and 2019 and the Paris Agreement is expected to cost the world a minimum of $1 trillion a year by 2030. The total temperature reduction to be expected by the year 2100, according to Bjorn Lomborg, is an inconsequential 0.048°C if all nations keep their promises. Extending those promises (that is, continuing the Paris Agreement implementation) for another 70 years won’t make so much difference as temperature would only reduce by 0.17°C by the end of the 21st century.

Eliminating global extreme poverty, according to a new study published in nature sustainability, only increases carbon emissions by 1.6-2.1% or less. Therefore, Nigeria should rather prioritize adaptation. Adaptation helps to make the economy climate-resilient and bring the cost of climate change to an infinitesimal percentage of GDP.The United Nations has projected the average global income to increase to 450% of the current figure by the year 2100, but the cost of climate will reduce it to 434%. If Nigeria focuses more on economic growth and prosperity, that will help mitigate the impacts of disasters from climate change through the use of better technology.

Share this post